Literature / Cat Among the Pigeons

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Cat Among the Pigeons is a 1959 mystery novel by Agatha Christie, featuring detective Hercule Poirot.

At the start of the summer term at Meadowbank School for Girls, a prestigious prep school in England, there is no reason for Miss Bulstrode, the popular but aging headmistress, to believe that the challenges facing her will be more than the occasional irate or inebriated parent. She scarcely listens when Mrs Upjohn, a parent, recognizes someone that she sees from her wartime days in the intelligence service. But there is a killer at the school who does not wait long to strike.


This novel provides examples of the following:

  • Adaptational Villainy: In the book Miss Springer is a comparatively innocuous character; in the Poirot adaptation, she becomes a nasty sadist and an Asshole Victim.
  • Age Lift: Honoria Bulstrode is already reaching her retirement age in the books. In the TV version, she's still a relatively young woman who wanted to retire because she no longer felt the challenge and thrills of running a school.
  • Ascended Extra: In an odd fashion, Poirot himself. In the books, he's mostly a secondary character who doesn't become involved in the case until the final third of the story. In the TV adaptation, he's an old friend of Miss Bullstrode, whom the headmistress had invited in the beginning of the semester to help her choose a suitable successor for her.
  • Blackmail: Miss Blanche knew the identity of Miss Springer's killer and attempted to blackmail them. Unsurprisingly, this only gets her killed.
  • Cool Teacher: Honoria Bulstrode, headmistress of Meadowbanks, is not overly strict, but she seems to have an almost telepathic knowledge of everything that goes on at her school. Eileen Rich, the English teacher, also qualifies.
  • Dawson Casting: In-universe. It's said of some of the older girls that they could pass for adults in their 20s. In the case of "Princess Shaista", it turns out that this is because she is an adult of 25, having been switched with the real Princess.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Miss Blanche, who is actually impersonating her sister Angele who died, and who earned her teaching references. It's not as relevant to the plot as you might expect.
  • He Knows Too Much: Miss Blanche.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: Twice. Prince Ali Yusuf, who fears an assassination attempt, hands the jewels off to Bob. Bob realizes that having the jewels makes him a target, and hides them in his sister's luggage.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Eileen Rich, a respectable schoolteacher, has an illegitimate child and is among the most sympathetic characters in the novel. Honoria Bulstrode, her headmistress, does not hold this against her, provided it does not become public knowledge. The novel ends with the implication that Bulstrode has chosen Rich as her eventual successor.
  • Never One Murder: Three murders are committed by two people with entirely different motives. In the Poirot adaptation, however, it was two murders; the murder of Miss Vansittart is replaced by the attempted murder of Miss Rich by Miss Chadwick.
  • Not My Driver: Princess Shaista, a student at Meadowbrook School, gets into a car to meet her uncle in London and never arrives. This is a subversion, though, because it actually was her driver. "Shaista" was an impostor, and the car had come to help her disappear before she met anyone who knew the real Princess, making it look like a kidnapping.
  • Qurac: A hunt for royal jewels from the country of Ramat.
  • Redemption Equals Death: One of the murderers, Miss Chadwick, redeems herself by Taking the Bullet to stop her best friend being killed and thus atoning for her own crime.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Miss Rich (who took on Miss Vanistart's role of the second victim) did not die after being attacked from behind. Likewise, Miss Chadwick survives after taking the bullet for Miss Bulstrode.

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