Literature / Peril at End House

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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, which is a much easier death than being hanged.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Nick. She appears to be in danger, but it's all an act to cover up her murder of her cousin as another attempt on her life.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Implied as a backstory, when in his summation, Poirot describes how Nick began to hate Freddie because Freddie has, as Poirot puts it, "the knack of winning love, and keeping it", and also how her love for End House drove her to murder Maggie to claim her inheritance.
  • 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 the 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.
  • Foreshadowing: While discussing the possible motives for murder, Poirot briefly mentions Iago and how ingenious his methods of killing were. In Curtain, Poirot must face a killer who had perfectly mastered Iago's methods and is able to commit murder through other people while he himself remains legally innocent.
  • Forging The Will:
    • When Charles Vyse reads out Nick's will, everyone was surprised to hear that she had left her entire fortune to Mrs Croft. This turns out to be a forgery.
    • 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: While Nick was conversing with Poirot, a bullet was apparently shot at her, narrowly misses her head and hits the rim of her hat instead. However, it is almost certain that Nick had deliberately damaged the hat and left the bullet for Poirot to find in order to create an illusion that someone is after her life.
  • 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, as she is engaged to the millionaire Michael Seton, who had left all his fortune to his fiancee. While Seton's money was indeed the motive for the murder, the truth plays out differently from what was presupposed. Michael was engaged, not to Nick, but to her cousin Maggie. As they have the same name — Magdala Buckley — Nick murders her cousin in order to claim the inheritance Michael had left for Maggie.
  • 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.
  • 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, and it turns out that it's a fake made by the Crofts.
  • 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, which is the murder of her cousin.
  • 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.
  • 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 and Freddie Rice.

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