As the title suggests, Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie, is a murder mystery occurring in Mesopotamia with Christie’s premier detective, Hercule Poirot at the helm. It is set during an archeological dig in Iraq, modern day Mesopotamia. Incidentally, the Royal Cemetery at Ur in Mesopotamia was where the author met her husband, Sir Max Mallowan. It was this real life adventure that Christie drew the details of her book from. This included the character of Louise Leidner, who she based on the wife of archeologist Sir Leonard Woolley.
I wanted to review Murder in Mesopotamia as a potential book to go along with my Ancient Mesopotamia Unit Study. I think it is Christie’s very real link to past archeological digs that makes this a fun book for a homeschool mum or older homeschool student to read. As an aside, it was adapted for TV in 2002 and would make a great family night/end of unit celebrations if you and your children enjoy murder mysteries. We have done that before and we had such a lovely family night watching a Christmas Poirot with a hot chocolate bar, duvets and twinkly lights! Murder in Mesopotamia drama is PG rating. It perhaps would not make pleasant watching for sensitive children, but I don’t have any of those! My guys loved it!
Plot Summary of Murder in Mesopotamia
Nurse Amy Leatheran, narrator of the story, was in Iraq to look after Dr Eric Leidner’s wife, Louise. Leidner, the archeologist who heads up the dig at Tell Yarimjah near Hassanieh, has been married to Louise for two years. Amy learns quickly that Louise had been married before to German, Frederick Bosner. Bosner is thought to have died in a train crash 15 years ago.
Amy reveals to the reader that since Bosner’s death, Louise has received death threats from her dead husband, written seemingly in her own hand. These would arrive any time she got close to marrying another man, although they stopped when Leidner became her husband. After another letter arrived at the dig threatening her life, Louise is indeed found dead in her bedroom at the dig site. She died having been struck by a large heavy blunt object.
Poirot, a world famous Belgium detective, is travelling by chance in Iraq and is asked to help solve the murder. He assesses the situation and reveals what he knows. Meanwhile, Anne Johnson, a long term colleague of Dr Leidner, shares with Nurse Amy her belief regarding how Louise could have been killed. She does not share all her knowledge and is killed that night.
Shortly after, Poirot brings everyone together to reveal who the murderer is and how he reached that conclusion.
I like Agatha Christie as a writer. And I particularly like Hercule Poirot as a character. So I was surprised by how long it took me to get into this book. I’ve pondered the reasons why and I think it is because I disliked most of the characters. Also, the murder committed seemed mostly improbable to me. This is rare for Agatha Christie, whose skill lies in the ordinary rather than the extraordinary. Leidner, in particular, was hugely unlikeable and untrustworthy. Nurse Amy lacked the personality to carry the story as narrator. She was also a poor substitute for Hastings, who brings a certain level of dim humour to the proceedings!
Would I recommend this book? I find I can’t not recommend it, because it is, after all, an Agatha Christie. However, it is probably one of my least favourites. That said, it was still an enjoyable read, made better by the real-life references to the archeological dig Christie had herself attended.
I do think it would make a good read-along for a unit study on Ancient Mesopotamia. Fiction books are hard to come by about this region and period of history and this is probably one of the better ones. It could be used as a read aloud or read alone for older children. In fact, it comes as an Audible book perfect for mum to take a break and listen to it with her children! I would use it to bulk out a study rather than as a main text to learn from. Murder in Mesopotamia would make a fun addition and, in this case, I find myself recommending it after all!