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Summary

Mr Shaitana was famous as a flamboyant party host. Nevertheless, he was a man of whom everybody was a little afraid. So, when he boasted to Poirot that he considered murder an art form, the detective had some reservations about accepting a party invitation to view Shaitana's private collection.
©1936 Agatha Christie Mallowan (P)2003 HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, London UK

Critic reviews

"The finest murder story of her career... Mrs Christie has never been more ingenious." ( Daily Mail)

What listeners say about Cards on the Table

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Another cracking story

Agatha Christie again has the listener wondering who has done the deed. The return of a number of characters, such as the wonderful Mrs Oliver and Superintendent Battle to accompany Hercule Poiret on his quest for the truth, plus the usual twists and turns of plot. An enjoyable story, once again brought to life by the narrator.

5 people found this helpful

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  • B
  • 07-07-20

Another top read

Excellent story and characters and Hugh Fraser a fabulous narrator, it is perfect I loved it

1 person found this helpful

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Entertaining preposterous tale.

This I enjoyed, unlike the humourless and misanthropic Curtain. Good old fashioned murder mystery, like a game of Cluedo, twists and turns, Ariadne Oliver as comic relief and gentle mockery of the profession of crime novelist, Poirot (and the police) employing dubious methods which eventually reveal the worst villain.
The relationship between the two young women now seems ambiguous, and I wonder what the author’s intentions were - as I did in Cat among the Pigeons, or even the first Styles novel. This was England with a large US market, not France...

1 person found this helpful

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A menagerie of murderers…

Mr Shaitana loves to collect things – jewels, weapons, Egyptian artefacts, objects from the mysterious Far East, etc. One of his stranger collections is of uncaught murderers and when he meets the famous detective Hercule Poirot, he can’t stop himself from boasting about them. Almost against his better judgement Poirot is intrigued, so when Shaitana invites him to a little party to meet his murderers, he accepts. When he arrives, he finds there are eight guests including himself, three of whom he knows – Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard, Colonel Race, whose career included intelligence work, and Ariadne Oliver, detective novelist, who believes that more crimes would be solved if only there were a woman at the head of Scotland Yard. It’s obvious, then, that the other four guests must be Shaitana’s murderers. And when later in the evening Shaitana is stabbed to death, it’s equally obvious that one of these four must have done the deed. It’s up to Poirot and the other three detectives to work out whodunit, but first they must look into the backgrounds of the four suspects to find out if Shaitana was right that they had each successfully committed a murder before…

I love this one but I have two tiny reservations, so let me get them out of the way first. There are some unfortunate racial slurs in this and some attitudes to foreigners which were perfectly normal back then, but which may jar today. My other issue is that Christie assumes that her readers will understand the intricacies of the card game of bridge, which the suspects were playing at the time of the murder. Poirot uses the bidding and scores as a method to understand the personalities of the four players. Back then I’d imagine the vast majority of her readers did play bridge, or at least knew the rules. I, however, only have the sketchiest understanding of it so most of that was lost on me and I found my eyes glazing over during some of the rather lengthy dissections of the game.

However, there’s so much good stuff in it that these small points don’t spoil the overall enjoyment. Ariadne Oliver is always a favourite of mine when she turns up in a Poirot mystery, and in this one she’s especially fun as she explains to another star-struck character what being a mystery novelist is like – the hard work that comes between thinking up a plot and having a finished book, the pressure of publishing deadlines, and so on. She also discusses with Poirot how it’s possible to re-use plots so long as you disguise them well enough. I always feel Mrs Oliver gives us a real insight to Christie’s own writing life, and she does it with so much humour and such a complete lack of pomposity that it makes me like her even more!

Superintendent Battle and Colonel Race are occasional recurring characters too so it’s fun to have all of them working together. The four suspects each provide interesting stories. Young Anne Meredith (called after one of Christie’s fellow mystery novelists) seems too naive and innocent to be a murderer, but is she what she seems? Dr Roberts has all the opportunities given to him by his profession – has he bumped off one or two patients in his career? Major Despard has had an adventurous life in some of the far-flung corners of Empire, where dark deeds (and dead bodies) can easily be buried. And Mrs Lorrimer – she’s an enigma: ultra-respectable, it seems, and lives for her bridge. Can she possibly have murdered anyone? Shaitana thought so. Each of the four detectives brings their different expertise to bear – Poirot working on the psychology of the suspects, Race using his intelligence contacts to learn about Despard’s career, Mrs Oliver gossiping with Anne Meredith and her friend Rhoda, and Superintendent Battle doing all the painstaking police work. And each of them contributes valuable information, although of course it will be up to Poirot to solve the case in the end.

The solution is particularly good, with Christie misdirecting the poor reader (and most of the detectives) all over the place. It is fair play, I’d say, but with each of the suspects being suspected of murder there’s the added element of solving all those mysteries too, and that adds hugely to the interest. One of her best, I think – one of many!

I listened to Hugh Fraser narrating the audiobook and as always he does a wonderful job of giving each of the characters their own voice and persona.

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Another clever one from Christie

This Poirot can be a bit hard to grasp at times of your not familiar with the card game Bridge, because Poirot talks about it a lot. But even so, it's a clever story from Christie - you're never quite sure who did it!

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Such a good narrator!

Hugh Fraser is such a good narrator of Christie’s stories, and perhaps excel’s himself in the narration of ‘Cards on the table’.
And Christie’s plot is interesting and quite complex.

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Typical Christie story, very well read.

As always Hugh Fraser does a great job bringing the characters to life. Classic Poirot, well recorded.

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A favourite

So clever
I have been looking for a cut off the last few months but I have been working on

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Great book

I absolutely adored this book, probably one of my favourites. So well-planned and the plot is very gripping. Great read, not that many characters but their background stories are very important. There is a strong element of human nature analysis in the book, to be fair quite typical for Hercule Poirot, but if someone prefers more ‘evidence-based’ like Murder on the Links or Orient Express, then I guess the book might quite not make the cut

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Love the narrator, story ok

There are more thrilling stories than this one, but I do like a murder happening in the view of all guests! This narrator is so good it really makes it much better

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  • Olga
  • 12-12-19

Elegant crime story

As usual Agatha rules! Four people, each of them could commit this crime... Interesting plot, good psychological portraits of characters. Delicious as good coffe!

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  • Pushkaraj
  • 30-01-18

Intelligent plot, awesome narration

What made the experience of listening to Cards on the Table the most enjoyable?

This was my first Agatha Christie and I am glad I made this choice. I am determined to listen to more of her. The best part of the entire listening experience was the narration. Hercules, Battle, Anne, Doors, Lorrimer, Shaitana, or Mrs. Oliver - all of them came out so live as if it's all happening in real.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Cards on the Table?

Cold character Anne

Which scene was your favorite?

Meeting between Mrs. Lorrimer and Poirot where she confesses the murder.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The witness of the window cleaning agent.

1 person found this helpful