In the 3rd installment of the “Summer of Christie” Read-along we’re discussing After the Funeral. As always, important plot details will be discussed, so finish reading your copy and join the discussion!
The story opens in Enderby Hall, as Old Lanscombe is readying the house for a small family gathering after Richard Abernethie’s funeral. His death was not unexpected and natural causes are readily accepted. Nevertheless, his younger sister, Cora Lansquenet, makes a curious comment before the reading of the will "It's been hushed up very nicely ... but he was murdered, wasn't he?" And then the very next day, Cora is found brutally murdered in her sleep. The motive for her murder is not obvious, but in light of her comment at the funeral, the family lawyer Mr. Entwhistle is suspicious and before long there is no question that a murderer is at large. The famous Hercule Poirot is brought in to investigate and none of the family members can be cleared of suspicion, each member is guilty of their own secrets. Poirot’s investigation is filled with red herrings, from an odd recurrence of nuns, to a collection of bad art, and a poisonous slice of cake. The truth will come down to the simple concept that one can never really truly see how they appear in the eyes of others, mirrors are just reflections.
“Complete with a genealogical tree, a dubious will and a family full of potential murderers,” (New York Times) After the Funeral was selected by Sophie Hannah, bestselling author of the forthcoming new Hercule Poirot mystery, The Monogram Murders, as her all-time favorite Poirot mystery. Watch her discuss why that is.
Now let’s discuss!
1.) From the beginning, there is tension among the surviving Abernethie family. Despite being bound together by name and blood, there doesn’t seem to be a strong connection amongst the different generations. Did you sense a motive for murder or suspect someone in the group early on?
2.) It was noted early on that Helen Abernethie felt something was strange during the will reading. Were you ever able to guess what it was she sensed? Once the murder plot is revealed, it becomes clear that the answer was there from the beginning.
3.) Name some of your favorite red herrings, as there are quite a few. To get you going, I enjoyed the reoccurrence of nuns. I knew they had to have some significance, as nothing can just be a coincidence.
4.) The will was split fairly across Richard’s relatives and each had their own reason for needing the money. Did you ever once consider Cora’s murder to be separate from Richard’s?
5.) Some of the family members (by blood or marriage) acted truly deplorably—there was the house-bound Timothy, the beautiful but vapid Rosamund and her cheating husband Michael, and Susan’s husband, Gregory who was outed as a mental patient. I half expected Helen to have her own dirty secret (which really wasn’t all that bad once revealed). Did you consider any of them for the murderer?
6.) In Sophie Hannah’s introduction to After the Funeral, she discusses the Christie-concept of “nontransferable motive,” meaning a motive that no other murderer in any other crime novel has had or will have. Do you think that applies to After the Funeral? What do you make of a “nontransferable motive?” Does this apply to other Christie mysteries?
As summer is nearing an end, we have one last book for the Agatha Christie Read-along: The Monogram Murders, the long-awaited, new Poirot mystery by Sophie Hannah, available September 9th. Read an excerpt here while you wait! We’ll feature a guest blog post by Sophie herself in October. Reserve your copy of The Monogram Murders here.