The Murder on the Links

Second Poirot novel sees the detective triumph over his Parisian rival

Agatha Christie's second Poirot novel takes her Belgian detective to the coast of northern France
Agatha Christie's second Poirot novel takes her
Belgian detective to the coast of northern France
An urgent appeal for help from a mysterious millionaire brings detective Hercule Poirot to France. But he finds he is too late. He is told on arrival that his client has been brutally stabbed to death. The victim has been left in an open grave on the golf links near his villa, where a new bunker was in the process of being dug

The Murder on the Links, Agatha Christie’s third detective novel, was published in March 1923 in the US and in May the same year in the UK, where it was put on sale for seven shillings and sixpence.

It was the second novel to feature Poirot, the little Belgian detective, and his sidekick, Captain Arthur Hastings. They had formed a somewhat unequal sleuthing partnership in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha’s debut crime novel.

In his second case, Poirot finds himself up against the illustrious Monsieur Giraud, a detective from the Paris Sûretè. Giraud resents Poirot’s involvement in the investigation and will not listen to the experienced Belgian detective’s opinions.

But Poirot knows the case is not all that it seems and looks carefully into the strange circumstances surrounding the murder. He discovers that the motive for the murder is connected to a crime committed more than 20 years before.

Poirot uses his understanding of human nature to help him solve the crime, citing a serial wife killer who used the same method each time, believing that what had once succeeded would succeed again. He says that eventually the killer paid the penalty for his lack of originality!

The latest reprint of The  Murder on the Links
The latest reprint of The 
Murder on the Links
Reviews when the book was first published compared Agatha and Poirot favourably with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes mysteries. One reviewer said Poirot was ‘a pleasant contrast to most of his lurid competitors’ and that they suspected he had ‘a touch of satire in him.’

Having embarked on the mammoth task of reading all Agatha’s 76 detective novels in chronological order, I recently read The Murder on the Links for the second time. It was many years after I had read it for the first time and I expected the novel to seem dated and far simpler than I actually found it to be. I was amazed at how complicated the plot was and how skilfully Agatha encourages the reader to believe one thing, whereas the opposite is in fact the case.

Agatha Christie’s biographer, Laura Thompson, has said of The Murder on the Links: ‘It is very French, not just in setting but in tone, which reeks of Gaston Leroux.’ Agatha had read and been influenced by Leroux’s 1907 novel, The Mystery of the Yellow Room, one of the most celebrated locked room mysteries.

Laura also notes that the book is notable for a subplot in which Hastings falls in love, allowing the author to pack him off to wedded bliss in 'the Argentine', a development that was apparently greatly desired by Agatha.

To the relief of Hastings fans, the author did bring him back from 'the Argentine' from time to time to assist Poirot with his future cases.

The Murder on the Links sees Poirot triumph over his arrogant sleuthing rival, Monsieur Giraud, and gives us a good idea of why the Belgian detective was always to succeed in finding out whodunnit for the next 50 years. I think the novel is well worth reading, or even rereading.

(Picture of French resort by Peter H via Pixabay)

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