Image Source: George Cruikshank [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Its the 5th of November, and while I am in the middle of a couple of other books, I decided to stop and pick up a read that has a Guy Fawkes theme, since I have been planning to for years, but never seem to get down to it on time. I don’t really know very much fiction (yet) that is set around the gunpowder plot or Guy Fawkes in some way. There is of course the recently released Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (on goodreads here), which is definitely set around the gunpowder plot (I don’t have a copy of that one), and The House of Arden by Edith Nesbit (on goodreads here) where the children in the story find themselves travelling in time to and mixed up in Guy Fawkes’ plot, as a result of their knowledge of history. But I also did want a short read since I am already reading other books. So I picked a quick read, a short (ish) story by Agatha Christie, titled “Murder in the Mews”, part of her book also called Murder in the Mews, which features four Poirot stories.
‘Murder in the Mews’ the first story, opens on Guy Fawkes night, where Chief Inspector Japp and Hercule Poirot have just dined together and are walking back to Poirot’s flat. There is a band of urchins begging for money, and also reciting the Guy Fawkes poem, ‘Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November…’ There are of course, also fireworks, the sounds of squibs and ‘occasional showers of golden rain’.
Mercy Park Fireworks Display
Japp remarks to Poirot that this would be a perfect night for a murder for the sound of a shot would go unheard in all that noise, and Poirot agrees, the discussion then turning to how it would be if Poirot were to commit a murder. The next morning Japp telephones Poirot to tell him that a suspicious death has in fact taken place in Bardsley Gardens Mews, the very area they were walking through the previous night, and it seems as though someone has indeed taken advantage of the celebrations.
The victim is a young widow, Mrs Allen who shares a flat with her friend Jane Plenderleith, who was away on the night in question. On first glance, it seems a case of suicide, for the doors and windows are locked and the gun is in Mrs Allen’s hand. But Barbara Allen was engaged to an up-and-coming Member of Parliament, was well-liked by all, and was leading an otherwise innocuous existence. There seems no reason why she should commit suicide. When Poirot and Japp begin to look closer at the circumstances around the incident, they find more than what first meets the eye. Barbara Allen may well have been murdered, and the crime simply made to look like suicide.
The first chapter is really the only section of this story that focuses on Guy Fawkes night, while the rest is Japp and Poirot investigating the case, interviewing various people who may have seen something, people connected with the victim, and also her flatmate who seems to know more than she lets on. Sherlock Holmes and the ‘curious incident of the dog in the nighttime’ are also referenced and point to an important clue.
This was an enjoyable mystery. Since it was a reread, I knew the solution of course, but the first time around, I really didn’t guess what had happened, and who the killer could have been (more so really, the why). At a little under 100 pages in the edition I read it in, this was also a very quick read, and seemed a nice fit even though the 5th of November was only a small part of the story.
Have you read this one before? What did you think of it? And what about other books (fiction or non-fiction) which have Guy Fawkes or the 5th of November as their theme? Any recommendations? Looking forward to hearing about them