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Posts Tagged ‘The ABC Murders’

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

Posted by RB Kollannur on March 30, 2014


Note: This review is part of a weekly book review column that I write for City Journal, an English newspaper based in Thrissur, Kerala.

Published on 20/01/2013

Publisher – Penguin; Year of Publication – 1936; Pages – 184; Cost at the time of purchase – Rs. 90

The nation of Belgium was formed in 1830 by cutting up two nations (France and Netherlands) and was ruled by a German prince as a constitutional monarchy. Even now the nation remains divided in two, as recently as 2010-2011 when Belgium went without a government because they still longed for their long lost origins. Ironically perhaps, the most famous of Belgian characters in literature comes from a completely different nation; that of the British writer Agatha Christie. Hercule Poirot, with his hilarious and memorable eccentricities, made the Belgian nation popular with avid mystery readers. My fondest memory of Poirot is the TV series that used to come on the old Star Plus starring David Suchet acting out the role of Poirot with an immaculate precision.

Poirot is an intellectual detective. While he relies on his observation skills to figure out the clues, it is his mind, or “the little grey cells” as he likes to call it, that profiles the psyche of the criminals and catches them. At close of most stories is a summation where all parties relevant to the crime are brought together and the criminal is revealed from among them. The reader is left guessing for most of the book on who the actual criminal is.

A letter is received at the residence of Hercule Poirot which taunts him to prevent a crime in the lonesome English town of Andover. When a murder happens on the designated date at the designated place, most detectives would have left it for coincidence. But in a mystery novel, there is no place for coincidence. So, when the second letter comes predicting a death on the beaches of Bexhill, Poirot and his intrepid companion, Captain Hastings, know they are in the hunt of a serial killer. Parellelly, the author visits the life of a travelling salesman, Alexander Bonaparte Cust, whose job takes him through the towns of Andover, Bexhill, Churston, Doncater and so on perhaps even to Yorkshire.

The A.B.C Murders is a departure from the usual Poirot. Varying from the strict first person narrative, an additional narrative is added to follow what appears to be the criminal at his work. This adds an interesting dimension to the novel as it adds to the confusion of the reader. Diversion and distraction are among the best tools a mystery writer can use to keep the reader thinking, and a skilled writer like Christie knows how to use both.

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