Detective Hercule Poirot and Captain Arthur Hastings are holidaying when they meet a young girl, who casually mentions that she has escaped certain death at least thrice. Poirot suspects that somebody is out to get her, and his suspicions prove true. He finds many characters that are shady and may have some reason to kill the girl. Despite Poirot's best efforts, a murder does occur, but not of the intended victim. When the motive itself is unclear, why did the murder take place?
Poirot is staying at the Majestic Hotel at Cornish resort of St Loo. They meet the young Magdala 'Nick' Buckley, who lives in End House, a slightly ramshackle house on a point in the bay. A conversation with her makes Poirot believe that someone is out to kill her. This is confirmed when Poirot finds a bullet that Nick had thought to be a wasp shooting past her head. Poirot explains his concern to Nick, who does not believe him until the bullet is revealed to be from Nick’s gun, which has gone missing. Poirot suspects someone in Nick's inner circle and starts shortlisting various suspects.
Nick’s nearest living relative is a lawyer cousin, Charles Vyse, who arranged the re-mortgaging on End House for her to supply desperately needed funds. Her housekeeper is named Ellen, and the lodge near End House is being leased by Mr. and Mrs. Croft, an Australian couple. Then there is George Challenger, who has soft spot for Nick. Nick’s two closest friends are Freddie Rice, an abused wife, and Jim Lazarus, an art dealer in love with Freddie. It is revealed that Nick was to undergo an appendix surgery six months before, upon which the Crofts suggested her to make a will.
Poirot doesn't understand why somebody would want Nick dead: Charles would inherit the End House and Freddie would get rest of the estate, nothing of which was worth killing for. Poirot advises Nick to call some relative to stay with her for few weeks. Nick decides to call her distant cousin Maggie. Nick decides to host a little party the day Maggie arrives. Everyone except George comes to the party. Meanwhile, a renowned pilot named Michael Seton has gone missing, which sparks a debate amongst rest of the people about his fate. Here, Nick receives a call while rest of the people are enjoying the party.
Later, Maggie is found dead, wearing Nick's shawl. Nick and Maggie had gone to freshen up, after which Maggie took Nick's shawl. George, who has finally arrived at End House, is relieved to see Nick alive. Realizing that Maggie was killed by mistake under his own nose, Poirot becomes furious and launches an investigation. He finds that Ellen was working instead of enjoying the festivities, but she claims she knows nothing. However, Ellen tells him that there is a secret compartment somewhere in the house. Nick denies knowing anything about the compartment.
To protect Nick, Poirot tells everybody that she is being sent to a hospital as she has taken the events very badly. He tells everybody to leave her alone and asks her to not to eat anything that comes from unknown place. Next day, Poirot learns through the newspapers that Michael Seton is dead and correctly deduces that Nick got the information through the call. Nick confesses to Poirot that she and Michael had secretly married. Since Michael was a sole inheritor of a vast wealth, it now becomes clear that all his wealth will go to Nick.
Poirot suspects Freddie of trying to kill Nick to usurp the money. On other hand, he also thinks that Charles may have tried to kill her, not knowing anything about the will or its contents. Additionally, Poirot is wary of the Crofts. He tells Inspector Japp to learn about the Crofts. Meanwhile, Poirot and Hastings find the love letters written by Michael, but Nick's original will is not found. Nick remembers that she had already sent it to Charles. Poirot questions Charles, who denies getting any will. On the other hand, Mr. Croft tells Poirot that he sent the will to Charles, leading Poirot to believe that either of the men is lying.
Later, after meeting Michael's attorney, Poirot confirms that Nick was indeed going to receive the money. Here, another attempt on Nick's life takes place when she eats a chocolate from a box, allegedly sent by Poirot himself. The chocolates are found to be laced with cocaine, but Nick is safe as she ate only one. The chocolates were actually supplied by Freddie, who claims that Nick phoned her to bring the chocolates. Freddie notes that she found Nick's voice a bit different. Poirot suspects Freddie, as he realizes that she is a cocaine addict and hence has an access to its supply. Later, a note demanding money is found, but neither the recipient nor the senders identity is known. Now, Poirot finds some love letters written to Michael. He lies to everybody that Nick is dead, convincing her to play dead.
Some days later, Charles tells Poirot that he has received Nick's will. The will is read in End House, according to which all her money goes to the Crofts, who she claims to have helped her father in Australia. Everybody is in disbelief, except the Crofts themselves, but Nick's "ghost" appears and it is revealed that the Crofts forged the will and sent it to Charles. Inspector Japp reveals that the Crofts are forgerers. When they learnt that Nick was dead, they sent a fraudulent will to Charles. He arrests the duo, but Poirot claims that they have no hand in the murder. Just then, somebody shoots Freddie and misses. Poirot captures the man, who is revealed to be Freddie's sick and dying husband.
Now, Poirot gives the denouement saying that there is indeed a secret panel in the mansion. He reveals that the real murderer is Nick herself and that Michael was actually married to Maggie, not Nick. Both had the same name, Magdala, but the correspondence had taken place between Michael and "Maggie". After learning of Michael's wealth and disappearance, Nick plotted to present herself as Michael's love interest to usurp his wealth. The whole setup was her own work, to get a cause to bring Maggie there and kill her, preventing anybody from knowing the truth.
Next, it is revealed that George was the one who used to supply cocaine to both Freddie and Nick. Nick used her supply to poison the chocolates. The note about money was from Freddie's husband, who was constantly asking her money. Nick is arrested, upon which she takes Freddie's cocaine box as a souvenir. Poirot tells George that he should either surrender himself or go away, leaving Freddie (who had stopped taking the drugs) alone. He also notes that the box taken by Nick contains a lethal dose of cocaine, which she will use to escape gallows. In the end, Jim and Freddie decide to get married.
Literary significance and receptionEdit
The Times Literary Supplement on April 14, 1932, stated that the "actual solution is quite unusually ingenious, and well up to the standard of Mrs. Christie's best stories. Everything is perfectly fair, and it is possible to guess the solution of the puzzle fairly early in the book, though it is certainly not easy." The review further opined that, "This is certainly one of those detective stories which is pure puzzle, without any ornament or irrelevant interest in character. Poirot and his faithful Captain Hastings are characters whom one is glad to meet again, and they are the most lively in the book, but even they are little more than pawns in this problem. But the plot is arranged with almost mathematical neatness, and that is all that one wants."
Isaac Anderson began his review in The New York Times Book Review on March 6, 1932, by saying, "With Agatha Christie as the author and Hercule Poirot as the central figure, one is always assured of an entertaining story with a real mystery to it." He concluded, "The person who is responsible for the dirty work at End House is diabolically clever, but not quite clever enough to fool the little Belgian detective all the time. A good story with a most surprising finish."
Robert Barnard: "A cunning use of simple tricks used over and over in Christie's career (be careful, for example, about names – diminutives and ambiguous male-female Christian names are always possibilities as reader deceivers). Some creaking in the machinery, and rather a lot of melodrama and improbabilities, prevent this from being one of the very best of the classic specimens."
References or allusionsEdit
References to other worksEdit
- Two references (in chapters 1 and 5) are made to the events told in The Mystery of the Blue Train and it is clearly stated in chapter 1 that Peril at End House takes place the August following Poirot's trip to the French Riviera described in that book.
- At the beginning of chapter 14, Hastings describes how Poirot's obsession for tidiness helped him solve a case when he straightened ornaments on a mantelpiece. This is an indirect reference to The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
- In chapter 15, Poirot mentions the case The Chocolate Box included in the book Poirot's Early Cases, when he tells Commander Challenger that he indeed had failures in the past.
- In chapter 16, Inspector Japp asks Poirot if he had not retired to grow marrows. This is an indirect reference to the failed attempt of retirement depicted in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, when Poirot settled in the small village of King's Abbot, only to be prompted to investigate a murder in the village.
References to actual history, geography and current scienceEdit
- Transposed from Devon to Cornwall, the Majestic Hotel of the book is based on the Imperial Hotel in Torquay.
- In chapter seven, reference is made by the characters to a female aviator who went to Australia. This is an allusion to Amy Johnson who made the first solo flight from England to Australia by a woman from May 5 to 24, 1930.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptationsEdit
1940 stage playEdit
The story was adapted into a play by Arnold Ridley in 1940 and opened in the West End of London at the Vaudeville Theatre on May 1. Poirot was played by Francis L. Sullivan.
- Main article: Peril at End House (play)
Agatha Christie's PoirotEdit
An obscure Russian film version, entitled Zagadka Endkhauza, was made in 1989. The novel was also adapted for the small screen and made into a TV drama in 1990, as part of the Agatha Christie's Poirot second series. Poirot was portrayed by David Suchet and Nick Buckley by Polly Walker. The film was overall quite faithful to the novel; however, Freddie's husband does not appear in the film, no shot is fired during the final meeting in which Poirot reveals all, Challenger is arrested rather than being allowed to flee, and it is never implied that Nick has already taken the fatal dose of cocaine, but that she eventually will.
On November 22, 2007, Peril at End House, like Death on the Nile, was adapted into a PC game by Flood Light Games, and published as a joint venture between Oberon Games and Big Fish Games, with the player once again taking the role of Poirot as he searches End House and other areas in Cornwall Coast for clues and questions suspects based on information he finds, this time through the clue cards he gains on the way.
Graphic novel adaptationEdit
- 1932, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), February 1932, Hardcover, 270 pp
- 1932, Collins Crime Club (London), March 1932, Hardcover, 256 pp
- 1938, Modern Age Books (New York), Hardcover, 177 pp
- 1942, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback, (Pocket number 167), 240 pp
- 1948, Penguin Books, Paperback, (Penguin number 688), 204 pp
- 1961, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 191 pp
- 1978, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 327 pp, ISBN 0-7089-0153-0
- 2007, Facsimile edition (Facsimile of 1932 UK first edition), April 2, 2007, Hardcover, 256 pp ISBN 0-00-723439-2
The first true publication of the book was the US serialisation in the weekly Liberty magazine in eleven instalments from June 13 (Volume 8, Number 24) to August 22, 1931, (Volume 8, Number 34). There were slight abridgements to the text, no chapter divisions and the reference in Chapter III to the character of Jim Lazarus as, "a Jew, of course, but a frightfully decent one" was deleted. The serialisation carried illustrations by W.D. Stevens.
In the UK, the novel was serialised in the weekly Women's Pictorial magazine in eleven instalments from October 10 (Volume 22, Number 561) to December 19, 1931, (Volume 22, Number 571) under the slightly different title of The Peril at End House. There were no chapter divisions and slight abridgements. All of the instalments carried illustrations by Fred W. Purvis.
The dedication of the book reads:
"To Eden Phillpotts. To whom I shall always be grateful for his friendship and the encouragement he gave me many years ago".
In 1908, Christie was recovering from influenza and bored and she started to write a story at the suggestion of her mother, Clara Miller (see the dedication to The Mysterious Affair at Styles). This suggestion sparked Christie's interest in writing and several pieces were composed, some of which are now lost or remain unpublished (one exception to this is The Call of Wings which later appeared in The Hound of Death and Other Stories in 1933). These early efforts were mostly short stories but at some point late in the year Christie attempted her first novel, Snow Upon the Desert. She sent it to several publishers but they all rejected the work. At Clara's suggestion she then asked Phillpotts to read and critique both the book and other examples of her writing for her. He was a neighbour and friend of the Miller family in Torquay. He sent an undated reply back which included the praise that, "some of your work is capital. You have a great feeling for dialogue". In view of her later success in allowing readers to judge characters' feelings and motivations for themselves (and in doing so, thereby deceiving themselves as to the identity of the culprits), Phillpotts offered valuable suggestions to, "leave your characters alone, so that they can speak for themselves, instead of always rushing in to tell them what they ought to say, or to explain to the reader what they mean by what they are saying". He gave her further advice in the letter regarding a number of suggestions for further reading to help further improve her work.
Phillpotts gave Christie an introduction to his own literary agents, Hughies Massie, who rejected her work (although in the early 1920s, they did start to represent her). Undaunted, Christie attempted another story, now lost, called Being So Very Wilful and again asked Phillpotts for his views. He replied on February 9, 1909 with a great deal more advice and tips for reading. In her 1977 Autobiography, Christie said, "I can hardly express the gratitude I feel to him. He could so easily have uttered a few careless words of well-justified criticism and possibly discouraged me for life. As it was, he set out to help".
The blurb on the inside flap of the dustjacket of the UK first edition (which is also repeated opposite the title page) reads:
Three near escapes from death in three days! Is it accident or design? And then a fourth mysterious incident happens, leaving no doubt that some sinister hand is striking at Miss Buckley, the charming young owner of the mysterious End House. The fourth attempt, unfortunately for the would-be murderer, is made in the garden of a Cornish Riviera hotel where Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective, is staying. Poirot immediately investigates the case and relentlessly unravels a murder mystery that must rank as one of the most brilliant that Agatha Christie has yet written.
- Czech: Dům na úskalí (House of the pitfalls)
- Dutch: Moord onder vuurwerk (Murder under Fireworks)
- Finnish: Vaarallinen talo (The dangerous house)
- French: La Maison du péril (The house of peril)
- German: Das Haus an der Düne (The House at the Dune)
- Hungarian: A vörös sál (The Red Shawl), Ház a világ végén (House at the End of the World), Ház a sziklán (House on the Rock)
- Italian: Il pericolo senza nome (The Unnamed Danger)
- Japanese: 邪悪の家 (The House of Evil)
- Russian: Загадка Эндхауза (=Zagadka Endkhauza, The Mystery of End House)
- Spanish: Peligro Inminente (Impending Danger)
- Swedish: Badortsmysteriet (The Resort Mystery)
- Indonesian: Hotel Majestic (Majestic Hotel)