Book Review: Lord Edgeware Dies A.K.A Thirteen at Dinner by Agatha Christie (1933)

Lord Edgeware Dies was originally published in the United Kingdom in 1933 by Collins Crime Club. It was later published in the United States as Thirteen at Dinner.


Lord Edgware Dies is a murder mystery novel by Agatha Christie, first published in 1933. The story follows the investigation into the murder of Lord Edgware, who dies from an overdose of Veronal mere hours after his wife, Jane Wilkinson, is heard discussing how she would kill him

The novel begins with famous detective Hercule Poirot being approached by actress Jane Wilkinson, also known as Lady Edgware. She seeks his help in obtaining a divorce from her husband, Lord Edgware, who is unwilling to grant her one. Poirot agrees to help her and arranges a meeting with Lord Edgware to convince him to give the divorce.

Soon after their meeting, Lord Edgware is found murdered in his study. All evidence points to Lady Edgware, as she had threatened to kill him if he did not grant her a divorce. However, Lord Edgeware did grant Jane Wilkinson a divorce before his death. He sent her a letter giving her a request, but Jane Wilkinson claims she never received the letter. Captain Hastings believes this letter from Lord Edgeware puts Jane Wilkinson in the clear, but Poirot is not so sure of her innocence.

Poirot then solves the mystery, interviewing the suspects and piecing together the evidence. His investigation centers around Jane Wilkinson’s former lover, Bryan Martin, who describes Jane Wilkinson as a person who uses everyone to her own ends and is completely amoral. Poirot suspects that Jane Wilkinson used him to provide an airtight alibi which angers him greatly.

When he finds out that when famed American impersonator, Carlotta Adams was hired by an unknown person to impersonate Jane Wilkinson, he begins to piece together a clever and deadly charade.

Without giving away too much, Lord Edgware Dies is a classic Christie howdunit, full of twists and turns, red herrings, and misdirections, all leading up to a satisfying conclusion.

Book Review

One of the major themes of Lord Edgeware Dies is the morality of divorce. Set in 1930’s England, divorce was especially difficult to obtain for women who had to released from their marriages by their husbands- which was often difficult, dangerous, and led to abuse.

Another important aspect is that the divorce could only be granted on a few grounds- adultery, abandonment, and other socially abhorrent behaviors. A divorce was incredibly damaging to the social mobility of women in England at this time, which means it was almost always the last option for women during the period Christie was writing. Lady Edgeware’s lengths to obtain her divorce are extreme, but sadly not unheard of during this time.

Christie, having been divorced only five years previously, obvious writes with experience and some compassion for Lady Edgeware, however, I think her true feelings lay with the taciturn judgement of Hercule Poirot, that divorce is only for the very few, in the worst circumstances. The discussions and attitudes about divorce in Lord Edgeware Dies are somewhat foreign to many readers, but are sadly still held in many insular communities in America. I am curious to hear how my British readers feel about how lady Edgeware’s predicament has aged?

Another interesting theme in the book is how malleable one’s morals are in the face of great trials. Hercule Poirot and Lord Edgeware are resolute in their feelings that justice weighs more heavily than mercy, and Lady Edgeware is unconcerned with morality. She leaves lovers, family members, and fans whenever they lose usefulness. She is shrewd and can use her considerable charm to get people in a weaker social position to bend her will. Lady Edgeware- while not explicitly stated as a sociopath- sure has a lot of characteristics of one.

Lady Edgeware’s motivations and machinations stand out in an otherwise standard-fare mystery. Hercule Poirot detects Captain Hastings is besotted with a woman who will never in a million years fall for him; a young girl is maligned. All things are window dressing to the larger-than-life Lady Edgeware, which I think the reader is supposed to be fascinated and revolted by, especially since it is heavily implied that she will marry and divorce again with impunity.

Lady Edgeware’s amorality- shocking at the time- is dulled by current social morays, and while her character is entertaining, the rest of the book is just serviceable. Not my favorite Christie, but also not bad; I’m just not sure the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. The howdunit aspect was a fun twist on Christie’s usual fare, but it wasn’t as clever as other howdunits in the genre. I liked Lord Edgeware Dies; I just didn’t love it. I do recommend it as a fun, entertaining read that is a little dated by modern standards.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

You can get a copy of Lord Edgeware Dies from Amazon here.


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