As I’ve written an ABC of Agatha Christie for the Agatha Christie Blog tour and found the ABC Wednesday site, I thought I’d carried on with the alphabet theme and read Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders. I’m so glad I did because it’s one of her best, or at least I think it is.
My copy is in a compilation volume along with Why Didn’t They Ask Evans. The ABC Murders was first published in 1936.
It’s narrated by Captain Hastings, for the most part, interspersed by chapters written in the third person, which Hastings assures us are accurate and have been ‘vetted’ by Poirot himself. I thought that was interesting and it alerted me to read those chapters carefully. What follows is a series of murders advertised in advance by letters to Poirot, and signed by an anonymous ‘ABC’. An ABC Railway is left next to each of the bodies. So the first murder is in Andover, the victim a Mrs Alice Ascher; the second in Bexhill, where Betty Barnard was murdered; and then Sir Carmichael Clarke in Churston is found dead. The police are completely puzzled and Poirot gets the victims’ relatives together to see what links if any can be found.
The only thing that seems to link them is that they were killed by the same person and that in each case there is a person who be the obvious suspect as the murderer if it hadn’t been for the ABC murderer. Poirot was convinced that one or possibly all of the relatives ‘knows something that they do not know they know.’ And indeed that was so. In Poirot’s final explanation of the case he admitted that all along he had been worried over the why? Why did ABC commit the murders and why did he select Poirot as his adversary?
Quite early on the book I had my suspicions about the identity of ABC but Agatha Christie was an expert at providing plenty of red herrings and twist and turns, and of course I was actually just as baffled as the police (quite an array of police, including a Chief Constable and an Assistant Commissioner, were involved from different forces around the country as well as Inspector Japp) and Doctor Thompson, a ‘famous alienist’. It was only right at the end that I worked out this ingenious mystery.