Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book Review - Agatha Christie's The Murder on the Links

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
Published by: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 1923
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Poirot is lamenting the lack of any interesting cases. He doesn't know what he will do if he is asked to find yet another missing dog for some Dame or doyenne. Then he receives a letter from a Monsieur Paul Renauld. This lights up his face and gets his little grey cells going. Poirot is to set out at once for Merlinville-sur-Mer in France because Monsieur Renauld fears for his life daily. A fear that was justified. When Poirot and Hastings arrive in France, Monsieur Renauld is dead. His body was found next to an open grave on a golf course abutting his property, while his wife was restrained in their bedroom. When she is well enough, she tells the story of two heavily bearded men who wreaked this tragedy on her family. And yet... while everything seems open and shut, Poirot doesn't agree. He soon sets his little grey cells to work and finds many suspects and echos of the crime in the past. Soon another body is discovered and Poirot has two murders to solve, and solve them he will. Poirot must prove that old fashioned crime fighting can beat modern forensics any day.

Firstly I must say I breathed a true sigh of relief when I got immersed in the book and realized that there would be nothing about golf in it. Now you might find it strange that this was my first thought going into the book, but with a title like The Murder on the Links, I was picturing people being clubbed to death round the third hole... or close to that as makes no difference. I don't doubt Agatha Christie and Poirot's ability to make golf even mildly interesting to me, it's just if I don't have to deal with it all the better. I can not fathom why people like to watch golf, playing, maybe I get it a little, mini-golf, I totally get that, but watching it... no thank you, it's like some really boring activity that maybe is zen like to some people but to me is a snooze fest. Whereas a dead body just found on a golf course next to an empty grave? Sign me up!

Now I've reached the part of the review where I rant about Hastings, you had to know it was coming. While I can see why Poirot keeps Hastings around, it is the true Watson/Holmes dynamic after all, there are times I just want to smack Hastings. I think I'm coming around a bit to my mother's Hastings hate. He's just such a blithering idiot. Poirot needs to spell out every little thing for him. I'm sorry, but if Hastings is there as a conduit for the reader, can I upgrade the conduit, to say, Mrs. Oliver? And speaking of Mrs. Oliver, I find it interesting that in actuality, she is in as many books as Hastings is. She appeared in six Poirot novels, and two other novels as well, whereas, Hastings is in eight novels, but because of the collections of short stories, Hastings appears to be more prolific in the life of Poirot then he really is. Also, I really can not in my head separate him from the actor who plays Hastings, Hugh Fraser. Now I'm sure he's a fine actor, I just would have preferred a more likable buffoon, like Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster. So instead of having Hugh Laurie read to me in my head, I have Hugh Fraser. Plus, he was too old for Hastings. He's mentioned as being 35 in the first book, and Hugh was a good ten years older when Poirot started.

Ok, enough on my Hastings rant... hmm, if they were to excise him from the show I think Stephen Mangan would be perfect... no really, I'm done with this now. Here's what I love about the Hastings/Poirot dynamic. Poirot is always chiding Hastings for his melodramatic and overly romantic notions, saying at times Hastings' ideas would make wonderful movies, but this is real life. Yet, deep down, Poirot is a romantic. Hastings and Poirot are really kindred spirits, with vastly different IQs. Poirot more then once plays the matchmaker and gets a little gleam in his eye. But then again, those who believe in the fine art of deduction have to be romantics in some way. To choose the path of deduction verses cold hard evidence... ah, a beating heart must be there with the little grey cells.

But what really drove the plot for me was the antagonism between Poirot and Monsieur Giraud of the Paris Sûreté. Poirot had earlier been deriding Hastings on these "new" police methods of cigarette butts and tiny bits of dirt and stray hairs, and of course, the fingerprints! Poirot believed, and rightfully as is always the case with Poirot, that these new detection methods that have the police scrambling around in the dirt for hours for a stray hair have turned the noble art of detection into being nothing more then a foxhound. Also, the evidence can easily be planted or faked. Poirot insists that a true detective needs nothing more then their little grey cells! As you would expect, Poirot is vindicated in his opinions. What's interesting is that I think this struggle between Poirot and Giraud shows why people love the Golden Age of Detection. It's about motive and profiling and thought processes. Solving crime was romantic. It wasn't about watching some hot lab tech run a DNA test like on any of the various CSI shows. You needed little grey cells, not computer equipment. While it could said the Girauds of the world have won, it's the Poirots of the world we love and venerate. Though if someone did a David Caruso CSI: Miami meme with David Suchet in character as Poirot, I think I might be the happiest person in the world.


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