Cards on the Table has an interesting twist – Christie gave us a finite number of suspects (4) and it’s clear from the start that the killer is one of that group. This results in a tighter net for Poirot and more focus on a limited number of characters. Overall, COTT is a strong addition to the series.
However, three things kept me from giving this 5-stars. First, the casual use of ethnic slurs may have been common at the time but it’s still disconcerting for a modern reader. In this case it’s the use of a slur against Italians. I’ve mentioned before that it’s hard to tell if Christie herself felt superior or if she is making a point that her characters feel superior to certain nationalities, races or social strata. Either way, it pulls me out of enjoying the reading experience.
Second, and I believe this is the first time I’ve had this complaint with Christie, it’s a personal pet peeve of mine when an author ‘learns’ a new word and overuses it. In this case the word is “Mephistophelian” to describe the look and demeanor of the victim. Use it once, okay. Use it twice, twitch but okay. Five plus times and I’m rolling my eyes. Just say devilish for goodness sake.
Lastly, the ending. While I am a fan of the red herring, this one didn’t quite work for me. I recognized the device and waited for the big reveal. There were too many conveniences and coincidences for my liking.
Okay, this sounds like I didn’t like it, but really, I did. 4/5 stars.