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Customer Review

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Book for Learning How to Exercise "the Little Grey Cells" as a Mystery Reader, 27 Oct. 2008
This review is from: The Murder on the Links (Poirot) (Paperback)
If you don't like cerebral problems or dislike reading a period piece (written in the period), you won't like this book nearly as much as I do.

If you have enjoyed any Agatha Christie mystery, I highly recommend this one to you.

Agatha Christie has been a favorite of mystery readers since she began crafting her country-based, upper-crust stories. Murder on the Links is her second novel featuring that polite but elusive Belgian detective, M. Hercule Poirot. Ms. Christie became the first woman to make a dent as a major mystery writer, an important avatar for the many wonderful women mystery writers who entertain us so well today.

It's good to look backward a bit in considering this story. Sherlock Holmes was the reigning fictional detective of the day when the unimpressive Poirot was conceived. As you may remember, Holmes was a student of arcane subjects . . . which always seemed to allow him to take some seemingly unimportant scrap and turn that scrap into finding the killer. It was an early version of CSI.

Ms. Christie, by contrast, was much less impressed by that approach. Her detective instead thinks about human emotions and uses psychology to track down the killer or killers. To make the point clear, she often set up a foil in terms of a Holmes-like detective who obsessively pored over meaningless clues. A good part of the fun in Murder on the Links comes from her satire of the Sherlock Holmes style story.

Agatha Christie was a master at setting up little puzzles which the reader could solve, after leaping across an abyss of false assumptions and red herrings to reach the only conclusion that is possible. Her skill in that regard is very evident in Murder on the Links where the ostensible situation reveals so many puzzling qualities that the reader can only conclude that something is off.

The inimitable foil for Hercule Poirot is Captain Hastings, and you will find Hastings more charming here than in most of the stories in the series. As the book opens, Hastings is returning to England from France when he meets a most annoying and seemingly unsuitable young woman who nevertheless piques his interest. She's worried about her sister who doesn't seem to be on the train. Only later does Hastings realize that he doesn't know the young woman's name and where she lives.

Arriving in the rooms that Hastings shares with M. Poirot, they are soon discomfited by a desperate request from a wealthy man in France, M. Renauld, to save him from a threat. Taking the next available train, they are surprised to learn that the promised chauffeur is nowhere to be found. Hiring a car, Hastings is dazzled upon arrival by seeing a gorgeous young woman, Marthe Daubreuil, whom Poirot insists is not for Hastings to marry. Seeing that Hastings has been taken by the attractions of two young women so recently, Poirot offers to find Hastings a suitable wife. Hastings' vulnerability to the fairer sex provides for much good humor and some complications in the story.

All that amiability is soon dispelled as Poirot and Hastings discover that Renauld has been murdered and buried in a sand trap on the nearby golf course. Poirot is quickly alerted that the story of the death seems familiar . . . as does the appearance of a neighbor.

There are many hidden currents which are revealed in piecemeal fashion. You'll do well to keep notes on what has been observed and by whom.

The mystery is actually not hard to unravel, but you'll have to await more clues before getting beyond the initial appearances. Keep motive, opportunity, and method in mind.

The beauty of the story is found in the way that Agatha Christie muddles up your clear thinking by having Hastings try to solve the matter. It's as though a magpie were shrieking in your ear. See if you can concentrate. It's good discipline for becoming more able to solve mysteries before the author reveals the solution.
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Donald Mitchell
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