Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie is another murder mystery featuring our beloved Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. The book was later on also published as Poirot Loses A Client. The book is a classic Poirot mystery and you find almost all the elements you generally see in Poirot books. There is a close door murder mystery with a number of suspects. The needle of suspicion moves from one suspect to another. There are cross-examinations, investigations and the final big reveal with Poirot giving his dramatic explanation. You also get a chance to witness Poirot’s ego and see his idiosyncrasies (especially his concern for his immaculate appearance). This is one of those Poirot books where the story has been narrated from Captain Hastings’s point of view. And, as usual, you witness Hastings’s confusion here also.
Let us turn our attention to the story-line. Emily Arundell, an old rich parsimonious spinster, tumbles down the stairs accidently. Though it seems to be straightforward case of mishap, her intuition tells her that it was more than a simple accident. She feels that somebody attempted to murder her. And, there were valid reasons for her intuition. All of her relatives were after her money. Charles Arundell, her charming nephew, had threatened to murder her if she does not release money to him. Theresa Arundell, her flippant partying niece, was in love with a penniless person. And, this person was in dire need of money. Arabella Tanios, the only niece the elderly lady actually likes, had disappointed Emily by marrying a Turk. This Turk was also in need of money. Additionally, there were a number of other people (elderly lady’s female companion and servants working in the house); any one of whom could have attempted to murder her for money. Fearing for her life, Emily writes a letter to Hercule Poirot to investigate this accident. However, the elderly lady had already kicked the bucket by the time Hercule Poirot received the letter. Her death was apparently due to natural causes but Poirot’s little grey cells suggested something else. And, hence begins an investigation of murder.
The story does not move at a breath necking speed but flows easily. While the book did not have that jaw-dropping quality, the book certainly casts a hypnotic spell on you. In addition to a fluid plot, the characters have been developed brilliantly. Both Poirot and Captain Hastings are at their best here and even the minor characters leave an impression on you. Each character is of interest to us. The plot is unpredictable and you will keep guessing. The plot invites the readers to engage in the mystery. The novel also has a lightness that basically stems from Poirot’s fallible comedic qualities. You generally do not find this sort of lightness in the novels featuring Miss Marple. Most importantly, you also find Christie’s examination of the social expectations of the femininity and different array of cultural reforms in this novel.
Overall, this book is a light-hearted murder mystery. The book is simply written. Reading this book requires only careful attention to facts and does not require any arcane knowledge.