Poirot sighed. ‘One should never struggle against the inevitable,’ he said. ‘If a middle-aged lady wearing sham Egyptian beads has made up her mind to see the famous Hercule Poirot, and has come up from the country to do so, nothing will deflect her. She will sit there in the hall till she gets her way. Show her in, George.’
This will contain spoilers.
Taken at the Flood had an interesting start to the story. We start the story in a gentlemen’s club in London during an air raid. What is interesting is that Christie starts off with a show blatant xenophobia by one of the club’s members who is deemed to be a bore, but also deemed to be a character of integrity (as shown later in the story).
From there on we get a story about dependencies in various forms. It was curious to watch Christie developing characters in this story, but I could not buy into the psychology of her characters: not that all of them would resign themselves to doom, not that none of them would question David Hunter constantly hanging around his sister. Was he there during her marriage, too? If the family was so closely dependent on Gordon Cloade, would they not have met his new wife or heard about her brother?
And what about the other members of the Cloade family, too? Could they really have been so inept and helpless? Could they really have been so ignorant of each others affairs and weaknesses?
I’m not sure the psychology really works in this book.
This is not helped by Poirot swanning around in the second half of the book and uttering nonsensical metaphors. I would expect this from Miss Marple, but not from Poirot. Come on!
Poirot is pretty annoying in this book whenever he appears. He is arrogant and a bit snobbish, and witholds information from the reader. I could have made peace with that, but then he turns into a complete idiot when he stands by to witness an attempted murder and does absolutely nothing to stop it. Well, not nothing. He politely coughs.
It’s like a bad comedy sketch.
What was most annoying, tho, was the ending: As I said, the story is based on a lot of dependencies, some between the characters. Some sweet, but some are really dark and abusive. To have to book end with one of the characters, who had hitherto been described as a confident, self-reliant young woman, a former wren, agree to marry a guy she tried to leave for most of the book and who had only a few pages before been trying to strangle her, just defies all reason, and to not comment on this being a bad idea just seems like carelessness on Christies’ part.
Oh, and the solution to the actual mystery is as equally far-fetched.
The only reason that redeemed the book somewhat is that I enjoyed one particular scene in all of this mess, and that was when Lionel confesses his financial ruin to his wife. That was a well written and touching moment:
She was looking at him with complete astonishment.
‘Really, Jeremy! What on earth do you think I married you for?’
He smiled slightly. ‘You have always been a most loyal and devoted wife, my dear. But I can hardly flatter myself that you would have accepted me in— er— different circumstances.’
She stared at him and suddenly burst out laughing. ‘You funny old stick! What a wonderful novelettish mind you must have behind that legal façade! Do you really think that I married you as the price of saving Father from the wolves— or the Stewards of the Jockey Club, et cetera?’