Murder on the Links: “It was 2 p.m. on the afternoon of May 7th, 1915.”
Detective: Hercule Poirot
Published: 1923 (Christie’s 3rd published book)
Length: 272 pages
Setting: Merlinville-sur-Mer, France (fictional)
This is Agatha Christie’s third published novel after The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Secret Adversary, and her second one featuring the astute Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Quite honestly, this novel falls far short of her initial two attempts, her adept plotting of a mystery surprisingly lacking as the murder and motive is revealed in a rather bumbling fashion. But for now, let’s look at the plot.
Hercule Poirot receives a letter from Monsieur Paul Renauld requesting his help and confidence at his home in France and, with Captain Hastings by his side, Poirot immediately departs for the continent. Tragically, upon arrival, Poirot and Hastings learn that Renauld was murdered earlier that morning and the local Sûreté police force are on the case. An interviewing of the maid, his two daughters, and wife yield that he was visited by a woman the night before but there are conflicting reports as to the woman’s identity. His son is on his way to Chile, a country where Renaud previously lived, sent by an urgent message from his father. And to throw more confusion into the mix, Renaud’s wife claims that masked men broke into the villa and must be responsible for her husband’s death, his body discovered lying beside a newly dug grave close to the golf course.
Who is lying? Who is covering up the truth, not necessarily for nefarious purposes but possibly to protect the innocent? And why does that annoying inspector Giraud of the Sûreté continually mock Poirot and in his arrogance, boldly displays his superior detection skills that appear to impress everyone? It’s a mish-mash of circumstances and suspects with everything thrown in but the kitchen sink. Yet Poirot, with his superior intellect and little grey cells, might be the only one who could figure out this hodge-podge of deductive soup. If he had truly been alive, he might have had a few words to say to Christie about the plotting of this story.
As to my disappointment with this mystery, where do I begin? Well, first of all, do you see the lovely golf course on the cover of the novel? You would expect it has something to do with the plot or murder, or even makes an appearance in the setting of the novel but, other than the body being found on the edge of it, it has so significance at all. Then coincidences abound as chance meetings end up being tied directly to the case, a person directly involved in the death is not introduced until about 2/3 of the way into the story, and other various confusing blots of obscurity are thrown at this masterpiece of mystery. A-hem!
And, oh my, Hastings! His attitude bordering on arrogance, his criticism of Poirot, his drooling infatuation of females he knows next to nothing about, nearly drove me to distraction! I have to commend Hugh Fraser, the actor who plays Hastings in the BBC series, as he brings a balance to the character and while he is still far inferior to Poirot yet has the qualities imbued by Christie, Fraser at least portrays them in a manner which is charming. So far the book character of Hastings is somewhat maddening and it’s hard to like him. I can only hope for his improvement.
My next Christie read will be a compilation of Poirot stories, Poirot Investigates. And if you want to join Fanda’s Agatha Christie Perpetual Reading challenge, please come along for the ride!