03 February, 2010

Book 44 - "I have no patience with the modern neurotic girl who jazzes from morning till night and uses language that would make a fishwoman blush!"

It's been a while since I read any Agatha Christie! It's also been almost a year since I first read this book. Sometimes I'm a little slow to blog things, I guess!

Title: Murder on the Links (1923)

Author: Agatha Christie

Why this book:
Agatha Christie! Poirot! Hurrah!

So what's it all about?
When his good friend, Captain Hastings, returns from a trip, Poirot receives a letter bidding him to come at once, for the writer - Paul Renaud - fears his life may be in danger. When Poirot and Hastings arrive, they find they are too late; he has already been murdered, stabbed in the back and half-buried on the golf green.

Poirot is determined to find the culprit, and is highly amused at the arrival of another detective who is fails to take note of the clues which are, to Poirot, extremely important - while the other detective sees a flowerbed with no footprints in it, Poirot sees a flowerbed where there should be footprints. Hastings, however, can't help but doubt his old friend. Poirot seems to be doing nothing but asking irrelevent questions, and making increasingly bizarre statements - how does the length of a man's coat have anything to do with his death?

Paul Renaud's son is arrested for his murder, and he will surely be found guilty if Poirot can't find a way to convince the police that he didn't do it. But then, who did? Renaud's wife, who is clearly lying about just what happened that night? His blackmailer, who may or may not have been his mistress? The two mysterious South American men Mme Renaud claims to have seen? Or the English performer who was in love with his son - the very same girl that Hastings can't help becoming increasingly fascinated by...?

The Good and the Bad
I read this book through twice, and hated it the first time; the second time I loved it. The problem I had with it the first time through is simply that the end seemed to drag on a little too long. Agatha Christie is queen of the twist ending, by the ending here was so twisted that reading was both exhausting and confusing. The narrative also irritated me on my first read - it is told, in the first person, by Captain Hastings, and I quickly grew frustrated by him forever jumping to the wrong conclusion and his apparent lack of confidence in Poirot.

On my second read, however, I found the books a lot easier to enjoy. As I wasn't racing through it to find out what was going to happen next, it was a lot easier to enjoy Christie's style, her observations of human behaviour and her well-crafted plot - because, despite the overly-long conclusion, the story as a whole is well-crafted. I also found myself warming more to Hastings. He may be a bumbling idiot, but his heart is in the right place - besides, Poirot's love of his friend gives the detective a human side he might not otherwise have.

It also took me two reads to figure out what the "links" was. I was so sure it was going to be some kind of train, and was exceedingly confused when (despite at least one very important train ride in the story) Renaud was murdered in the middle of a field. As I now know, a links is in fact a type of golf course, and the fact that his murder took place there is yet another important clue.

So should I read it or what?
This is, I think, one of the better books in the Poirot series. Christie has yet to become fed up with her own creation, Captain Hastings meets someone who is to become very important to him in the future, and the mystery is set not in England but in France, giving it rather a different flavour. Highly recommended, but then I almost always say that about Christie's works, don't I?


Sadako said...

Heh, love the title quote--was it really in the boook?

HelenB said...

It was! In fact, the full quote is:

"Now I am old-fashioned. A woman, I consider, should be womanly. I have no patience with the modern neurotic girl who jazzes from morning till night, smokes like a chimney, and uses language which would make a Billingsgate fishwoman blush!"

Sadly, Blogger wouldn't let me put the whole thing in the title field!