Agatha Christie Wiki
Advertisement

In the novel Murder in Mesopotamia, Father Lavigny (AKA Raoul Menier) is a French cleric, and a new member of the expedition team. He replaced Dr Byrd, who was unable to join the expedition that season, as he was ill. He is a specialist in epigraphy and old languages. He was part of the dig in Tell Yarimjah.

Father Lavigny is described as a "tall man with a great black beard and pince-nez". He has "shrewd observant eyes". He wears a monk's robe of a white woollen material.

Nurse Leatheran is a little afraid of Father Lavigny, because he is a monk and a foreigner, and has a deep bass voice. However, she finds that he is very kind.

Louise Leidner was of the opinion that Father Lavigny might have been a fine epigraphist, but was lazy, as he spent all his afternoons sleeping. Dr Leidner felt that he was slightly unorthodox, and that one or two of his translations had been surprising.

Nurse Leatheran later sees Father Lavigny talking to an Iraqi man, whom she recognises as the man she and Louise had seen trying to peer into a window of the expedition house. Father Lavigny explains that he was trying his Arabic on the man, to see if he could understand him better than the workmen at the dig. Father Lavigny describes this man as short and squarely built, with a noticeable squint and a fair complexion. This is very different from Nurse Leatheran's description of the man.

That night, Louise hears someone scratching on the wall in the antika room. When Dr Leidner investigates, he finds Father Lavigny there. Father Lavigny explains that he had heard a noise, had gotten up to investigate, and had fancied that he saw a light in the antika room. He had found no one in the room, and was checking to see that nothing had been taken when Dr Leidner arrived.

Father Lavigny later asks Nurse Leatheran about the time she and Louise had seen the man peering through the window. He says he will go around the outside of the house to the place where the man had been standing, to see if he dropped anything.

The next morning, Father Lavigny is not in the house, and his bed had not been slept in the night before.

Poirot later reveals that the man claiming to be Father Lavigny was actually Raoul Menier, one of the cleverest thieves known to the French police. He specialises in thefts from museums of "objets d'art". His accomplice is Ali Yusuf, who is the man Nurse Leatheran saw peering through the window. Menier came to the attention of the police when certain objects in the Louvre were found not to be genuine, and in every case a distinguished archaeologist not previously known by sight to the director had handled the objects.

Poirot explains that Menier had been in Tunis preparing the way for a theft from the Holy Fathers, when a telegram arrived from Dr Leidner asking Father Lavigny to join the expedition to replace Dr Byrd. The real Father Lavigny was in poor health, and had to refuse. However, Menier was able to intercept the telegram and substitute one of acceptance. He then impersonated Father Laviigny and joined the expedition.

Menier took wax impressions of artifacts in the antika room, and Ali Yusuf made clever duplicates. Menier then substituted the duplicates for the real artifacts, which is likely what he was doing on the night Louise heard noises in the antika room.

Portrayals[]

In the ITV 2001 TV adapatation of the novel, the part of Father Lavigny is played by Christopher Hunter. The portrayal is fairly faithful to the original, except that his real name Raoul Menier was never mentioned. Like in the original, he also made wax impressions. In fact Hastings and Poirot noticed deposits of wax on some of the artifacts in the antika (although the purpose of the wax was never explained and becomes only apparent if one had read the original book). Poirot's suspicions of the Father were aroused early, when he noticed that his unusual behaviour. Poirot had expected that the Father, with his erudite learning and knowledge would be the type who would enjoy conversing about his specialist subject. Poirot had looked forward to lively discussions with him. Yet he found that the Father hardly spoke. Richard Carey also commented rather sarcastically about the quality of his "translations". Poirot finally exposed him by sending telegrams to Carthage and learnt that the real Father Lavigny was still there. Like in the original, Lavigny escaped before he could be exposed.

Advertisement