Published in 1959, Cat Among the Pigeons is described as one of Agatha Christie’s most memorable novels. The story begins in Ramat amidst a political revolution, where Jennifer Sutcliffe’s uncle, Bob Rawlinson, is entrusted with precious jewels. Yet he soon meets his death and no one is the wiser about what has become of the jewels. Months later, his niece among with many other students, return for the summer term at the prestigious girls’ school, Meadowbank. However, it soon becomes apparent there is a killer in their midst with the murder of two of the mistresses. The mysteries of the murders and the jewels are entwined and Christie’s Hercule Poirot steps in to solve them. Cat Among the Pigeons is a perfect example of Christie's use of features of British Mystery School writing and the responder is able to see clearly why she is so often called the ‘Queen of Crime’. These features include the placement of clues and puzzles throughout the novel, red herrings, the close circle of suspects, the style of murder, a leading sleuth or detective, and finally the denouement.
One of the main features of this sub-genre of crime fiction is the opportunity for the responder to solve the mystery as the text progresses. The responder has access to the clues placed throughout the novel and this intellectually engages them as they pay close attention to unfolding of the plot. Consequently as the novel goes on, the responder has an increased desire to unravel the mystery. In Cat Among the Pigeons, Christie subtly includes many clues for the responder, to the point where they have more knowledge than many of the characters. For example, the novel begins in Ramat and the responder learns Bob Rawlinson not only is entrusted with the Prince’s precious jewels but that he also visits his sister and niece’s empty hotel room for some considerable amount of time. The novel then focuses on Meadowbank college as the young girls, including Bob Rawlinson’s niece, return for the summer term. When the first murder is committed, the astute responder would connect the two events and soon realise that the revolution in Ramat has some connection to Meadowbank, otherwise Christie would not have given such information about the goings – on in Ramat. The inspector says during his investigation of Mrs. Springer’s murder, “Unless there’s something going on here that we don’t’ know anything about….”
This shows an example of where, potentially, the responder has more knowledge and insight into the motive for the murder than those investigating.
Another clue that Christie places in this text is the consistent reference to Jennifer’s tennis racquet, where it is eventually discovered that the jewels are hidden. One of the first references is when Jennifer complains that her racquet seems “unbalanced”. She says, “I simply cannot play with the beastly thing. It’s no good.” She then swaps racquets with her friend, Julia Upjohn.
The second reference to the tennis racquets comes...