Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie: a Book Review

In Evil Under the Sun Poirot is on holiday in Devon staying in a seaside hotel – a seaside mystery instead of a country house mystery!

Here’s the blurb:

It was not unusual to find the beautiful bronzed body of the sun-loving Arlena Stuart stretched out on a beach, face down. Only, on this occasion, there was no sun! she had been strangled. Ever since Arlena’s arrival at the resort, Hercule Poirot had detected sexual tension in the seaside air. But could this apparent ‘crime of passion’ have been something more evil and premeditated altogether?

My thoughts:

It’s August, the sun is hot, people are enjoying themselves, swimming and sunbathing and yet Poirot remarks that the sight of the recumbent figures on the beach reminds him of the Morgue in Paris, ‘the bodies – arranged in slabs – like butcher’s meat!’  The other guests remark it’s an unlikely setting for crime but Poirot disagrees:

‘It is romantic, yes,’ agreed Hercule Poirot. ‘It is peaceful. The sun shines. The sea is blue. But you forget Miss Brewster, there is evil everywhere under the sun.’

And so it turns out, with the discovery of Arlena’s dead body. Arlena, who Major Barry describes as ‘a personification of evil’.

‘She’s the world’s first gold-digger. And a man-eater as well! If anything personable in trousers comes within a hundred yards of her, it’s fresh sport for Arlena!’

Her step-daughter, Linda hates her and wants to kill her, wishing she would die.

Arlena was strangled. Poirot  maintains that her murder has resulted from her character, and his investigations revolve around understanding exactly what type of person she was. The suspicion of guilt is cast over one person after another; either a man or a woman could have been strong enough to strangle Arlena and there are plenty of suspects. And even Poirot is puzzled because from the beginning it had seemed to him that one person was clearly indicated as the murderer but at the same time it seemed impossible for that person to have committed the crime.

Poirot describes the murder as a ‘very slick crime‘ and indeed it was perfectly planned and timed. At the end he explains at length how he collected together all the isolated significant facts and events to make a complete pattern to discover the identity of the murderer. Although I enjoyed this book I did think the explanation was too long and the characters  were a bit sketchy and sterotypical. It all seemed to be more of a puzzle solving exercise, than a captivating mystery.

Agatha Christie wrote Evil Under the Sun during 1938 and it was published in 1941, having first appeared as a serial in the USA at the end of 1940. I read it on my Kindle.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 416 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (14 Oct 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language English
  • ASIN: B0046H95QS
  • Source: I bought it

Reading this book completes the What’s in a Name 4 challenge.

5 thoughts on “Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie: a Book Review”

  1. Margaret – Thanks for this fine review. One of things I like about this book is the setting; it works quite well for the plot. And I agree that this one focuses more on the puzzle than it does on character development. Still, I enjoyed it very much, too; I’m glad you reminded me of it.

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  2. My only complaint about Hercule Poirot is his long explanations of how he came to his decision about the murderer. When I watch them on PBS, I always want to say, “Okay, Hercule, let’s get on with it already!”

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  3. Hi Margaret,
    I read this one not too long ago and drew pretty much the same conclusions as yourself, about the lack of depth to the plot.
    Poirot’s deductions were a little ‘overplayed’, but then, that is what I have come to expect from the character and what makes him so endearing.
    I never fail to enjoy an Agatha Christie read though.

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