Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Murder on the Links: Agatha Christie

My Agatha Christie read for this month was The Murder on the Links (1922), one of the early books in the Hercule Poirot series. 

In recent years, I have only read a few books by Agatha Christie and this is only the second one featuring Hercule Poirot. So far, I find the Poirot character to be smug and irritating, but he does get the job done in the end. I know he is a very popular character with most Christie readers, so I am prepared to have my mind changed as I read more books in the series.

Robert Barnard summarizes the plot in two sentences (in A Talent to Deceive):
Super-complicated early whodunit, set in the northerly fringes of France so beloved of the English bankrupt. Poirot pits his wits against a sneering sophisticate of a French policeman while Hastings lets his wander after an auburn-haired female acrobat.
My take:
  • I liked that this novel was told in first person by Captain Arthur Hastings. I do seem to favor first person narratives, where it makes sense.
  • I enjoyed the hints of romance between various characters. Christie often throws in some romance, but it does not overpower the story.
  • I suspected fairly early on how the murder had been committed (although not the why). However, the clues were strung out throughout the novel and held my interest.
Having enjoyed Hastings as the narrator of this book, I was disappointed to find that he only features in eight of the thirty-three Hercule Poirot novels, and mostly in the earlier ones. From what I have read, he is the narrator for most Hercule Poirot short stories.

The other Hercule Poirot novel that I have reviewed is Murder on the Orient Express (my review is here). That one is later in the series and Hastings is not involved.


I  read this book for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, hosted by  Mysteries In Paradise. If you are interested in joining in, here are instructions on how to do that. Links to other reviews for this month will be found here.

Also submitted for the Vintage Mystery Challenge (World Traveler). The novel begins with Hastings returning to London after a Paris business trip. He then travels to France with Poirot at the request of a client. The majority of the book takes place in Merlinville-sur-Mer, France.

16 comments:

  1. Even Christie found him smug and irritating, and often complained loudly about him to interviewers (In later novels, Poirot is teamed up with Ariadne Oliver, a famous lady crime novelist who bitterly complains about her running hero, a smug, irritating Finnish detective...) Poirot is humanised a bit more in the later novels, and MRS McGINTY'S DEAD is a good example of this. Enjoy your reading.

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    1. I did know she grew tired of him. Perhaps he was so popular because of his irritating traits? He is certainly milder in Murder on the Orient Express.

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  2. Tracy, this is the first time I've heard anyone describe Poirot as "smug and irritating" (in a nice sort of way?) and I quite liked it. We must dethrone our venerable sleuths once in a while! Romance is a secondary plot-line in many of Christie's novels. I haven't read this book yet. I'm currently reading MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT (which I think you reviewed not long ago) and I am trying to get used to Anne Beddingfield's character. For me, Christie's work is essentially about Poirot and Marple.

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    1. Definitely in a nice way, Prashant. My favorite detective, Nero Wolfe, is very smug, but I have learned to love him with all his flaws.

      I have not yet read Man in the Brown Suit, but it is in my plans for this year. I look forward to your review.

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  3. Tracy - I like Hastings too, and one of the reasons I do is that he shows us just how imperfect a character Poirot is. For all that though, Poirot does have some good qualities and I like the compassionate way he deals with the romance angles in this story. You've done a great review here, for which thanks.

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    1. Margot, I may try some of the short stories narrated by Hastings, even though short stories are not my thing at all. Yes, Poirot has many good points too.

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  4. Tracy,
    I don't think I've read Christie since my schooldays. I have tracked down one of her books, after a chat with Margot - Roger Ackroyd. I'm unsure if it's Poirot or not to be honest. I don't think I'm up to taking her on as a challenge though, I'm glad you enjoyed it though.

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    1. Col, I am enjoying the Christie books much more than I thought I would. I read a lot of them when I was younger also, but I don't remember a thing. So I can reread them and they are like new. The only one I do know much about is the Roger Aykroyd, and unfortunately I don't like to know that much going in. So I may skip it or put it off.

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  5. This isn't my favourite Christie I'm afraid and I don't think I've reread it since I was a teenager. Nice to read a review of the book though.

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    1. Sarah, right now I am sticking mostly with the earlier novels, roughly reading in order through each of the series. And I have found something to enjoy in each of them. We will see if I can get fonder of Poirot.

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  6. Not my favorite either, but I will say it's still better than most of the "cozy" mysteries being written today. And Poirot has never been one of my favorite, though I don't hate him. I do think Hastings serves to humanize him a bit.

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    1. Ryan, I agree. So far, Hercule Poirot trails behind Miss Marple and Tommy and Tuppence for me. But still looking forward to trying more of them.

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  7. I quite like Hercule Poirot, vanity and all. Somehow Miss Marple never really appealed to me though some of her mysteries are quite good. This book is one of my favourites. And I like Hastings' penchant for auburn hair.:)

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    1. Neer, I read the first Hercule Poirot, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, several years ago, and did not care for it. I just read an article that convinced me I have to give it another try. There are so many Poirot novels to catch up on.

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  8. Confession: I've not read Agatha Christie yet. I said if I was ever going to start, I'd start with Miss Marple.

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    1. Keishon, I put off re-reading Christie because I thought my tastes had changed and they would be too tame. Or something. Whatever I thought, I was wrong. Many have an edge, a dark side. And Miss Marple is a good place to start. But there are so many good mysteries out there, old and new. It is hard to choose.

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