Review by Thomas Bowden : Murder in Mesopotamia

Review by Thomas Bowden (IAFS alumni/Flinders University)

Christie, A. 1936. Murder in Mesopotamia. William Collins & Sons Ltd.

This book has it all: Mystery! Murder! Intrigue! Sorting potsherds!

Amy Leatheran arrives at Dr Leidner’s dig at Tell Yarimjah in Iraq to care for his sick and distressed wife Louise. While there, Louise confesses to Amy that her terror has a source: she has been receiving threatening letters from her ex-husband… Her ex-husband who has been dead for fifteen years! As the excavation at Tell Yarimjah continues and the finds are being sorted, Louise comes to Amy claiming a mysterious figure with a terrifying plaster mask face appears in her window at night to taunt her… Amy can’t tell if this is the mad ravings of a very ill lady but…just maybe, she might be telling the truth?

And then Louise is found dead – struck with a blunt object…and Amy realises that someone on the expedition is responsible. There is only one man who can lend his ‘little grey cells’ to unravel the puzzle – the great Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.

Agatha Christie is well known for her thrilling murder-mystery books, but through her travels she expanded her literary universe from the great houses and small villages of rural England to the gibber plains of Iraq and sandhills of Egypt. On a 1928 trip to Baghdad via the Orient Express, she made friends with Leonard Woolley and was invited to visit his dig at Ur in 1930, where she first met archaeologist, Max Mallowan, whom she later married. Her involvement in Mallowan’s work at Tell Arpachiyah and Tell Brak in Syria inspired books such as Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, Appointment with Death, and of course Murder in Mesopotamia. Christie’s experience on excavations in the Middle East give colour to this text, and aside even from murder story, the reader will enjoy the landscapes and descriptions, as well as the archaeology which takes place in this story.