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The Clocks by Agatha Christie

The Clocks (original 1963; edition 1982)

by Agatha Christie

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2,599443,586 (3.53)78
As instructed, stenographer Sheila Webb let herself into the house at 19 Wilbraham Crescent. It was then that she made a grisly discovery: the body of a dead man sprawled across the living room floor. What intrigued Poirot about the case was the time factor. Although in a state of shock, Sheila clearly remembered having heard a cuckoo clock strike three o'clock. Yet, the four other clocks in the living room all showed the time as 4:13. Even more strangely, only one of these clocks belonged to the owner of the house.… (more)
Title:The Clocks
Authors:Agatha Christie
Info:Fontana/Collins (1982), Edition: 25th THUS, Mass Market Paperback, 221 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:crime fiction

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The Clocks by Agatha Christie (1963)



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Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
In which a blind woman, six clocks and a mysterious murder lead Poirot to attempt solving a complex case from afar.

"The Clocks" is an utter letdown. Again, there’s no surprise, since this was one of Christie’s last books, but – unlike those cited above – "The Clocks" begins with a fascinating premise, one which I remember being delighted in as a child, and then does nothing with it. On a personal level, I’m probably overly bitter about this book, but I remember being delighted by the opening chapters – and again by the opening of the David Suchet adaptation – and realising both times that things would soon devolve into a mess of unlikely (to say the least) coincidences and clues that go nowhere. Poirot seems as bored with the case as Christie does with involving him in the first place.

Poirot ranking: 37th out of 38. ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 30, 2018 |
I don't really care for Hercule Poirot but he was barely in the book, which was really nice. It was a delightful read and not at all predictable. ( )
  echoechokg | Sep 21, 2018 |
The Clocks by Agatha Christie was originally published in 1963 and features Hercule Poirot. While Poirot is not the main character in this book, he does put the pieces together and come up with correct solution, but he never visits the crime scene or interviews any of the suspects. There are actually two mysteries in this book, the intriguing murder case that Poirot solves and a cold war spy story.

The story starts out very well with the discovery of a murdered stranger in the front parlour of an elderly blind lady but I didn’t feel that the story held together all that well. Poirot solving the mystery from his armchair made many mental leaps that weren’t entirely convincing and some of the best clues turned out to be red herrings. I did like the addition of the spy story as it spoke to the 1960’s timing. Spy thrillers from authors such as Len Deighton, John LeCarre and Ian Fleming were all the rage in the 1960’s.

Agatha Christie never totally disappoints me, her comments on other mystery writers were fun as was the wry poke at herself with her comments about the fictional Mrs. Oliver and her “foreign” detective. The Clocks was good enough, but I have come to expect much better from this author. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Feb 24, 2018 |
I always come back to Agatha Christie – it’s a world I understand, everything makes sense because it all gets tidied up so neatly. I saw this novel mentioned somewhere else recently, and I realised I couldn’t remember if I had ever read it. I own a nice first edition, with tatty dustjacket but once the fragile wrapper had been removed I was happy to read it carefully.

First published in 1963, it does feature an ageing Poirot, although he rightly gets to do the best bit (the reveal) – Poirot features much less than in earlier mysteries. Although to be fair – he is getting on a bit by 1963 – so that seems fair enough.

“To every problem, there is a most simple solution.”

It seems like a perfectly ordinary day at The Cavendish secretarial and Typewriting Bureau in Crowdean; Edna has broken the heel off her shoe, and Sheila Webb is a little late back from lunch. Upon her return Sheila is called into Miss Martindale’s office – a request has been telephoned in, for Sheila to go to Wilbraham Crescent, number 19 and if there is no one in to let herself in and wait. Slightly puzzled at the request – for she can’t remember having worked for this client before – Sheila follows the instructions exactly. Sheila finds herself in the sitting room of number 19 Wilbraham Crescent, she is not alone, behind the sofa is the body of a man. Moments later, Miss Pebmarsh arrives home, a blind, braille teacher – who later claims to have never called The Cavendish Secretarial and Typewriting Bureau. Aside from the presence of a dead body, the other notable addition to the room are four clocks – set to thirteen minutes past four.

As any self-respecting secretary would, Sheila rushes screaming from the house – straight into the arms of one Colin Lamb, a marine biologist come intelligence officer. We later learn that Colin is an old friend of Poirot’s (there is a suggestion that his father was one of the police Inspectors to benefit from the Belgian’s brilliance.) Colin was following a lead in one of his own cases, looking for a spy in hiding – when he happens upon an altogether different puzzle.

The police are soon on the scene, Detective Inspector Hardcastle in charge of what looks like a fiendishly difficult case. Hardcastle is a friend of Colin’s too – and quite happy to have him tag along as he interviews the neighbours – and attempts to identify the dead man. There are naturally, many questions. Did anyone see or hear anything? How did the body get into the house? What do the clocks mean? Why was Sheila asked for by name?

Colin quickly starts to feel very protective towards Sheila – who he feels Hardcastle is looking at suspiciously. The two are drawn to one another – and Hardcastle isn’t sure that he approves.

“I looked at her. Sheila was my girl–the girl I wanted–and wanted for keeps. But it wasn’t any use having illusions about her. Sheila was a liar and probably always would be a liar. It was her way of fighting for survival–the quick easy glib denial. It was a child’s weapon–and she’d probably never got out of using it. If I wanted Sheila, I must accept her as she was–be at hand to prop up the weak places. We’ve all got our weak places. Mine were different from Sheila’s, but they were there.”

Colin decides to pay a visit to his old friend Hercule Poirot. He remembers how Poirot once claimed that he could solve a crime, merely by sitting in his chair and giving the matter serious thought. Colin gives the details of the case to the old detective, hoping at the very least to relieve some of boredom he knows Poirot often feels. Poirot is happy to give the case his consideration, although he hasn’t been entirely idle – he has been making a detailed study of famous works of crime fiction. Having Poirot’s take on The Levenworth Case, The Mystery of the Yellow Room and Sherlock Holmes is great fun for those who like their vintage crime.

Another bookish joy I wanted to share with you is this description of a tiny cluttered bookshop.

“Inside, it was clear that the books owned the shop rather than the other way about. Everywhere they had run wild and taken possession of their habitat, breeding and multiplying and clearly lacking any strong hand to keep them down. The distance between bookshelves was so narrow that you could only get along with great difficulty. There were piles of books perched on every shelf or table. On a stool in a corner, hemmed in by books, was an old man in a pork pie hat with a large flat face like a stuffed fish. He had the air of one who has given up an unequal struggle.”

Back in Crowdean and the inquest of the dead man is opened and adjourned, within hours of the inquest however, there is another violent death – leading to more questions. Inevitably, Hardcastle’s case and Colin’s hunt for a spy look like they may be connected, and eventually someone comes forward to identify the dead man.

I really don’t want to say any more about this story – which I think is really well plotted mystery, firmly rooted in the 1960s. The solution is clever, and one can sense Poirot’s old eyes twinkling as he reveals all – a minor point: the ending is perhaps a tiny bit rushed – overall though, of course I thoroughly enjoyed it. ( )
1 vote Heaven-Ali | Nov 25, 2017 |
I haven’t read many Poirot mysteries by Agatha Christie, but I’m sure going to start after reading this one! The Clocks starts off with Sheila Webb going to a blind lady’s house to type for her, but instead, she finds a murdered man in the salon! What’s even stranger is that clocks not belonging to the blind woman were left in the old woman’s house. This was a complicated mystery, having lots of twists and turns and didn’t end at all how I expected it to end.

While this is a Poirot mystery, Poirot himself doesn’t show up until the latter half of the book; instead, the story focuses on Colin Lamb, a man who is working as a spy for the British government, with Poirot making a couple of appearances to add witticisms and lead them in the right direction. Lamb kind of falls for Sheila Webb as he takes it upon himself to help with this case, which adds some interesting drama with him trying to do his job as a spy, take care of the case while still remaining objective, and reconcile what he feels for her. However, I enjoyed all the aspects of this story; Poirot’s recent research into detective novels, and how that ties into the typing agency’s connection; espionage intrigue with Lamb trying to tie up a previous case of his that involves a spy ring; and Sheila Webb’s backstory and history. This is a rich, developed story that, while a bit unbelievable, kept me turning the pages.

The characters, for the most part, are wonderfully developed. I thought the boss at the typing agency could have used a bit more complexity to her, but most of the main players just sucked me right into their stories and I found myself caring a lot about what happened to them. I thought it was smart for Christie to give the neighbors of the blind woman various quirks, like being a crazy cat lady, or being super into gardening; that made them a lot of fun to read about.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Definitely pick this up if you’re a mystery fan, though understand that it’s not quite a Poirot story.

Also posted on Purple People Readers. ( )
  sedelia | Oct 16, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Christie, Agathaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adams, TomCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bailey, RobinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bailey, RobinReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baudou, JacquesIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bockenheim, KrystynaTł.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carones, MomaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chandler,KarenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
de Groot-d'Ailly, A.E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freitas, Lima deCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guasco, ThéodoreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harvey, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Παπαδημητρ… ΆνναTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kopperi, PauliTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kopperi, Pauli A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Margalef Llambrich, RamónTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mendel, Jean-MarcTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prudente, CarmenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riambau, EsteveTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rodrigues, Fernanda PintoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schwarz, Martin MariaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my old friend
with happy memories of delicious food at the Caprice
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The afternoon of the 9th of September was exactly like any other afternoon.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The little Belgian detective Hercule Poirot has a problem - four clocks, all set at 4:13 and left at the scene of a murder. The witnesses are a blind woman, a young secretary, and an innocent passerby,
Poirot must solve this case in time, before another life is lost.
Haiku summary
tick tock who is dead
neighborhood of prime suspects
red herrings to boot

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