Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Evil Under the Sun: Agatha Christie

In this story, Hercule Poirot is on a holiday at the Jolly Roger Hotel, on Smugglers’ Island, Leathercombe Bay, off the coast of Devon. A beautiful, shallow, and self-centered actress, Arlena Marshall, is killed and the murderer must be one of the guests on the island. First the actress's husband is suspected. Arlena has been obviously dallying with a younger male guest. Or maybe it is the younger man's wife, mousy and pale compared to Arlena. There are many possibilities among the guests at the Jolly Roger Hotel, and Poirot works with the local police to solve the crime.

As usual for an Agatha Christie novel, this is a clever and entertaining story. There is a huge cast of characters and it is easy to get confused. The solution to the crime reveals a complex plan which surprised me. This was not one where I even had a clue who was guilty. I had plenty of favorite characters who I did NOT want to be the culprit.

I did like the plot of this book, and the holiday setting and the closed environment, but the emphasis was more on the puzzle than the characters or the psychology. I don't think it will be in my list of top-rated Poirot stories.

I read this particular Hercule Poirot book out of order because we had purchased the film adaptation starring Peter Ustinov as Poirot, and I wanted to read the book first. Ustinov is not my picture of the ideal Poirot but I still enjoyed him in the role. Several other noteworthy actors and actresses are featured in the film, including James Mason, Roddy McDowall, Diana Rigg, and Maggie Smith. The film version keeps to the basic story but does change some things from the novel. The main difference I noticed was that Poirot is pretty much the only investigator, at least at the beginning. The plot moves fairly quickly and dispenses with a few of the secondary characters from the book.


We bought the film of Evil Under the Sun in a set of three movies based on books by Agatha Christie. The other two movies were Death on the Nile (also starring Peter Ustinov as Poirot) and The Mirror Crack'd. My husband preferred Evil Under the Sun to the other two, and my favorite was Death on the Nile. Neither one of us was very impressed with The Mirror Crack'd, although it had some good actors playing many of the roles.

There are plenty of reviews and other opinions of this book available. I found the TV Tropes page for this novel (and the 1982 movie) very interesting. Spoilers are omitted but some of the tropes may point to the solution, so you might enjoy it more if you have already read the book.


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Publisher:  Pocket Books, 1963. Orig. pub. 1941.
Length:     183 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Hercule Poirot, #23
Setting:     UK
Genre:      Mystery
Source:     Purchased at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale, 2017.


14 comments:

  1. Was Peter Ustinov in The Mirror Crack'd? I knew he did Death on the Nile and Evil Under the Sun, but not that. I love his Death on the Nile with David Niven, it's possibly even one of my favourite films. I've never read either of the books though.

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    1. I did not make that very clear, Cath. Ustinov was not in The Mirror Crack'd; it is a Miss Marple and Angela Lansbury played that role. I don't why they packaged those together except that the films were made in 1978, 1980, and 1982. Ustinov did do one other film (Appointment with Death) later and three TV movies; I was unaware of that.

      Death on the Nile is one of my favorite Poirot books, and a little bit different from the film.

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  2. I know what you mean about the focus on the plot, Tracy, although I think the character of Linda Marshall was done fairly well. And I do like the premise and setup for this one. That said, I'm not a fan of the film adaptation. I think it's because I'm a real purist, and I like it best when the story is as close as possible to the original book/story.

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    1. I do like the daughter's role in this book, Margot.

      I remember that you are a purist when it comes to film adaptations, Margot. I read that in the David Suchet version on TV, they added Hastings and Miss Lemon. And Inspector Japp. That is going a bit far.

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  3. Like you, I liked the movie better than the book, though the emphasis on plot didn't bother me much. I always try to figure out who did it in her books, usually, almost always, failing. I'm enjoying your Christie reviews.

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    1. I liked this book, Rick, but I have other favorites in the Poirot series. For some reason I haven't been fond of the Poirot books that I have read set at hotels or resorts. The movie was lots of fun though. We will enjoy watching it again.

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  4. Evil Under the Sun is among my favorite Christie books. I don't see Ustinov as the perfect Poirot, but that movie adaptation was pretty good. I've seen both of the other movies as well. Death On The Nile is also a favorite of mine. Enjoying revisiting the Christie books through your reviews, Tracy!

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    1. Thanks, Kay. My husband liked Evil Under the Sun a lot (the film). This time I think we waited long enough after I read the book so I wasn't comparing every little thing in the book, which made it more enjoyable to me too. Diana Rigg was gorgeous and James Mason had an interesting role. I am enjoying my journey through the Christie books (and some of the adaptations).

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  5. Smuggler's Island hooked me! But I shall proceed cautiously, Tracy, because I do prefer characters over plot. I'm way overdue on my Christies!

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    1. Many readers like this book a lot, Mathew, so I hate to put you off the book. And the setting is lovely. But I did find the characters in this one less convincing than in some of Christie's books, personally.

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  6. I think this one is a great story, I like the plot and the characters. And - I have been to stay at the very hotel it is set in! it is one Christie stayed in in her heyday, and I asked to go there when I had a big birthday. Such joy!

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    1. Moira, I had heard it was based on a real location (but not the same name?), maybe from you. I was hoping you would comment on that. It sounds like a lovely place to visit. I envy you.

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  7. I think I'll stick to the Christie's I already have and maybe give some thought to actually reading one!

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    1. Col, except for possibly And Then There Were None, I don't know that any of Christie's books are to your taste, but you still should experience at least one.

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