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?

Lord Edgware Dies contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: The 1985 film moved the setting to the 80s, making the motive for the murder much less plausible, because in the liberated 80s it is harder to believe that the Catholic Duke of Merton would avoid marrying a divorced woman than in the conservative 30s. The dominance of glamorous society by aristocrats, and Jane's determination to establish herself with them, is also a bit less convincing at that later date than in the 1930s.
    • Maybe, maybe not. It's mentioned that Merton was old-fashioned even for his time, and that he belonged more in the 1630s than the 1930s. Even in the 30s, the fact that he wouldn't want to marry a divorced woman was unusual enough that it took Poirot a while to realize that Jane still had a motive. It's not unreasonable to assume that his beliefs would be just as out-of-time if he'd been born in the 80s.
  • Adaptational Heroism: The Duke of Merton comes across more pleasantly in the David Suchet adaptation.
  • Asshole 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.
  • 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.
  • Dumb Blonde: Subverted and exploited by Jane.
  • 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..."
  • 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: Poor Donald Ross.
  • 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.
  • Oh Crap!: Jane after the slip-up about Paris.
  • 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.
  • Ripped from the Headlines / 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.
  • Summation Gathering: In the David Suchet adaptation.
  • Thirteen 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.
  • The Watson: Hastings.
  • 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.