Death on the Nile

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Book Review

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Plot Summary

Linnet Ridgeway is a wealthy British heiress fixing up a newly acquired property. Linnet’s friend Jacqueline (Jackie) de Bellefort visits and gushes about her new love, Simon Doyle. Jackie and Simon want to marry, but Simon is desperate for employment. Jackie begs Linnet to hire him. Linnet meets Simon, finds him charming and offers him a job.

Some months have passed when detective Hercule Poirot takes a holiday to Egypt. He learns two of his companions on the Nile cruise will be newlyweds Linnet and Simon Doyle. Linnet’s maid, Louise Bourget, travels with them. Linnet is frustrated because the spurned Jackie has followed them all the way to Egypt and is spitefully trying to ruin their honeymoon. When she learns Poirot is a detective, Linnet begs him to talk to Jackie and make her leave them alone. Poirot attempts to convince Jackie to get on with her life, but the bitter woman will not be dissuaded from stalking the couple.

Other travelers become acquainted as they cruise the Nile and stop for excursions. American socialite Mrs. Allerton travels with her devoted son, Tim. She dislikes Tim’s friendship with a woman named Joanna Southwood, whom she fears he will marry. Joanna, who is not on the trip, is also an old friend of Linnet’s.

Mrs. Otterbourne, who fancies herself a well-known romance writer, travels with her daughter, Rosalie. The sullen Rosalie often watches Linnet and notes how unfair it seems that people like her have such wonderful lives. Ms. Van Schuyler, a wealthy and bad-tempered senior, travels with a nurse and her socially awkward niece, Cornelia. Passengers Mr. Ferguson and Australian Dr. Bessner vie for Cornelia’s attention.

Linnet is surprised to run into her long-time lawyer and trustee, Andrew Pennington, on the cruise. Readers know Pennington has planned this “coincidental” meeting so he can get Linnet to sign papers that will benefit him financially. He’s disappointed when she reads each piece of paperwork carefully before signing, and he quickly takes the papers back. Simon notes he never reads anything but simply signs where he’s asked to sign. An Englishman named Jim Fanthorp later reveals he was sent on the cruise to spy on Pennington and ensure Linnet wasn’t cheated.

On an excursion, Linnet is nearly crushed by a runaway boulder. She and Simon are quick to accuse Jackie of trying to cause harm. When everyone sees Jackie leaving the ship, it becomes clear she was nowhere near the accident scene. Soon afterward, Linnet has a run-in with an Italian passenger named Signor Richetti. She accidentally opens his mail and is unable to decipher the strange message. Richetti rips it away from her and scorns her apologies.

Poirot’s old acquaintance Colonel Race shows up on the ship. The two men met at a dinner party a year earlier where the host ended up dead. Race reveals he’s tracking a killer on the ship. He knows this person is a passenger, but he doesn’t know the identity or even the gender. Poirot tells Race of his concerns about the feud between the Doyles and Jackie.

The following evening, some of the passengers gather in the observation saloon. Many leave as the hour grows late, but Jackie drinks heavily and engages Cornelia in conversation. Simon and Fanthorp remain as well, until Simon starts urging Jackie to stop drinking and go to sleep.

Fanthorp has moved to the deck when Jackie pulls out a pistol and accidentally shoots Simon in the leg. Cornelia and Fanthorp roust Dr. Bessner. He comes to Simon’s aid, gives him morphine and leaves Ms. Van Schuyler’s nurse to watch Simon through the night. Fanthorp returns to the saloon but can’t find the pistol he saw Jackie drop and kick under a chair.

The next morning, Race announces to Poirot that someone shot Linnet in the head during the night. The heiress is dead. Race and Poirot interrogate the passengers to find out what each heard and saw the night before.

What they learn clears Jackie of suspicion. But the men soon discover Linnet’s valuable pearls are missing. Then her maid is found dead. Ms. Van Schuyler’s nurse returns the pearls, revealing that the old lady is a kleptomaniac. Poirot discovers the pearls aren’t real.

Mrs. Otterborne tells Race and Poirot she knows who killed Linnet’s maid. Before she can give a name, someone shoots her. The murder weapon in this third killing is Pennington’s revolver. Pennington denies shooting anyone. He does admit he tried to kill Linnet with the boulder so her clueless husband would sign the paperwork.

Tim Allerton confesses he creates replicas of the valuable pieces. Joanna Southwood was not his lover but someone who used his pieces as decoys so she could steal jewels. Dr. Besser asks Cornelia to marry him, and Tim and Rosalie also plan to wed. Race discovers Signor Richetti is the criminal he came aboard to find.

Amid these many revelations, Poirot discerns Jackie and Simon have been working together from the start. They are still a couple, and they were after Linnet’s fortune. Jackie didn’t really shoot Simon. His “injury” caused a distraction that allowed him to sneak away and kill Linnet. Afterward he shot himself so he would be under medical supervision all night and not be a suspect. When Linnet’s maid discovered the plot, Jackie killed her. And when Mrs. Otterborne saw Jackie leaving the maid’s room, Jackie had to kill her as well.

At the end of the cruise, Jackie and Simon are delivered to the police. Jackie uses a gun to kill Simon and herself so they won’t have to face time in prison. Poirot allowed her to keep the gun so she could end their lives.

Christian Beliefs

Poirot tells Linnet that by stealing Simon from her friend, she is like the rich man who took a poor man’s only lamb in the Bible story involving King David.

Other Belief Systems

None

Authority Roles

Poirot kindly encourages people like Linnet and Jackie to make wise choices and not be driven by anger. He allows Jackie to commit murder/suicide so she and Simon won’t go to jail. Ms. Van Shuyler is a cranky and pompous senior citizen who talks down to her nurse and Cornelia.

Mrs. Allerton adores her son and wants the best for him. She worries he is having a romantic relationship with Joanna Southwood, whom she dislikes and distrusts. Mrs. Otterbourne drinks heavily and causes grief for her concerned daughter, Rosalie.

Profanity & Violence

The Lord’s name is often used in vain, as are words including d–n, h— and a–.

On an excursion, Linnet is nearly crushed by a runaway boulder. Jackie pulls out a pistol and accidentally shoots Simon in the leg. Someone shoots Linnet in the head. Then her maid is found dead.

Mrs. Otterborne tells Race and Poirot she knows who killed Linnet’s maid. Before she can give a name, someone shoots her. The murder weapon in this third killing is Pennington’s revolver. At the end of the cruise, Jackie uses a gun to kill Simon and herself so they won’t have to face time in prison.

Sexual Content

Mrs. Otterborne considers herself a famous romance writer and mentions sex in conversation whenever she can.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments

Movie – A theatrical version of Death on the Nile is set to release in 2019.

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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