The February prompt for Read Christie 2021 was ‘a story featuring love’; as usual there were several books I could have chosen to fit this theme, but I decided on Sad Cypress, a Poirot title from 1940.
The novel begins with Elinor Carlisle on trial for the murder of Mary Gerrard. All the evidence points to her being guilty – not only was Mary her rival in love, Elinor was also in the right place at the right time to have carried out the murder. Only the village doctor, Peter Lord, believes Elinor didn’t do it and he calls in Hercule Poirot to find proof of her innocence. As Poirot begins to investigate, he discovers that almost everyone connected with the case is telling lies – but Poirot knows that where crimes are concerned, a detective can learn as much from a lie as he can from the truth.
Sad Cypress has not become a favourite Christie novel, but it’s still one that I enjoyed and one that stands out to me as feeling slightly different from most of the other Poirots I’ve read. In fact, Poirot himself doesn’t appear until almost halfway through the book and although he plays his usual vital role in solving the crime, I think the story could have been just as strong without him (apparently this was Christie’s own view as well, when she reflected on the novel after it was published). A large part of the story is written from Elinor’s perspective which gives it an emotional, intimate feel; I particularly liked the sections at the beginning and end of the book which become almost dreamlike as Elinor stands in court ‘as though imprisoned in a thick mist’, waiting to hear the decision of the jury.
As for the mystery itself, I think the plot is perhaps simpler than a lot of Christie’s others, but cleverly constructed and tightly focused. There are really only two or three likely suspects and for once I did correctly guess how the murder had been carried out and therefore who must have been responsible, but I wasn’t completely sure and had to wait for Poirot to provide the evidence. I didn’t manage to solve the mystery entirely, though – there were still lots of things that confused me, including the motive, and the twists towards the end of the book took me by surprise! Finally, in case you’re wondering, the unusual title comes from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “Come away, come away, death, And in sad cypress let me be laid.”
The Read Christie theme for March is ‘a story featuring a society figure’. I’m torn between Lord Edgware Dies and Sparkling Cyanide; if you’ve read either of them, maybe you can help me decide!
12 thoughts on “Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie”
One vote for Sparkling Cyanide. Not that it is a particularly happy story, though not as sad as Endless Night. But worth your time.
Thank you, Rachel. I think I’ll probably read Sparkling Cyanide next.
I know I haven’t read all of Christie’s books, but it’s surprising when I find there are ones I never even heard of before. This is one of them.
I hadn’t heard of it either until recently. It’s a good one but I don’t think it’s one of her best.
I haven’t read Lord Edgware Dies, but I liked Sparkling Cyanide. Of course, I’ve liked most of Christie’s mysteries that I’ve read. Sad Cypress is still on my TBR list.
Yes, I’ve really enjoyed most of her books too. I think I’m probably going to go with Sparkling Cyanide next.
I would go for Lord Edgware Dies. A more interesting plot than Sparkling Cyanide. Sad Cypress is definitely one of my least favourite Christies.
I was leaning more towards Sparkling Cyanide as a change rather than reading two Poirots in a row, but I will definitely be reading them both eventually. I quite enjoyed Sad Cypress, but it wouldn’t rank amongst my favourites either.
Both are great, but I’d say perhaps Lord Edgware – very clever.
I’m sure I’ll be reading both sooner rather than later, so I’m pleased to hear you like them both!
The best part for me about this book was the doctor. 🙂 It’s one of the few Christies that I still remember end-to-end, even a decade after first reading it.
This is one that will stick in my mind too, even though it wasn’t a particular favourite.