Thursday, July 2, 2009

Curse you, Agatha Christie!!!!!!

The ABC Murders, by Agatha Christie

No mystery writer was better at twist endings and planting incredibly subtle clues that reveal one of the least likeliest suspects (or, often, someone who wasn’t a suspect at all) turn out to be the killer. It actually kind of gets on my nerves. I can occasionally figure out a Perry Mason solution. I remember being insufferable proud of myself as a 12-year-old when I figured out the solution to “The Red Headed League” right along with Sherlock Holmes.

But I don’t think I’ve ever beaten Hercule Poirot or Miss Marble to the punch. When the solution to the mystery is revealed, it will turn out that the clues were all there right in front of us. But only I’ve never manage to quite figure it all out before the wonderful creations of Agatha Christie do.

The ABC Murders seems to at first be atypical. Poirot receives letters from a madman who signs his name ABC, taunting Poirot to catch him and revealing in each letter the town in which the next murder would take place. The madman seems to have an alphabet obsession—his kills a Mrs. Asher in the town of Andover. Then a Miss Barnard in the town of Bexhill. And so on.

It does not seem to be a matter in which Poirot’s usual deductive genius can really help, since there is no logical motive or method behind it all. But Poirot’s skills do play a part when he gathers the friends and relatives together, questioning them until a certain pattern to the events is made clear.

Then the killer is finally caught. It all seems very straightforward, at least until Poirot suddenly comes forward with the announcement that all is not as it seems…

At which point he gives us a summary of several clues that were right there for us to see as well. But we don’t—at least not until Poirot points them out to us. Agatha Christie, darn her, is far too good at her job to all that. That’s why her often brilliant mysteries are still in print today—over eight decades after she first began to write them. That’s why The ABC Murders is so much fun to read. That’s why she continues to get on my nerves.

Next month, we'll look at "The Chinese Parrot" and visit with the world's most likable detective--Charlie Chan.


  1. I just got this as a audiobook and can't wait to start it. Glad you didn't give it away......Marjo

  2. If you figure it out when I didn't then you won't be my favorite sister-in-law anymore.


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