Book Review: Cards on the Table

Cards on the Table cover

I hope that everyone had a good weekend, regardless of how it was spent.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I have gotten quite a few books some time after I had read and reviewed the title that I was asked to read, totaling about eight books.

So far, I have covered two of the eight, seven of which I have on me right now, and at least five books remain.

Today, I will be reviewing one of those titles, which is called Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie.

Mr. Shaitana is known for his magnificent collections and, to a few people, entertaining parties, and he now claims to have found the rarest collection of all, four people who committed the perfect murder and got away with it, while inviting some guests to another party.

However, while everyone enjoys their time mingling and playing Bridge, Shaitana is found dead, and Hercule Poirot, along with three other sleuths, must find out who among four people with histories of murder killed their host.

I must say, I really enjoyed this book.

From the moment that I opened up this book, I was pulled into the story and did not want to stop reading this for any reason, even though I do have to satisfy the same needs that every other human being has.

Some of you guys might be rolling, thinking that I am back on track of saying that everything I read is interesting, but not everything I read will interest everyone and John Grisham's The Whistler could not even hold my interest as well as this book did, though it did capture it a lot better than The Book Thief did.

Agatha Christie has written many books while she was alive, and, while I have not read all of her work, she has been able to capture my interest and keep it throughout each of the books that I have read from her, which shows me that she was a pretty decent writer, even if some of her books disappointed me, like Crooked House and A Pocket Full of Rye, with the former being the most disappointing because the culprit was too obvious, while the latter only ended in a disappointing way.

Taking this into account, I would expect nothing less from Agatha Christie, especially because she remembered how to write her specialized genre well, unlike John Grisham, who gave me the impression that he did not even know how to write the kinds of books that led to the fame that he has today.

I also liked how the case did not rely too much on what people like to call solid proof.

While Hercule Poirot is not technically known to rely on the things that people today believe is concrete proof, such as blood and other samples of DNA, there is still some kind of link beyond just mere speculation that helps Poirot fit the pieces together for his deduction.

However, in this book, everything is determined by a psychological profile, as Agatha Christie said in her own words in the foreword that it had to be done that way.

As nice as it can be to find the so-called smoking gun, which is not really concrete proof and more circumstantial, it gets kind of boring when a DNA sample of sort ends up resolving the case, even if circumstantial evidence is more reliable than direct evidence, or the faulty memory of mankind, and takes away from the whole mystery of things.

By having the deductions rely on a psychological profile, it becomes important to not only know the suspects themselves, their histories, and why they are acting like they do, and the investigation itself much more interesting than the average case found on Investigation Discovery, Law & Order, and Detective Conan.

Now, some of you guys might be wondering how bringing psychology into the mix would make things so interesting, when I admitted that I am no expert, nor took any classes, in the field in my review of Case Closed Volume 58, even though I know of both the positive and negative uses of the BITE model, the latter of which is largely used to identify groups as evil cults and whose effects can be seen in media that shines a negative light on the church I attend, a few of which I do notice in my life and I have noted in reviews of Yona of the Dawn Volume 4 and Weston Kincade's Salvation, but even the most basic knowledge of psychology and how actions and behaviors can come about for various reasons can help in finding out what is a red herring and what is not, and Agatha Christie did a very good job of showing that here, though she does not state explicitly that what is being done is creating a psychological profile, whereas Professor Okabe, Shinichi Akiyama's professor in a criminal psychology seminar, from Liar Game: Roots of A, a prequel side story to Liar Game, said that is exactly what a good psychological profile entails.

After all, the way I present myself here may not actually be who I really am, and you guys will not be able to determine that, unless you are willing to sift the forest of individuals that share my name, or have somehow come into contact with me or somebody who has, thus you will only think that you know and understand me.

This alone makes me wish that Agatha Christie was still alive, so that she could show the so-called stars of the detective, mystery, and crime fictions genres of today how things are done, but I have to keep reminding myself that she could just as likely make herself look like as much of joke as John Grisham appeared to be in his latest work, so I should just be glad I have not come across her worst works yet.

Another nice thing about this book was how the things associated with everyday life were not absolutely boring.

As I brought up in my review of John Grisham's latest work, readers want the boring everyday stuff to be just as interesting as the things that move the plot along.

Unfortunately, this is a very big problem with fictional works presented in the visual medium where I live, because I tend to not have very much interest in what the characters do outside of work and the whole thing comes off as too realistic and not quite as funny, whereas many of the anime and manga I like has things that are not too realistic and can make me laugh, even if the kind of humor to be found is not that unique.

Here, however, everything feels lively and something that I would like to be a part of, though I would not really enjoy it if I were to actually set out and do just that, just like many of Agatha Christie's other works, and it makes me want to give her some more applause.

If more fiction writers could do what Agatha Christie did, fiction would be a lot more enjoyable than it is today, and a few more people might become interesting in reading, though the vast majority of people would still be more interested in movies and television than books.

The thing that I liked the most though was how I was even the most minor of things can reveal something about a person.

While Agatha Christie delivers exactly what is expected in the stories that she writes, such as red herrings and a case that is not as obvious as the one featured in Detective Conan episode 6, she has not really explored, as least from what I have read, how minor things can reveal something about people, even though she has brought up a few times that things that seem insignificant can end up being important.

In this book, that is finally dealt with by having Poirot asking each of the four suspects details about the room, what they thought of each other's playing styles, and other things, it showed that these questions revealed things like how observant each individual is, the sharpness of their memories, and their individual characters.

People my knowledge of the computer world, or even familiarity with the kinds of stories Agatha Christie wrote, have known for quite a while just how important the minutest details are in discovering the solution, but I cannot really think of too many works in which it is clearly shown how minor those details can be, and it makes me want to give Agatha Christie as applause for the illustration presented here as I did for how the red herrings in A Pocket Full of Rye demonstrated that actions and behaviors cannot be trusted, thereby making it another title that one should become acquainted with before truly delving into the stories that Agatha Christie and many others made a name for themselves writing.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly liked, at least that could help this work stand out from Agatha Christie's works or the many others that have been published after she died.

Because the book was interesting from beginning to end, even including the dull, everyday moments, had a bigger focus on finding the solution through means other than circumstantial and direct evidence, and clearly demonstrated how even the most minute thing can help us find out who people are and finding solutions, this was a very enjoyable read.

Although I liked the book, there are some issues.

However, aside from things that are too minor to talk about, such as one minor annoyance that does not seem to be anything that different from what the police can do in real life, according to a blog post by an anonymous defense attorney on the website of The Law Office of Nicholas J. Moore, Esq., which does not hurt the quality of this book, there was nothing that really bothered me too much.

As a result, I will have to say that there is nothing worth mentioning.

Considering that there was a lot more to like that hate about this book, this was definitely worth reading.

I recommend this to fans of detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres, Agatha Christie, and Hercule Poirot, especially if you are bored by how often circumstantial evidence proves the deduction right.

As for everyone else, this might be worth giving a try, since it shows clearly how the minutest details can be, but, like A Pocket Full of Rye, it probably will not make anyone interested in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres in general.

If you have read this book, what are your thoughts on Cards on the Table? Please leave a comment and let everyone know why you liked or hated the book, especially if your reasons are different from mine.

Also, if you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider support me on Patreon, so that I can continue finding works that would appeal to fans of the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres.

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Copyright © 2015 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.