Literature / Lord Edgware Dies

A novel by Agatha Christie published in 1933, featuring Hercule Poirot.

When the fourth Baron Edgware is murdered, the primary suspect is his estranged wife, the talented actress Jane Wilkinson, who wanted to marry the Duke of Merton, and whom Lord Edgware's servants swear they saw entering his house. However, Jane spent the whole evening at a high-profile dinner party with twelve distinguished people, after having found out from Poirot that her husband had sent her a letter granting her a divorce — a letter that she did not receive. If Jane did not kill her husband, who did?

This novel provides examples of the following:

  • Abusive Parents: Mostly implied. Lord Edgware is a ruthless man who enjoys having people fear him, and his daughter has an unpleasant childhood as a result. However, his treatment of Geraldine is never described.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Inverted with Bryan Martin and Alton. The books consistently describe the two as incredibly young and handsome, especially the latter, whom Hastings compared to a Greek God and considers as "one of the handsomest young men [he's] ever seen". Their TV counterparts, while not necessarily ugly, are not as conventionally attractive, and wouldn't attract such gushes from other people.
  • Adaptational Dye Job: Genevieve "Jenny" Driver is mostly recognisable, in the books, from her distinctive red heir. In the adaptation, she's dark-haired.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Downplayed. Jane Wilkinson is described as a blatantly selfish individual who shamelessly brags about wanting to kill her husband so that she can marry another man, and refuses to take the hint when Poirot tries to refuse her commission to "get rid" of her husband. In the adaptation, she is portrayed (initially, anyway) as a sympathetic victim who is forced to silently endure her husband's cruelty, and her asking for Poirot's help looks more like a desperate plea than a callous asking.
  • Asshole Victim: The murder victim, Lord Edgware, was an unpleasant man with sadistic tendencies.
  • Beneath Suspicion: At the time of the murder, Jane was at a party with twelve distinguished people, none of whom had any reason to lie for her. Only she wasn't; Carlotta was impersonating her.
  • Call Back: Poirot reflected that the one time he took notice of a physical clue, no one would believe him because it was "four foot long instead of four centimetres". This was, of course, a reference to The Murder on the Links, where Poirot found a metal pipe near the victim's body, which everyone else dismissed as a part of the construction site.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the novels, Alton the butler quietly disappears when the police started digging around and almost discovered his stealing of his master's money. In the TV adaptation, the police intercepts him just as he was leaving the country, and he died in the ensuing chase.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: The German translation of the book altered the plot point where the killer tears an "s" off the corner of a letter to change "she" into "he" to make it look like a man was being written about, because this would not work in German. It was replaced by the tearing of an uppercase "J" (signifying "Jane") to turn it into a lowercase "j" (signifying "jemand", German for "someone"). The only problem with this is that a "j" is not gender-specific and does not justify the characters thinking that it must have been a man.
  • Epilogue Letter: The story ends with one written by the killer to Poirot before being executed.
  • Eureka Moment: Poirot stumbles onto the truth as a result of an irrelevant remark made by a stranger who passed him in the street: "If they had just had the sense to ask Ellis right away..."
  • Fiery Redhead: The red-headed Miss Jenny Driver has a forceful, vivacious personality. Poirot credited her as having enough courage to achieve anything she wants.
  • Foreshadowing: The David Suchet adaptation opens with a theater production in which Jane Wilkinson is playing Lady Macbeth.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Lady Edgware hires an actress to impersonate her at a dinner party while she kills her husband, then kills the actress later. During the murder she takes great care to be seen by those in the household, though she purposely acts strangely. At first it seems apparent she's the killer, till all the party guests give her an alibi. When the actress's dead body is found, it appears that the killer hired the actress to commit the murder and frame Lady Edgware.
  • Harassing Phone Call: Jane receives one at the dinner party. It is really Carlotta impersonating Jane who takes the call, and Jane herself made it, to ascertain whether the impersonation worked.
  • He Knows Too Much: Donald Ross and Carlotta Adams was murdered for knowing the fact that the Lady Edgware that was in the party during the time of the murder was, in fact, an impersonator.
  • Identical Stranger: Lord Edgware's butler, Alton, is said to bear a striking resemblance to Bryan Martin, but there is no mention of familial ties between the two characters. The TV adaptation exemplifies this by having the two played by brothers Christopher and Dominic Guard.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Jane never received the letter from Lord Edgware agreeing to the divorce, leading Poirot to speculate that a third party intercepted it. Turns out she lied about never receiving it.
  • It's All About Me: Jane is pretty open about this being her philosophy in life; she believes that everyone, everywhere ought to be working to make her happy. She really doesn't care about the damage she might do to other people. And in the Epilogue Letter, says she thinks it was mean of Poirot to have her arrested for doing what she needed to do to be happy merely because that resulted in the murders of three people.
  • Market-Based Title: Was originally published in the United States as Thirteen at Dinner.
  • Red Herring:
    • The ruby-encrusted box with Carlotta's initials on it and the inscription about Paris.
    • Pretty much all references to the city of Paris. As it turns out, the only reference to Paris that means anything is the reference to the prince of Troy from Greek mythology and the fact that Jane didn't know who he was.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The murderer openly visits Lord Edgware's house as herself, knowing that the word of the servants will be worthless against that of the twelve distinguished friends at the dinner where Carlotta is impersonating her.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Agatha Christie first got the idea for this novel after seeing a highly talented vaudeville artiste, who in her show portrayed a range of characters ranging from five to fifty, of both genders and over a dozen varied walks of life. Christie basically started wondering 'if this woman can do all that, what else could she do - could she impersonate someone specific?'. Plot Ensued.
  • Setting Update: The 1985 film moved the setting to the 80s.
  • 13 Is Unlucky: Thirteen people are at that dinner party (in fact, the American title of this novel is Thirteen At Dinner), and the superstition that ill luck will befall the first to rise is lampshaded. Donald Ross says that he rose first, and Hastings remembers this when Ross is murdered. However, Poirot points out that that isn't strictly true; Ross might have gotten up first at the end of dinner, but actually Jane rose first when she went to answer the Harassing Phone Call. Only it is really Carlotta impersonating her, and she dies that night.
  • Title Drop: Ronald makes one, while mockingly describing the case against himself. "Nephew quarrels with Lord Edgware, that very night Lord Edgware Dies." He immidiately Lampshades this by pointing out "Lord Edgware Dies" would make a great name for a book.
  • Woman Scorned: A male version: Poirot initially speculates that, after Jane rejected Bryan Martin for the Duke of Merton, Bryan committed the murder for the purposes of framing Jane and getting her hanged.
  • Worthy Opponent: In the final scene of the 1985 film, Poirot is this for Jane Wilkinson; he responds in kind.