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Sad Cypress (1940)

by Agatha Christie

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Hercule Poirot (18)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,398783,804 (3.67)141
An elderly stroke victim dies without having arranged a will... Beautiful young Elinor Carlisle stood serenely in the dock, accused of the murder of Mary Gerrard, her rival in love. The evidence was damning: only Elinor had the motive, the opportunity and the means to administer the fatal poison. Yet, inside the hostile courtroom, only one man still presumed Elinor was innocent until proven guilty: Hercule Poirot was all that stood between Elinor and the gallows...… (more)
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» See also 141 mentions

English (70)  Spanish (4)  Greek (1)  French (1)  Catalan (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (78)
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
“That, M. Poirot, is confidential. I cannot tell you without authorization from my client.” Poirot said: “Then I shall have to interview your client!” Mr. Seddon said with a cold smile: “That, I fear, will not be easy.” Poirot rose and made a gesture. “Everything,” he said, “is easy to Hercule Poirot.”

Christie, Agatha. Sad Cypress: Hercule Poirot Investigates (Hercule Poirot series Book 21) (pp. 178-179). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.


Hercule Poirot is begged to take on the case of Elinor Carlisle - a woman who is being charged with the murder of Mary Gerrard - the woman her fiance took one look at and fell in love with - and the crime Elinor seems to have no desire to prove herself innocent of.

I enjoyed this one. The case was really interesting and had me invested in finding out the truth of the matter. Plus I really enjoyed the way it was structured with the three parts. I had my own little theories and I was pretty much wrong on all accounts. I did guess Mary was likely Aunt Laura's daughter from her secret love affair. But I didn't remotely guess the identity of the killer. Omg?! The nurse!? Is really Mary Gerrard's aunt!!! Christie stumps me every time. Or at least so much of the time it's actually a little sad.

I liked Elinor a lot and I felt sorry for her - her feelings for Roderick were brutal. Roderick was okay - except I was annoyed on Elinor's behalf. I mean he never professed great passionate feelings for Elinor, but his sudden falling for Mary was irritating. Especially since he had proposed. It wasn't like Elinor chased after him, begging him to have her - he chose her. And then it was all over. I totally got why Elinor made the decision she did. I wouldn't have wanted to marry him either. And after that I was glad no will meant he got no money.

I liked Peter Lord, although I had my doubts about him too. I thought he might've been the killer. My favourite part was this though;

“If it hadn’t been for you—she would have been convicted.”
Hercule Poirot said quickly: “No, it is you, my friend, she has to thank for her life.”
“I? I didn’t do anything. I tried—” He broke off.
Hercule Poirot smiled a little. “Mais oui, you tried very hard, did you not? You were impatient because I did not seem to you to be getting anywhere. And you were afraid, too, that she might, after all, be guilty. And so, with great impertinence, you also told me the lies! But, mon cher, you were not very clever about it. In future I advise you to stick to the measles and the whooping cough and leave crime detection alone.”
Peter Lord blushed. He said: “Did you know—all the time?”
Poirot said severely: “You lead me by the hand to a clearing in the shrubs, and you assist me to find a German matchbox that you have just put there! C’est l’enfantillage!”
Peter Lord winced.

Christie, Agatha. Sad Cypress: Hercule Poirot Investigates (Hercule Poirot series Book 21) (pp. 279-280). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.


Lmfao. I loved this. Poor Peter, trying so hard to get Elinor off and in the meantime just amusing Hercule Poirot.


And of course I always love Poirot when he gets on his high horse about his reputation.

I am in good hands. Mr. Seddon has been most kind. I am to have a very famous counsel.”
Poirot said: “He is not so famous as I am!”
Elinor Carlisle said with a touch of weariness: “He has a great reputation.”
“Yes, for defending criminals. I have a great reputation—for demonstrating innocence.”

Christie, Agatha. Sad Cypress: Hercule Poirot Investigates (Hercule Poirot series Book 21) (p. 195). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.


A solid mystery with interesting characters and a fascinating investigation into the innocence of Elinor Carlisle. 4.5 stars, rounded to 5 stars. ( )
  funstm | Aug 12, 2023 |
As I am re-reading this novel for discussion with my U3A Agatha Christie Reading Group, I have decided to create a list of questions for our session. I think we will have plenty to talk about.

My earlier review is here.

If you, blog reader, decide to answer any of my questions, please feel free to leave your responses as a comment.

Discussion Questions (not listed in any particular order)

In what major ways does this novel differ from other Hercule Poirot ones?
How does the structure of this book differ from most other Christie novels?
Where does the title come from? What does it mean? Does it work as a title?
There are several mysteries in Sad Cypress. How many can you list?
What is the buried scandal in this novel? What clues are we given about it?
How does Agatha Christie raise the issue of euthanasia? Do you think it is seriously done?
Whom did you suspect of the murder(s)?
Did Elinor ever love Roddy? Why did she break their engagement off?
This novel was published in 1940. What period do you think it was set in? Why?
Who committed the murder(s) and why?
What is the irony in Mary making a will?
What do you think of Elinor's state of mind?
The first courtroom drama for Poirot, Sad Cypress was written in the build up to the Second World War, a particularly prolific period for Agatha Christie and her little Belgian. It is written in three parts – the defendant’s account, the build-up to the murder, and Poirot’s investigation. Reflecting upon the piece after publication, Christie decided it would have been better without the character of Poirot. Do you agree
Apart from the title, there are other literary references in the novel. Which ones did you pick?
How does Christie demonstrate her knowledge of poisons (and how they work)
There is at least one reference in the novel that the "clean up brigade" who are sanitising the Christie books will have earmarked for removal. What did you pick up?
What about the ideas that Mary Gerrard had been "educated above her station". Do you think Christie was serious in suggesting that? Who talks about the dangers of education?
Hercule Poirot is amazed by the fact that everyone he talks to tells him lies. Some are just small lies and he can understand why the person has lied. But then he comes across a lie that seems unnecessary. The other thing that prompts his involvement is that he becomes convinced that the truth lies not in what he knows about Elinor Carlisle, but in what he does not know about Mary Gerrard? What lies is he talking about?
What is a curate's egg? (I've seen this used in reference to this novel)
Which of the characters do you like best? least? Why?
How does Poirot deliver justice?
Does the novel have a happy ending?
How much out of 5 do you give it?
Some commentators say that this is a much under-appreciated novel. Do you agree? ( )
  smik | Apr 20, 2023 |
I am so glad that I chose this as my first read for 2023. I chose it because it is January’s book for ReadChristie2023 and I had it in my bookcase. Although I have seen the tv episode of this before it was some time ago and although I did remember parts of the story I didn’t remember the ending. This is a Poirot book originally published in 1940, my edition is from 2015 with this lovely cover. As a Poirot book he isn’t present for quite a bit of the book, but that did not spoil it for me and I really enjoyed the courtroom scenes toward the end. 4.5* and going on my keeper shelf. ( )
  LisaBergin | Apr 12, 2023 |
First sentence: "Elinor Katharine Carlisle. You stand charged upon this indictment with the murder of Mary Gerrard upon the 27th of July last. Are you guilty or not guilty?"

Premise/plot: Harriet Vane had Lord Peter Wimsey, and Elinor Katharine Carlisle has Peter Lord. Though her hero is not an amateur detective, but a country doctor. Still, Peter Lord, who fell in love with Elinor at first sight, has the wisdom to seek the best of the best to clear her name: Hercule Poirot. He wants Poirot to find evidence that will acquit her of murder. Is love blinding him? Is the woman he loves guilty of murder? It seems that she had opportunity to kill her aunt (supposedly out of greed) and Mary (supposedly out of jealousy). But Lord and Poirot doubt the supposed motives. They see other possibilities.

My thoughts: I loved this one. I just LOVED it. I loved the characterization! I loved the story! While Peter Lord is no Lord Peter, I did enjoy him very much! I was quite surprised by how pleased I was that Elinor had someone on her side. Not that Elinor was completely lovable. She was flawed--very flawed. But still. By the end, I was seeing her through Peter Lord's eyes, I was seeing her with love.

"One does not practice detection with a textbook! One uses one's natural intelligence." (196)

"One must understand with the cells of one's brain before one uses one's eyes."(196)

"One always likes to know exactly what lies have been told one."
"Did Welman tell you a lie?"
"Definitely."
"Who else has lied to you?"
"Everybody. I think: Nurse O'Brien romantically; Nurse Hopkins stubbornly; Mrs. Bishop venomously; You yourself--"
"Good God!" Peter Lord interrupted him unceremoniously. "You don't think I've lied to you, do you?"
"Not yet," Poirot admitted.
Dr. Lord sank back in his chair. He said, "You're a disbelieving sort of fellow, Poirot." (198)

ETA: I first read this one in 2011. So it has been quite a while. I haven't reread many Christie novels. So it's always tricky for me to match plot points and characters with titles. I don't always even remember if it's Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot. I read this one for the 1940 Book Club. As soon as I realized it was THIS MYSTERY, I was so excited. I remembered loving these characters! ( )
  blbooks | Apr 11, 2023 |
Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie features Hercule Poirot and manages to blend mystery and romance in am interesting manner. As usual I was quite wrong in “who dunit” but the author has been very clever in her set up of two murders and Poirot really needed his brainpower to solve this case as all the evidence seemed to point at one person, and of course, that one person was who Poirot was tying to clear.

I am constantly in awe of Agatha Christies’ storytelling originality but I did feel a little cheated with this one as there was a lot of information that we, the readers, were not privy to. Nevertheless, Sad Cypress was a quick and engaging read where the story was mostly told in the form of flashbacks. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Mar 24, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
I had a lot of eyerolls at the romance. I often do, there’s something so cringy about Poirot generalizing about all these young girls and their emotions. Some of the dated gender attitudes, and British ideas about continental views, simply did not age well. Then again, I don’t really go for insta-love in modern romance novels either, so some of it’s just me.

Still, I think this is a good mystery because I spent the whole book trying to figure out how anyone could have committed the crime. This is the opposite of some of the Christie inheritance mysteries with so many possible suspects running around. Here, I felt like no one else had any motive or any opportunity! Actually, I wasn’t even sure that Elinor had motive and opportunity, she didn’t seem terribly into Rodney and it would be incredibly risky to poison food she was also eating. Plus, the whole investigation feels extra tense because Elinor has already been accused.

In general, the wild explanation of how the murder happened and then the convoluted explanation of why win out over the eye-rolling romantic plot.
 

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Christie, AgathaAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brinchmann, JacobTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laine, Anna-LiisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Suchet, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thermænius, EinarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Come away, come away, death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid;
Fly away, fly away, breath;
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
O prepare it!
My part of death, no one so true
Did share it.

—Shakespeare
Dedication
To Peter and Peggy McLeod
First words
"Elinor Katharine Carlisle."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Wikipedia in English (1)

An elderly stroke victim dies without having arranged a will... Beautiful young Elinor Carlisle stood serenely in the dock, accused of the murder of Mary Gerrard, her rival in love. The evidence was damning: only Elinor had the motive, the opportunity and the means to administer the fatal poison. Yet, inside the hostile courtroom, only one man still presumed Elinor was innocent until proven guilty: Hercule Poirot was all that stood between Elinor and the gallows...

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Book description
Haiku summary
Open-and-shut case
Guilty till proved innocent
Poirot asks questions
(passion4reading)

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