Literature / Peril at End House

A novel by Agatha Christie published in 1932, featuring Hercule Poirot.

While staying at a Cornish resort, Poirot meets Nick Buckley, the beautiful young mistress of End House, who has escaped several attempts on her life. He decides to try to protect her and track down the would-be killer, and comes to End House where he meets an assortment of mysterious characters: Nick's cousin and lawyer Charles Vyse, the housekeeper Ellen, Mr and Mrs Croft who are leasing the cottage on Nick's property, Nick's friends Frederica Rice, Jim Lazarus, and George Challenger, and lastly her cousin Maggie, whom she asked to stay with her at Poirot's suggestion. On the night of a firework party, a corpse is found, wearing Nick's shawl...

This novel provides examples of the following:

  • Better to Die than Be Killed: The killer commits suicide through the use of cocaine hidden in her wrist-watch.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Nick.
  • Coincidental Dodge: Subverted.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Implied as a backstory.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Played with.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: Surprisingly - and yet totally believably - subverted. Poirot compiles a seemingly complete list of suspects, even giving each one of them a letter of alphabet, and yet in the end it turns out that neither the main culprit (despite being there and well-known by everybody for all the time) nor one of the minor ones are on it.
  • Faking the Dead: Nick is persuaded by Poirot to do this, in order to expose the Crofts.
  • Femme Fatale
  • Forging The Will: The Crofts try to pass off a forged will while Nick is playing dead.
    • Another, less direct version as well. While Nick doesn't present a forged will, she does try to forge being the "Magdala Buckley" mentioned in the will when it actually referred to her cousin.
  • Hat Damage: Happens to Nick while she is in conversation with Poirot.
  • Haunted House: End House has shades of this. Lampshaded when it is suggested that the house's influence made Nick succumb to evil.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Michael Seton's uncle Matthew disliked women, which is why Michael had to keep his engagement a secret.
  • Inheritance Murder: This is a suspected motive behind the attacks on Nick. The trope does turn out to be in play, but not in the standard manner: the real murder plot is not against anyone who's leaving money but against the person who's its real heir.
  • Just One Little Mistake: The use of a love letter that does not mention Nick's serious operation, despite being dated for that time. Also her Revealing Cover-Up at the end.
  • Kill the Cutie: Poor Maggie.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: Nick, Freddie, and Maggie. The fact that both Nick and Maggie have the first name Magdala but neither use it is what makes the plan possible.
  • Lost Will And Testament: The will of Nick is missing, only to turn up after her faked death.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: This trope appears to be in play for the attempts on Nick's life. This is her cover for the crime she is planning.
  • Murder by Mistake: Inverted. Nick dressed up her murder of Maggie as this.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Nick tries to invoke this with Freddie's dead husband, ostensibly to spare Freddie, but really to cover up her own murder.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. Nick and Maggie are both called "Magdala Buckley", and this is what makes Nick's plan possible.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: Nick tries to frame Freddie by placing a gun in her coat, unaware that she is being watched.
  • Sickbed Slaying: The poisoned chocolates sent to Nick. Subverted in that not only is she not dead, but she sent them to herself as a ruse.
  • Spooky Seance: A dramatic one that culminates in Nick entering the room as her own ghost.
  • Tomboyish Name: Nick Buckley.