Book Review – The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

First published, 1923

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This, the third of Agatha Christie’s novels, and the second outing of Hercule Poirot, really establishes the author as a force to be reckoned with. My experience of Christie has been limited to her first three novels (all of which, I’ve read this year), but it was in this work that I first heard what I would recognise as her voice. Of course, I’ve grown up with all manner of television adaptations of her novels and short stories (mostly Poirot and Miss Marple), which have led me to build up a composite idea of Christie’s author voice, and that’s what I’ve found here.

In The Murder On The Links, Poirot and Hastings are called to the French town of Merlinville at the panicky behest of South American millionaire, Paul Renaud. However, upon their arrival, the investigators find Mr Renaud stabbed to death and left in an open grave on the golf course, and his wife, bound and gagged in her bedroom in their home next-door. But is it a robbery gone wrong? Or are there simply a great many people who might have benefitted from the South American’s death? Has Hercule Poirot met his match?

The characters are desperate and flawed, many have pseudonyms, hidden pasts, secrets and broken relationships behind them; there are multiple twists and turns. I should have known when Hastings seemed to have the whole thing wrapped up in a neat little bow, around three-quarters of the way through, that something was amiss. Because, of course, Hastings lacks the skills of the remarkable Belgian sleuth due to the fact that he follows his heart and not ’the little grey cells’. Also, Hastings is quite maddening and it’s just impossible to believe he could work it all out so quickly.

I really felt I understood Hastings during this story. He falls in love far too quickly and remarkably often – I’ve known and drunk with guys like him before – and his impatience with Poirot was both charming and irritating enough to feel authentic.

With the story told from Hastings’ perspective, I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for Poirot. The fact that Hastings was annoyed with his mentor here and there, yet was able to utterly accept Poirot’s understanding, felt like a very realistic character flaw – the sort of thing he wouldn’t begin to recognise in himself.

I’ve knocked a star off for the weak formatting. When one character speaks, he is answered, very often, within the same paragraph – this is not only incorrect, it makes it difficult to follow who exactly is talking. This, in a story which is complicated enough, makes for a rather difficult reading experience.