One, Two, Buckle my Shoe – Agatha Christie

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Hercule Poirot visits his dentist, Mr Morley, reluctantly. It’s just a check up but he’s apprehensive. The visit goes smoothly, nothing out of the ordinary happens except that as Poirot is leaving, he sees a middle-aged woman arrive at the surgery. As she steps from her taxi, she catches her shoe & the buckle is torn off. Poirot politely picks up the buckle & hands it to her. He is amazed to hear from Chief Inspector Japp that, just hours after Poirot’s visit, Mr Morley has been found shot dead & it appears to be suicide.

Poirot is suspicious. Mr Morley seemed perfectly normal & untroubled & there seems no motive for suicide until one of his patients, Mr Amberiotis, dies suddenly of an overdose of the anaesthetic drug administered by Mr Morley. Was it remorse at making such a terrible mistake that led to the dentist committing suicide? Then, another patient, Miss Sainsbury Seale (she of the buckled shoes), disappears after a visit from Poirot & Japp. Poirot’s investigations will involve everyone who was in Mr Morley’s house that day – Alfred, the page boy who can’t remember anyone’s name correctly; his assistant, Gladys Nevill, who should have been at work that day but was mysteriously called away to visit a sick aunt who is perfectly healthy; Gladys’s unsatisfactory young man, Frank Carter; Howard Raikes, a young American who left the surgery waiting room without keeping his appointment; Mr Morley’s partner, the alcoholic Irishman Reilly; Mr Morley’s sister, Georgina, & her maid, Agnes, in the flat above the surgery; financier Alistair Blunt (whose niece, Jane, is in love with Raikes) & the mysterious Mr Barnes who hints to Poirot about espionage. What could connect this disparate group of people & why was Mr Morley murdered?

This is a classic Christie plot with red herrings galore & some quite subtle misdirection. I had always thought of Christie as quite a bloodless writer (in the sense of not dwelling on the physical details of her corpses) but there’s a very gruesome scene where a decomposing body is found that was startling. There’s also humour in the reaction of people to Poirot & the way he takes advantage of their rudeness or dismissal of him as a “bloody foreigner”.

I haven’t read any Agatha Christie for years. I read all her novels when I was a teenager – like many people, her books were my introduction to detective fiction. There have been a couple of recent blog posts about audio books (on Christine Poulson’s blog & here at Bridget’s blog A New Look Through Old Eyes) the comments have been full of great recommendations. Christine mentioned Hugh Fraser’s narration of the Poirot audio books &, as I always enjoyed his portrayal of Captain Hastings in the David Suchet series, I thought I’d try a Christie again after many years.

I loved it. It was the perfect bedtime audio book & I thought Hugh Fraser did a great job. I especially liked his Inspector Japp, he did an excellent imitation of Philip Jackson who played Japp in the series. His Poirot was very subtle, the accent not too overpowering. I’ve put some more Christies into my Audible wishlist. I know that her golden period is considered to be the 1930s-1950s & I’ve avoided any where I can remember the solutions. I’ve chosen After the Funeral, The Hollow, Taken at the Flood, Dumb Witness, The ABC Murders  & Hickory Dickory Dock. Any other classic Christies I should try? I’ve just checked my Poirot DVDs & I have the Suchet version of One, Two, Buckle my Shoe so I may have to have a look & see if they made any major changes to the plot. Lovely way to spend the afternoon. By the way, does anyone have a favourite narrator for the Miss Marple books? I see that most of them are read by Joan Hickson or Stephanie Cole, both of whom I imagine would be perfect. I’ve just listened to Stephanie Cole reading the sample of Sleeping Murder & she has Gwenda’s New Zealand accent just right so that’s a good sign. Then, there’s The Moving Finger read by Richard E Grant, another favourite voice.

12 thoughts on “One, Two, Buckle my Shoe – Agatha Christie

  1. Aren’t audiobooks the most wonderful joy – as well as offering incredible comfort when we are too tired to read, or can’t get to sleep. I’ve got some Miss Marple short stories read by Joan Hickson (I cannot imagine there ever being a more perfect Miss Marple) and also Elephants Can Remember read by Hugh Fraser – brilliant!

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    • I think JH & SC will both be brilliant readers of the Marple stories & I’m going to continue with Hugh Fraser for the Poirots. You’re right, it’s comforting to be read to at bedtime, probably a memory of childhood.

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  2. My favourite is a Murder is Announced. The Man in the Brown suit is fun as are the Tommy and Tuppence novels. The Secret of Chimneys is a good listen, ditto The Pale Horse,..I could go on ! lol
    I like Rosemary Leach as a reader also Alex Jennings.

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    • AMIA is one of my favourite Marples but I know the plot so well that I think I’d rather go for something less familiar. Tommy & Tuppence is a good idea, it’s been years since I read any of those & I see they’re narrated by Hugh Fraser. I do know Rosemary Leach but there’s very little by her available on Audible. I think I remember listening to her on cassette a very long time ago. I’ve listened to Alex Jennings reading Dickens & I do like his voice.

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  3. Yes, Joan Hickson is perfect. Another thing that is so good about Hugh Fraser is that he doesn’t read too fast. I am currently listening to Timothy West reading Phineas Finn and he is almost gabbling at times

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    • That’s interesting about TW. I’ve heard rave reviews of his Trollope readings but haven’t heard them myself. I loved his narration of his memoir, A Moment Before the End of the Play, & don’t remember any gabbling but it was years ago & probably on cassette. His son, Samuel West, is another favourite narrator. He’s so good at middle-aged women’s voices. I enjoyed his reading of Iris Murdoch’s Under the Net & a couple of Mary Wesley’s novels. Also Orwell’s 1984.

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  4. Coincidence here – I am also listening to Phineas Finn read by Timothy West! A confession as well: I’ve read and listened to the Palliser and Barchester novels so many times before that I know what’s coming! I wonder if he deliberately speeds up in those passages of the books when Trollope goes off into his authorial diatribes, to effectively reflect the immense energy of Trollope himself?

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    • I’m tempted to try a TW Trollope now just to see what I think! I have Can You Forgive Her? in my Audible library. I try to stick to one audio book at a time but I may have to reconsider…

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      • I’ve only listened to two Trollope novels (both Pallisers) on audio and they were both narrated by Simon Vance, who was wonderful.

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      • I’ve heard great things about SV but haven’t listened to him yet. I have two books in my Audible library narrated by him – Oliver Twist & Man in the Iron Mask – & I must have liked the samples so I’m sure I’ll enjoy them when I get to them. I think I’d like to reread the Pallisers on audio. I have CYFH read by Timothy West so maybe I should try PF read by SV?

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  5. I hadn’t read any AC for years until last year after I watched the wonderful adaptation of “And Then There Were None.” My library had an audiobook version narrated by Dan Stevens and it was excellent, but I kind of lost steam during “Murder on the Orient Express.” His accent for Poirot started to bug me. I really need to read more Agatha Christie, I read most of them when I was in my teens and twenties and I’ve forgotten nearly all the plots so it would be like reading them for the first time all over again.

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    • I read most of AC when I was a teenager as well & hadn’t reread much at all. I am enjoying Hugh Fraser’s narration (halfway through Dumb Witness now) & I was thinking about MOTOE next although the choice is between DS & David Suchet. I liked the sample read by Stevens but Suchet IS Poirot.. what a dilemma! There are very few of the plots I remember & some of the TV adaptations changed them so greatly (especially some of the dreadful Marple series – don’t get me started…) that I feel I need to reread the books to get things straight. Have you seen the new TV adaptation of Witness for the Prosecution? Hasn’t appeared on Australian TV yet but it would have to be good to beat the Laughton/Power/Dietrich movie – one of my favourites. Norma Varden & Una O’Connor are in it, two of my favourite character actresses.

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