Cat Among the Pigeons, published in 1959, is one of Agatha Christie’s later Poirot mysteries and combines a girls’ school setting with the story of a revolution in Ramat, a fictional country in the Middle East. I still have a lot of reading to do before I’ll have finished all of the Poirot books, but this is one that I’ve particularly enjoyed.
Most of the action takes place at Meadowbank School, an exclusive girls-only school in England which is still run by its two founders, Miss Bulstrode and Miss Chadwick, but first we visit Ramat, where Prince Ali Yusuf is preparing to escape the uprising in his country. In an attempt to keep some of his fortune safe, the Prince gives some valuable jewels to his pilot and asks him to smuggle them out of the country. The pilot’s sister and young niece, Jennifer, have been visiting Ramat but are due to return to England the next day, so he hides the jewels in their luggage without telling them what he has done.
Back in England, Jennifer begins attending Meadowbank School, one of several new girls to join the school that term. There are also some new teachers, a new secretary and a new gardener. When a murder takes place at the school a few weeks later, it seems that whoever committed the crime may have been trying to find the missing jewels. Is there someone at Meadowbank who shouldn’t be there? In other words, is there a ‘cat among the pigeons’?
Well, I was completely fooled by this one! While I found it very easy to guess the hiding place of the jewels, I did not guess who the murderer was until the truth was revealed. The most annoying thing was that I did originally suspect the right person but was thrown off the scent halfway through the book and decided I must have been wrong. After that, I think I suspected almost everybody!
As I was reading I kept wondering when Hercule Poirot himself was going to enter the story and I was surprised to find that he doesn’t actually make his first appearance until the final third of the book. By the time he arrives on the scene the mystery has already been partially solved and while he does unravel the rest of the clues and identify the murderer, I’m not sure Poirot’s involvement really added anything to the story.
Although the mystery was a good one that kept me guessing, the reason I enjoyed this book so much was the setting rather than the plot. Like many British children I grew up reading Enid Blyton books and still have very fond memories of them. I loved her two school series, St Clare’s and Malory Towers, and in Cat Among the Pigeons Agatha Christie captures the same sort of atmosphere. The school setting, the focus on the lives of the girls and their teachers, and the very late appearance of Poirot, gives this book a slightly different feel from the others I’ve read.
Have you read this one? Which is your favourite Poirot mystery?