Spoiler Warning – Mrs. McGinty’s Dead (1952) by Agatha Christie

One final dive into the crystal-clear waters of talking about a mystery novel without having to carefully avoid the details — here are Brad, Moira, and myself discussing Mrs. McGinty’s Dead (1952) by Agatha Christie.

There’s much to discuss here, too: an older Hercule Poirot whose name conjures none of the delight or fear it would have done during his hey-day of some 20 years previously, a plot hewn almost entirely from conversation after conversation after conversation, the sheer wittiness of Christie’s prose and observations, the return of author analogue Ariadne Oliver for her second of six cases accompanying our little Belgian friend…for a relatively ‘minor’ book — no hook, no genre-challenging revelation — Christie packs a lot in.

What else to say up front? Not much I suppose; perhaps the best thing is simply to listen and then share your thoughts below.

You can listen to the podcast on iTunes here, on Spotify here, or on Stitcher here, or by using the player below. 

Thanks to those of you who have listened to these podcasts over the last couple of years. I’m stepping away from them now because they take bloody aaages, use up lots of storage space on WordPress, and don’t really justify themselves on the pecuniary grounds I really should have introduced at the start to keep me interested for the long term. Nevertheless, I appreciate your interest, and thank you for coming this far with the three of us as we added to the positive wealth of podcasts about Agatha Christie out there.

If I do ever start another podcast, rest assured that a) you’re all invited to listen, b) it’ll be on something a little more obscure, and c) that, too, will only last a handful of episodes before I pack it in.

A bientot!

12 thoughts on “Spoiler Warning – Mrs. McGinty’s Dead (1952) by Agatha Christie

  1. I have only read this one once years ago (other than to see the reasonably faithful Suchet adaptation a couple times). The mystery as you all mention is not its strongest point and I am first and foremast drawn to GAD for its puzzles.

    Given how much of this wonderful podcast is on everything but the puzzle and clues only emphasizes the point. That said, you make me want to return to it as I like how you described this as a “satisfying” read given its characterisation, low key humour, a view into Christie’s mindset whilst writing it, etc.

    I am also drawn to GAD based on the personality of the victim (the more despicable the more I seem to enjoy the book). Brad also makes the brilliant point that neither McGinty nor the framed Bentley are vivid characters and I agree that dilutes its impact.

    Thanks Jim, Moira and Brad – I thoroughly have enjoyed each of these spoiler discussions. Your insights help me see these books in a more complete way.

    P.S. A quick trip to Wikipedia and I now know more than I ever had about sugar loafs, nips and cutters.


    • A quick trip to Wikipedia and I now know more than I ever had about sugar loafs, nips and cutters.

      For tax purposes I have registered this podcast as an educational resource; this comment will be cited at the court case.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great Podcast as always. Sad to hear, but of course understandable, that it’s the last one.

    By the way, I think the backstory in Murder on the Links (which caused the victim to change his name) is based on a real life case as well.


    • It’s interesting to reflect on Moira’s point, but maybe I was just getting confused between Christie in particular and GAD authors in general. Expect more on this theme as I stumble over data for either side


  3. According to Antiques Road Trip, “sugar nips” or “nippers” are sugar tongs, for picking up the tiny pieces of sugar you have chopped off your sugarloaf. I imagine the sugar cutter in the book was something more like an axe. There seems to be a lot of confusion on the internet between sugar cutters and sugar CANE cutters.


  4. Interesting discussion. If it is the last, thanks for these. Maybe you can make a few encores focusing on personal favourites?

    I also remember being confused about the Courtland case. At one point it is said she is around 50 now, so I guess the case would have happened 20-30 years ago? Surely there have been other murderers who managed to escape punishment since then, making it an odd case to mention? I guess what I find confusing is that first you assume it is one of Spence’s cases, but later there is no indication that has any personal memory of the case.

    It is amusing that Mr. Summerhays gets more upset about Poirot having unflattering things to say about his wife’s ancestry than the implication that he might be a murderer.

    The nursery rhyme connection in this one is pretty weak, which is all to the better. (Aside from Then There Were None it is usally not a good thing when Christie tries to force a deeper connection between the rhyme and the book.)


  5. Thank you for all the brilliant spoiler warning episodes. I have enjoyed them immensely and this one was no different. Laugh out loud fun with lots of “I had never thought of it” moments and as always makes me want to go back and re-read the book.


  6. Great discussion! As you all say, this one is not the strongest puzzle in Christie’s oeuvre, but of course when *I* say it, I get publicly crucified in GAD and have to delete my post on it! There’s a reason why I never talk about Agatha Christie. 😛 I didn’t think the mystery was at all *bad*, though, there are some elements I really like (especially the clue surrounding the true crime journalism, that was very smart…).

    Sorry to hear this is the last episode! Between this and IGWT I hope your blog at least has many more strong years in it — the blogosphere would lose one of its most important members if not!


    • Thanks, Liana — it’s always lovely to know that people are out there enjoying what you do. It may yet return — I have genuinely enjoyed all the podcasting I’ve done, it’s just a matter of resources and, crucially, time.

      And, if it does come back, I promise there will be music again 🙂


  7. Very much enjoyed this podcast, but admit that— for the very reason that I agreed with nearly everything all three of you said about Mrs. McGinty’s Dead— my feelings about it are more ambivalent than ever. The puzzle plot I don’t quite consider quite strong enough to be one of the great Christies, and yet certainly not nearly poor enough to be one of her weaker ones, either. It’s always “almost there” in my mind, threatening to enter the pantheon. For me, the most interesting plot point is the fact that when Eva Kane’s interview was printed, she could not yet know the gender of her yet unborn child (which reminds me of what I consider the one good plot point in Daughter of Time, revealed about 2/3 the way through that novel).

    I appreciated the “shoutout” (or at least acknowledgment) by Brad, but I’d like to clear up what I believe might be a misinterpretation of my views. Though I may have at one time suggested that I wouldn’t recommend one of Christie’s more dazzling ‘thunderbolt solution” novels as a first Christie read because it might lead to a sense of anticlimax when readers went on to her more “ordinary” works, I don’t recall ever doing so. If I did say such a thing, I certainly don’t feel that way now. What I did suggest, rather, was that I wouldn’t choose to recommend one of her novels with a “high concept” solution (which admittedly overlap highly with the set of her dazzling “thunderbolt solution” novels) as a first Christie read for two very different reasons than that:

    1) Such solutions, while potentially very powerful and satisfying if they do succeed in their deception, are sometimes much more susceptible to inopportunely premature exposure, as they are frequently dependent upon the culprit’s guilt never even being considered prior to the denouement.

    2) They often lead to an unjustified under-appreciation of Christie’s skills, as the “high concept” (which incidentally, Christie in most case did not originate anyway) is mistaken for being the essence of her ingenuity. That is, for example, in The Murder of ________ ________ (oh, I’m being so cleverly oblique) the fact that the narrator turns out to be the culprit is inaccurately taken as the the measure of her ingenuity, rather than the fact that that not only did she achieve this deception without the employment of any false statements by the narrator, but (far more impressively, in my opinion) she provides an entirely motivationally justified reason for the deliberate unreliability on his part. I’m still convinced that a room full of intelligent (but non-genre savvy) high schoolers, given an hour to suggest “outside the box” solutions to a basic whodunit scenario, would likely propose the narrator as culprit, detective as culprit, child as culprit, victim and apparent intended victim as culprit, etc… But what very few if any of them would be able to deliver is the satisfying logistics by which Christie was able to make these ideas work.

    Still, I might very well recommend And Then There Were None as a first Christie, for while I consider the solution dazzling, and the premise is high concept, the solution is not (at least in any way that would make it susceptible to transparency, or lead to an underestimation of Christie’s gifts).

    Liked by 1 person

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