CRIME: The Scoundrel

Agatha Christie could not have thought of a better opening scene. When the English butler entered the luxurious bedchamber on Manhattan's upper Fifth Avenue to awaken his master one morning last week, he saw a ghastly sight. Supine on the wall-to-wall carpet lay the master—46-year-old Serge Rubinstein, millionaire, financial finagler, satyr and draft dodger—bound, gagged, strangled and quite dead. The body was dressed in midnight-blue silk pajamas, and the room was a picture of studied disarray.

The scene but not the character was pure Christie. Serge Rubinstein belonged in spirit to an...

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