mesopotamia“In the hall of the Tigris Palace Hotel in Baghdad a hospital nurse was finishing a letter.”

Books are, of course, an escape – a whole new world you can carry in your bag. While mostly I like to read books when appropriate in the calendar (horrors around Hallowe’en, for example), sometimes I have to take full advantage of the ability to travel anywhere via fiction. As such, I ditched the relentless rain and storms battering Britain currently and jetted off to Iraq in Christie’s Murder In Mesopotamia.

Christie was married to respected archaeologist Max Mallowan and she followed him to many of his digs (they met on one, in fact) and she developed a keen interest in the subject. Because of this, they make a number of appearances in her books, this being one that centres wholly around a dig site.

The narrator is Amy Leatheran, a nurse who has been called out to a dig site in Tell Yarimjah to look after the dig leader’s wife, ‘Lovely Louise’ Leidner. She has been suffering from nerves and hallucinations. Perhaps it’s the heat, or perhaps it’s the letters she’s been getting from her deceased husband threatening her with death because of her second marriage. There is a distinct tension around everyone at camp – beautifully described with the phrase “they all passed the butter to each other too politely” – and it all reaches a head when Louise is found dead in her room. But no one could have got in without being seen, so how did it happen? Poirot is on the way, but will he be able to solve the mystery?

I wasn’t so immediately captivated by this one as I am by others. Nurse Leatheran is a marvellous invention, a strong, capable woman who understands what needs to be done and proves herself as an assistant to Poirot in the absence of Hastings or another of his regular companions. However, as pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place, I began to really enjoy it. It’s a great read and the setting of an archaeological dig site makes for an unusual and fascinating place. There are many tools for murder around and Christie is on great form here.

A fine example of the murder mystery genre.