From Book to Movie: Appointment With Death

Copy of Blackbird

It is the last day of The 1938 Club, hosted by Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and Stuck in a Book. So it’s time to write about Agatha Christie’s Appointment With Death. It is one of Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries, which on the whole I like a little less than the Miss Marple ones. But it had been a while since I had read any of Christie’s books, so I was ready for my next dose of her mysteries.

Appointment With Death takes place in the Middle East, of all places. The Boynton family with its sadistic mother, five cowed adult children, and the oldest son’s wife are on their way to Petra, Syria. Also traveling to Petra are two doctors, Dr. Gerard and Dr. Sarah King, two English ladies, Lady Westholme and Miss Pierce, and Mr. Jefferson Cope, who happens to be an acquaintance of the Boyntons. While at Petra, Mrs. Boynton meets her untimely, but not unwelcome, end, and Colonel Carbury turns to his guest Hercule Poirot to solve the case within the next 24 hours.

In my opinion, this is not one of Christie’s strongest mysteries. I didn’t care too much for any of the characters, and Poirot seemed particularly arrogant. However, the setup is quite clever, since every single person who traveled to Petra has a motive for the murder. And as usual, the solution was unexpected, although not entirely convincing.

Next I watched the 2010 movie, which is only loosely based on the book—something I was not aware of. In the movie, Mrs. Boynton has a husband, an archaeologist who is searching for John the Baptist’s head. In the book, Mrs. Boynton has a needle mark on her arm, an almost overlooked detail that leads one of the doctors to suspect foul play. In the movie, Mrs. Boynton gets stabbed to death, and her knife wounds could never be missed. Also, in the movie, she is not the only murder victim.

At first, the plot liberties taken in the movie were a bit confusing to me. I actually double-checked to make sure I had checked out the right movie. But once I adjusted my expectations, I did enjoy the movie. It was atmospheric, with nice nature shots and beautiful music. The film’s reason for why the Boyntons were traveling in the Middle East was more convincing than the book’s. The movie also wove a story around the title, Appointment With Death, that the book was missing: a man meets Death and is so scared that he rides across the desert to Damascus to escape. But at the end of the journey, there is Death waiting for him. When the man utters his surprise, Death explains that he was surprised as well when he met the man for the very first time, since their appointment had always been in Damascus. I love the irony in this story. In fact, I almost like it better than either the book’s or the movie’s stories.

In short, if you are looking for some light entertainment, pick up either book or movie. But don’t expect more than that.





  1. I guess I remember Death on the Nile and the movie like in 1978, but I don’t recall this Agatha Christie. Did you see that movie? It had a pretty loaded cast as I recall. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again

  2. I haven’t read this one, as I prefer Miss Marple too and the Tuppence and Tommy books. But I agree, the movie sounds entertaining. It’s so great that there’s been renewed interest in Agatha Christie books lately.

  3. I rather liked this one as a book, though I agree it’s not one of the absolute best. I remember getting very tired of Ginny, but on the other hand I felt Mrs Boynton was one of Christie’s greatest monsters. I’m not sure if I’ve seen the Suchet version – must look out for it.

    • I found Poirot just a little too arrogant in this one, but I suppose he’s allowed to be a bit condescending, after all the murders he’s solved. And maybe I would have liked the movie a little better if I hadn’t watched it just hours after finishing the book. It figures that I pick the one movie in the series that deviates the most from its source, at least according to online reviews.

  4. I’m pretty sure I read this (along several other Agatha Christie’s novels) when I was a teenager, but I’m struggling to remember much about it now! Maybe I’ll watch the film for a refresher.

    It’s been to fun to see all the 1938 Club reviews flying about over the past week – I’m glad you were able to join in too. 🙂

    • I read all the Miss Marple mysteries as teenager, and some Hercule Poirot ones. It was the first time I watched one of the newer movie versions, and unfortunately, it didn’t quite work for me. I am a purist when it comes to making movies based on books. That’s probably why I don’t watch that many movies. 🙂 And yes, I’ve definitely enjoyed all the 1938 reviews. I’m already looking forward to the next selection!

  5. I’m thinking I might like to watch the movie rather than read the book for this one. I didn’t realize they made this in 2010, but then again, I’m not very ‘with it’ when it comes to the movies (even though I love them).
    I love the idea for the 1938 (and 1924) Club. Maybe I’ll try to join in next time! It amazes me how many great books there have been for each one.

    • I’m not “with it” either when it comes to movies, especially since I tend to like the older ones better than new releases. But I’m hoping to explore the movie section of the library a little more in the coming months. And yes, it was fun to see all the interesting books that were published in 1938.

  6. Thanks for joining in with the 1938 Club! Much as I love the David Suchet Poirots, they *did* take liberties with the plots quite a lot!

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