Friday, May 7, 2021

At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie (1965)


Bertram's Hotel staff:
  • Mr. Humfries, manager 
  • Miss Gorringe, receptionist
  • Rose Sheldon, chambermaid
  • Michael "Micky" Gorman, commissionair (doorman)
  • Elvira Blake, young heiress hotel guest
  • Mrs. Carpenter, chaperone for Elvira
  • Col. Derek Luscombe, Elvira's guardian
  • Bess, Lady Sedgewick, Elvira's estranged mother, an adventuress, and hotel guest
  • Canon Pennyfeather, absent-minded cleric, hotel guest
  • Ladislaus Malinowski, race car driver
  • Miss Jane Marple
  • Inspector Campbell of Scotland Yard
  • Chief Inspector Fred "Father" Davy of Scotland Yard
Locale: London and environs

Synopsis: Jane Marple takes a two-week vacation at Bertram's Hotel, known for its traditional Edwardian atmosphere. She encounters some guests: adventuress Bess Sedgewick, her daughter Elvira Blake, and forgetful cleric Canon Pennyfather.

Almost immediately Miss Marple has a feeling that everything is not as it appears; as if she is in a theatrical set with actors playing the guests. 

Elvira Blake will inherit a fortune when she turns 21. Her estranged mother is surprised to find her at the same hotel and urges Elvira's guardian, Col. Derek Luscombe, to take her elsewhere. Meanwhile, cleric Canon Pennyfather leaves for a conference, gets confused, and disappears. A few days later, he wakens in a private home near where a train robbery has recently occurred.

Elvira has been seen with a young race car driver, Ladislaus Malinowski, whose car has been seen at several recent robberies. She questions her lawyer about her inheritance: how much it is, and who would get it if she were to die. On Miss Marple's last day at the hotel, while talking with C.I. Davy, gunshots are heard on the street. Davy rushes out to find a hysterical Elvira next to the body of commissionaire (doorman) Micky Gorman. Elvira explains Gorman died shielding her from the gunfire.

Miss Marple and C.I. Davy reconstruct the disappearance of Canon Pennyfather to reveal a fact that helps unravel the mystery and identify the killer.

Review: At first I thought this was going to be one of the sad reminiscences about alas, things are not how they used to be, but that quickly passed as the story begins. The action does take a while, however, the murder not occurring until Chapter 20. There are a number of parallel mysteries occuring, and they all get tied together at the end. 

There are some loose ends. I was looking for an explanation of how the train robbery was accomplished, but no. At the end when the killer is identified, it is ambigous what is going to happen to that person. 

Overall, this was an excellent fast-paced read and the entire environment of the hotel quite enjoyable.

Also see this review by Bev Hankins on My Reader's Block.

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