Agatha Christie’s ‘The Murder on the Links’ – a Hercule Poirot mystery…
A man lies dead in a shallow open grave, stabbed in the back with a letter opener… and too many people are suspected of killing him.
A Book Review of The Murder On The Links… by Hercule Poirot:
I, Hercule Poirot, was nearly led astray by complexity.
But I was not satisfied.
And that’s what solved the mystery.
Let’s begin at the beginning…
It all started when I got a letter from a reclusive South American millionaire Paul Renauld, urging me to come to Merlinville in France because he was afraid for his life.
His letter ended, “For God’s sake, come!”
So I immediately boarded a train along with my friend Captain Hastings.
On arriving in the village, I learned my client was found dead in a ditch on the golf links near his mansion just that morning, a dagger buried in his back.
The police investigators were involved right away, and I joined the commissary M.Bex, the magistrate M.Hautet and a super-detective from the Surete, M.Giraud.
There was a love letter in the pocket of late Mr.Renauld’s overcoat. He had amended his will just a fortnight earlier, following an argument with his son Jack, who had since left to Paris, and was going on from there to South America.
According to the housekeeper Francoise, my now-dead client recently had several late night meetings with a Madame Daubreuil who lived next door with her daughter, the fair beauty Marthe. The maids Leonie and Denise, however, were adamant that the lady who visited him on the fatal night wasn’t her, but another. Nobody could explain why the front door was open.
And so I was not satisfied.
I was not satisfied when my client summoned me to his home in France because he was afraid of being murdered – but then sent his chauffeur away.
Or when Marthe, his divinely beautiful “girl with the anxious eyes” neighbor, rushed over to ask me if there were any suspects yet, even before I had begun my investigation in earnest.
I was not satisfied with his wife’s story of a kidnapping by bearded Spanish desperadoes – who didn’t even break into the house, but seemed to have walked in through an open door.
And at how the tale niggled at my faint memory of a twenty year-old murder case with similar undertones – one where the killers got away scot free!
I was not satisfied when my friend Captain Hastings stumbled into the girl he only knew as Cinderella from a train ride together from Paris to Calais – on the golf links right beside the murder spot.
The inquiry proceeded.
Everything was a confusing mess. No order. No method.
It seemed to be a very unplanned, incoherent crime.
Or was it only meant to look that way?
To make things worse, I had to joust with the “human blood hound” Inspector Giraud, a superstar French investigator who was always in my face with his insulting comments about my “old fashioned methods”. He came up with one clue after another – each of them hard to explain.
And many other things left unanswered questions in my mind.
But when the second body turned up inside the wood shed, also stabbed through the heart with a remarkably similar dagger, I wondered for a moment if my entire theory was wrong.
I had to take stock, clear my mind.
So I sat down alone with Hastings, to apply our “little grey cells” to the facts and events. Applying “order and method” to the many clues, we got somewhere. And it was Hastings who suggested a name. I was so thrilled that I cried “Enfin, you have arrived”, and embraced him warmly.
In quick order, we then solved one of the interwoven mysteries. But that still left our murderer at large. And so I shuttled between England and France, following up on one possibility after the other.
An interview with the railway station staff on duty on the night of the murder revealed the arrival of a surprise visitor on the spot.
A visit to Coventry brought up another intriguing suspect who might have wielded the deadly weapon.
An arrest made by the energetic (and over-eager) M.Giraud brought things to a head and precipitated a court hearing.
A dramatic appearance in the courtroom, and a confession of the crime, threw the entire case into chaos.
But still I, Hercule Poirot, was not satisfied!
And that’s what prevented another murder. It also brought a clever criminal to book.
Who was it?
Was it the devoted wife Mme.Renauld who finally rebelled at her husband’s carrying on with other women and planned his death, to inherit his vast fortune?
Or was it his hot-headed son Jack Renauld who had been overheard telling his father things would be different “once you were dead”?
Could it be the mysteriously intriguing neighbor Madame Daubreuil, whose sudden prosperity was the matter of village gossip?
Or her breathtakingly beautiful daughter Marthe Daubreuil, a heartbreaker of whom many were enamored, including my stolid friend Hastings?
And how about Gabriel Stonor, the secretary who only visited a couple of times each month, yet was intimately aware of his employer’s business?
Did the household help plan the crime, or assist at it – the sharp-tongued Francoise, or the emotional Leonie; the dispassionate but curious Denise, or the elderly gardener Auguste; even the chauffeur Masters who was granted leave?
And was the appearance of Cinderella on the crime scene just a happy coincidence – or something more sinister?
I had to decide. And quickly.
Because I was not satisfied that the killing was over.
Will YOU be able to save a life – by unravelling the truth?
“My theory is the truth. And the truth is necessarily correct.”
– Hercule Poirot
The Murder on the Links was Agatha Christie’s third book, and her second starring the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot – “five feet four inches, egg-shaped head carried a little to one side, eyes that shone green when he was excited, stiff military moustache, air of dignity immense”.
Agatha Christie’s Poirot is, as always, obsessed with order and method, and the belief that crime is essentially simple. He trusts in the human failing of being repetitive, even in criminal activities. In the case of The Murder on the Links, this proves true – and a killer pays the ultimate penalty.
The influence on Agatha Christie by French crime writers like Leroux is best felt in this novel which is unique in tone and style from her later work.
The Murder on the Links was first published in 1923. Interestingly, Agatha Christie set up this story to pack Poirot’s sidekick Captain Hastings off to Argentina, a married man – and henceforth Hercule Poirot would face his public all on his own.
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I'm Dr.Mani, a pediatric heart surgeon and author. I raise funds to sponsor heart surgery for under-privileged children in India. On this blog, I'll share my thoughts, travel photos, fitness tips and book reviews.