Publishing year: 1923
The narrator of this new novel is Hastings.
He is coming back to England by train, and in his compartment he meets a young woman who she finds rude and course but charming at the same time. The woman tells him that she and her sister are acrobats and work in a circus. Despite his initial impression, Hastings feels charmed by the woman who is also flirty. When they reach Calais, they part ways and the woman doesn’t even tell him her name.
Back in England Poirot receives the letter of someone called Renauld who fears for his life. He asks Poirot to go to his villa in a town in France. At once Poirot sets off and Hastings goes with him. When they reach the villa, they learn that Renauld has been murdered. The police tell them that in the morning the maid woke up to find the door open, but when she didn’t see anything was missing, she didn’t give it another thought. Yet, in the master room she found Mrs Renauld gagged and hogtied, and then later in the day someone came, announcing that Mr Renauld had been found dead in a freshly dug grave. Mrs Renauld claims that a couple of men barged into her room, gagged and hogtied her and took her husband away.
When the police and Poirot interview the service, they learn that Mr Renauld was not well, getting more and more morose every day. Françoise, the old housekeeper, tells them that Mr Renauld received visits every night from Mme Daubreuil, a poor woman who lived in town. Françoise implies that Mr Renauld and Mme Daubreuil were having an affair under Mrs Renauld’s nose, but since her employers were British, Françoise thought this was the way the English went about these things. The two other maids confirm what Françoise tells the police, but one of them, Denise, says that Mme Daubreuil visited every night, but the night before it wasn’t Mme Daubreuil who was in the house, but another woman. She was young and English as she and Mr Renauld were speaking in English. However, Françoise still insists that it was Mme Daubreuil who visited last night, and Denise was making up that story about the other woman.
Apart from Mrs Renauld and the three servants, there lived two other people in the house. Jack Renauld, the son, who is away at the moment, and Masters, the driver, who Mr Renauld gave him some time off yesterday. Poirot thinks this strange because in the letter Mr Renauld sent him, he indicated that he would send a car to pick him up, so he wonders why would Mr Renauld send the driver away if he had promised to send the car for Poirot?
I know I’ve read this book before, but right now I don’t remember the particulars, so it is going to be as if I was reading the novel for the first time.