FFB: The Clocks

The Clocks by Agatha Christie © 1964, this edition Pocket Books 9th printing November 1976, mass market paperback, mystery – 34th in Poirot series

Sheila Webb, a typist-for-hire, has been sent to 19 Wilbraham Crescent for a job. Instead of a typing assignment, she finds a well-dressed corpse surrounded by five clocks, each one set to a different time. But by the time the authorities arrive, four of the clocks have vanished. Of course the blind victim, owner of the home at number 19 saw nothing, and what she may have heard or felt she can’t tell. Inspector Hardcastle  is called to the scene and begins the investigation, but is getting nowhere. Luckily the retired Hercule Poirot is in town visiting a friend. He has the time to piece together the baffling puzzle.

I hadn’t read this one before, so selected it for this edition of Friday Forgotten Books. As is usual when I read a Christie novel, I enjoyed it and didn’t figure it out until near the end when sufficient clues and revelations had narrowed things down to just a couple of suspects. But there was one last twist. Maybe it was a lucky guess that allowed me to come in with the solution about the same time as Poirot, though I always suspect he knows before we are told he does.

There is a range of characters, some conflict, and the violence always occurs off stage. This one was very enjoyable, as always when I read a Christie, I vow to read more.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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16 Responses to FFB: The Clocks

  1. The “range of characters” particularly in a Poirot story is what I look forward to in Christie’s mysteries. I agree, Poirot knows who the culprit is long before he chooses to reveal the name in the end, always with that bit of round-table drama he is notorious for. THE CLOCKS is inching up my list of Christie’s novels.

  2. Cgramlich says:

    I’m trying to remember the one Christie book I read back in grad school. Gonna have to look it up.

  3. Interesting choice – I read this much too long ago for more than cursory comments but I do remember being a bit disappointed that the whole clocks part of the enigma is little more than a red herring. The recent TV adaptation with David Suchet was very odd actually, making all kinds of strange changes …

  4. John says:

    Not one of my favorites. I was hoping someone would write up Mrs. McGinty’s Dead – which I think is the highlight of her work from the period when The Clocks was published. One thing that amazes me – more short story collections and stories reviewed than novels.

  5. Richard says:

    Prashant – Yes, the characters are always interesting, a mix of types. Christie loved doing that when the plot could support it.

    Charles – I’d be interested to know, and also to know why you stopped with one. After I read my first one, I had to go back for another, and another.

  6. Richard says:

    Sergio – yes, the clocks do turn out to be herrings, though the one stolen by a suspect has meaning later. I thought the guilty party was a little obvious at first here, then she diverts our attention so many times in many ways that it still made me reconsider. With Christe the most obvious suspect is rarely the guilty one.

  7. Richard says:

    John – I haven’t read Mrs. McGinty’s Dead in so long I have little or no memory of it. Have to do a re-read after your comment. Seems I liked this one more than you did. Perhaps it was just that I hadn’t read one of these in a while and enjoyed it for that reason alone.

  8. I’m with Cavershamragu: the recent BBC version of THE CLOCKS made plenty of changes, mostly unnecessary in my view.

  9. Richard says:

    George – I haven’t seen that one. I may have watched the one with David Suchet at one time.

  10. Jeff Meyerson says:

    THE CLOCKS was one of the first two Christies we bought – more or less at random – in April of 1971 on our first trip to London (the same trip in which we saw THE MOUSETRAP), though I’d read a couple of Christies previously. The more I read of her the more this late Poirot didn’t measure up to the great books of decades earlier, but she is almost always worth reading.

    The other one we bought that trip, by the way, was a Marple, THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY, a much better book (IMHO).

  11. Richard says:

    Jeff – I saw that in your review on the head of the FFB posting, commented on it in the comments there. I agree, it’s not one of the “greats” but I found it a lot of fun anyway.

  12. Richard says:

    Jeff and everyone – I have a five novel omnibus of Marple, which includes Mirror Crack’d, Caribbean Mystery, Body in Library, Nemesis, and What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! Any suggestions where to start or which is best?

  13. I always enjoyed BODY IN THE LIBRARY, Rick.

  14. Yvette says:

    I would then go to WHAT MRS. McGILLICUDDY SAW! which is one of my all time favorites. I think I have this same omnibus, Richard. Then, CARIBBEAN MYSTERY, then NEMESIS. All in my humble opinion. 🙂

    I’ve reread THE CLOCKS several times and always enjoy it. I like the hero very much. Didn’t like the BBC production at all. They always tinker with Christie’s plots which are, after all, pretty perfect to begin with.

  15. Yvette says:

    As an aside: One of the main things I find so interesting about Christie’s work is her inclination to rely on ‘types’. It’s easy to say that human beings are varied and different, each to his or her own individuality. But to my mind, the truth is we live to become types – types easily recognizable as you grow older.

    In THE CARIBBEAN MYSTERY, recognizing type is the clue to the whole thing. Christie’s done this many times and I always try to find the little clue that tells me it’s history repeating itself. She uses this in so many of her books.

  16. Richard says:

    Yvette, and George – thanks so much for the comments back. Before these came in I decided to start with Caribbean Mystery, but think I will move on to McGillicuddy next, though probably not right away. So many other things to read! Yvette, you are so right about types, and your observation that we become more a type as we age is astute.

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