7.2/101 Votes Alchetron
Cover artist Kenneth Farnhill
Originally published November 1966
Genre Crime Fiction
Country United Kingdom
Publication date November 1966
Publisher Collins Crime Club
|Media type Print (hardback & paperback)|
Pages 256 pp (first edition, hardcover)
Preceded by Cat Among the Pigeons, Elephants Can Remember, The Clocks
Followed by Hallowe'en Party, Double Sin and Other Stories, The Monogram Murders
Similar Agatha Christie books, Hercule Poirot Mysteries books, Hercules books
Third Girl is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in November 1966 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company the following year. The UK edition retailed at eighteen shillings (18/-) and the US edition at $4.50.
- Plot summary
- Major themes
- Literary significance and reception
- Publication history
- Magazine publication
- International titles
It features her Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and the recurring character Ariadne Oliver. The novel is notable for being the first in many years in which Poirot is present from beginning to end. It is uncommon in that the investigation includes discovering the first crime, which happens comparatively late in the novel.
Norma Restarick seeks help from Poirot, believing she may have committed murder. When she sees him in person, she flees, saying he is too old. He pursues the case finding that Ariadne Oliver sent Norma to him. He believes there is a murder that prompted Norma’s fears. Poirot and Mrs. Oliver gather information, visiting her parents’ home and her apartment building. Norma does not return home after a weekend visit to her father and stepmother. Mrs. Oliver finds her in a café by chance with her boyfriend David. Poirot meets Norma at the café, where she mentions the death again. After describing the odd times where she cannot recall what has happened she leaves in fear again. Mrs Oliver trails David, ending up in the hospital after being coshed on the head upon leaving his art studio. Poirot arranges for Dr Stillingfleet to follow Norma; he pulls her to safety from a close call with speeding traffic and brings her to his place for treatment and for safety.
Norma’s father Andrew abandoned her and her mother Grace when Norma was about 5 years old. Andrew had run off with a woman in a relationship that ended soon. He travelled in Africa in financially successful ventures. Norma lived with her mother until Grace’s death two and a half years before. Andrew returned to England after his brother Simon died a year earlier, to work in the family firm, arriving with a new young wife. Norma can recognize nothing familiar in this man, but accepts him. Norma is the third girl in her flat in the fashion of young women advertising for a third girl to share the rent. The main tenant is secretary to her newfound father; the other girl, Frances, travels often for the art gallery that employs her.
Mrs Oliver learns that a woman in the apartment building had recently died by falling from her window. A week passes before she tells Poirot, who feels this is what bothers Norma. The woman was Louise Charpentier. Norma says that her father ran off with Louise Birell. Later, Mrs Oliver finds a piece of paper linking Louise Charpentier to Andrew. Mary Restarick has been ill from poison in her food. Sir Roderick engages Poirot to find documents missing from his files which encounter brings young Sonia under suspicion.
Norma is lured from Dr Stillingfleet by an ad in the newspaper to meet David, and is again drugged. Frances kills David. She sets it up to appear that Norma did it, but the blood on the knife was congealed when Norma found herself holding it. With police and family gathered in the flat, Poirot announces that Andrew did die in Africa. Robert Orwell poses as her father to gain the wealth of the family. He had David paint portraits of him and his late wife in the style of a painter popular 20 years earlier as part of the ruse. Most cruelly he and his wife have been giving Norma various drugs that give her hallucinations and an altered sense of time, to set her up as guilty. Further, the wife had poisoned herself hoping to pin that on Norma, too. Louise wrote to Andrew on learning he was back in England, so Frances killed Louise; this is the murder Norma feared she did. The woman posing as stepmother was also Frances, who used a blonde wig to cover her dark hair when changing roles. Poirot takes the wig from her bag to make that point. Murder of the two who could expose the imposters was just one of her crimes. Sonia is exonerated when she finds the papers Sir Roderick misplaced, and the two will marry. Poirot had chosen Dr Stillingfleet to help him with Norma in hopes the two would marry, and they will.
Residing at Sir Roderick's home at Long Basing
Residing at Borodene Mansions
This novel is notable for its overt use of coincidence, such as Mrs Oliver going into a café that happens to contain the girl she is seeking, and having a key piece of evidence literally fall into her hands from a drawer as furniture is being removed from a dead woman's flat. This very obvious use of coincidence is known as open authorial manipulation and is often used to draw the reader's attention to the artificiality of the plot. It is highly appropriate to a detective novel in which a central character writes detective fiction and is an example of metafiction.
Literary significance and reception
Unusually for this period, The Guardian didn't carry a review of the novel.
Maurice Richardson in The Observer of 13 November 1966 concluded, "There is the usual double-take surprise solution centring round a perhaps rather artificial identity problem; but the suspense holds up all the way. Dialogue and characters are lively as flies. After this, I shan't be a bit surprised to see A.C. wearing a mini-skirt."
Robert Barnard: "One of Christie's more embarrassing attempts to haul herself abreast of the swinging 'sixties. Mrs Oliver plays a large part, detection a small one."
A television adaptation by Peter Flannery for the series Agatha Christie's Poirot starring David Suchet as Poirot and Zoë Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver was filmed in April and May 2008. It aired on 28 September 2008 on ITV. The adaptation took major liberties with the novel, including the following changes:
In the US a condensed version of the novel appeared in the April 1967 (Volume 128, Number 6) issue of Redbook magazine with a photographic montage by Mike Cuesta.
This novel has been translated to various languages other than its original English. Over 20 are listed here. This is in keeping with the author's reputation for being the most translated author.