Mrs McGinty's Dead
First published in 1952 this novel is very much of its time set as it is in the aftermath of World War 2. Although the war changed many things provincial England still clung on to many of its pre war features.
The novel focuses on the murder of char woman Mrs McGinty. Her lodger has been convicted of the murder and the evidence appears conclusive and he himself seems to be completely indifferent to the execution awaiting him. The policeman responsible for securing the conviction - Superintendent Spence - has a nagging doubt that there might be something wrong. The lodger was not like other murderers; he wasn't cocky. So, Spence enlists the support of Poirot and so begins a seemingly hopeless task of finding anything that might indicate the innocence of the lodger who is a far from sympathetic character..
The novel contains a whole trawler full of red herrings and the eventual conclusion neatly ties us loose ends.
The post war setting is very evident; there are colonials returning to Britain presumably as the "winds of change" blew through the empire and colonies embarked upon their independence. Britain was also still recovering from the war and there was a great deal of dislocation as a result of bombing that destroyed many records. This meant that there was a great opportunity for people to switch identities and steal those of people who may have died in the war.
Niceness once again returns as a theme in the book and possibly reflects how people wanted to be perceived at the time. Then, it was essential to be seen to be decent and respectable in provincial England and defence of this respectability was motive enough for murder.
Ariadne Oliver pops up in the book and this seems more than a little contrived as there is no real satisfactory explanation for her to be in the village of the murder. However, she usefully pushes along the plot and allows Agatha to possibly vent some of her frustrations as a writer. In one conversation Ariadne talks about how people fall on minor errors in her books and take great delight in highlighting inaccuracies; she complains that some people only seem to read them to expose the errors.
She also reveals the agonies of having her work adapted for the stage. Agatha faced the same issues and also had to cope with film adaptations too which departed quite some way from her books. Ariadne also revealed her frustrations with being so closely tied to her detective creation and that she sometimes actively loathes him. Agatha Christie sometimes revealed her difficulties with such a long association with Poirot. This might explain why she made him stay in one of the worst boarding houses imaginable with a seemingly never ending stream of things to torture Poirot.