Murder on the Links
This is one of the earliest Poirot novels, and Christie wears her influences very much on her sleeve. Anyone who’s familiar with Gaston Leroux’s detective stories will spot the similarities in style and execution. It’s even set largely in France. The novel begins with Hastings falling in love, as Christie is tiring of the eternal sidekick, and sensibly wants to send him packing. If only the TV show had caught up with this sooner, the mid-period dip in quality may have been avoided.
Why does this story seem so drab? It’s hard to say. The plot is not terrible. The suspects are quite vivid and memorable, although not plentiful enough. Poirot has a rival whom he makes much fun of for running around measuring footprints and collecting cigarette ash, while the little grey cells do their work. Maybe it’s because Christie based a large portion of the plot on a real life murder case, and her imagination did not soar.
Marthe Daubreuil, noted beauty, but without the first idea how to pluck her eyebrows. Ooh la la!
The plot is a little too generic. A rich gentleman is found murdered in the grounds of his estate, physical clues are abundant, his family come under suspicion, and the plot is more convoluted rather than truly complex. The real pleasure lies in Poirot’s scoring points off Monsieur Giraud of the Sûreté, and watching hapless Hastings pervert the course of justice in the name of love. The plot is tidied up a little, amalgamating two characters into one, but there are too many detectives and not enough suspects to make the reveal truly suspenseful.
Monsieur Giraud: Let the battle of the moustaches commence.
In short, a second-rate Christie, written while she was still finding her feet artistically, and paying homage to the greats who had gone before rather than reworking the rules that she was to make her own. The screen adaptation is competent, but a little more focus on the various outlying characters and suspects would have made this more exciting.
Fun fact: In the later adaptation of Cards on the Table, Poirot impresses Mrs Oliver by having spotted that two of her plots are identical. The examples he quotes could be said to apply to two of Poirot’s cases, The Incredible Theft and Murder on the Links. Such larks!
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