The third published detective novel of Dame Agatha Christie brings us to Northern France, to a village called Merlinville-sur-Mer. Hercule Poirot has been enjoying a successful career of a private detective since his triumph in Styles case. He is now sharing a room in London with his companion-sidekick: Captain Arthur Hastings, who would take again his role as narrator for this story.
It all begins when Hastings met a French girl on the train to London. She's anything but a lady: bold, independent, temperamental; type of girl the old-fashioned Hastings dislikes. But he was somehow smitten by this girl, who gave her name as "Cinderella" before she left Hastings at the end of the journey. The next morning Poirot received a letter from a French millionaire Paul Renauld, urging Poirot to come to his residence Villa Genevieve, because he feels his life is in danger. Intrigued, Poirot and Hastings departed in no time, only to find out on their arrival, that Renauld has been murdered the night before.
Now, this story is the exact opposite of The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1). Styles is a very simple case; so simple that it looks—but in the eyes of Hercule Poirot—like a household accident. But The Murder on the Links is full of extravagant clues and evidences. First of all, the body was found in a newly dug grave on a golf course (hence the 'Links' on the title) behind Villa Genevieve. M. Renauld was stabbed in the back with a tailor-made letter opener knife, souvenir of war from Jack Renauld, his son. Madame Renauld was bound and gagged by two masked foreign men, who forced Paul to hand them a "secret". The day before, Jack Renauld and Paul's chauffer was sent away from the vicinity. Their neighbor, a mysterious lady who lives with her beautiful daughter, Madame Daubreuil, was known to have deposited a large amount of money into her bank account for the last months. There was also some mention about Santiago-South America, where Paul Renauld had had some business. Then a second corpse was found inside a shed, with an identical letter opener stabbed into his chest! The last piece of the riddle is a love letter inside Paul Renauld's coat pocket, which was signed by Bella Duveen, the search of whom led our detectives to a couple of acrobatic actresses: The Dulcibella Sisters, one of whom was none other than Hastings' love interest: Cinderella!
Can you imagine a fast paced investigation, with a handful of plot twist and deceit, and a romantic love story (in Hastings' part)? You guess correctly. Add a snob Sûreté detective, who mocked and insulted Poirot's style, and then on became Poirot’s nemesis into the scene, and you'll find a hugely entertaining novel!
Of Poirot-Hastings cases, I have always a soft spot for this one. I loved Poirot's fatherly feelings for Hastings, their relationship changed from mere detective-sidekick to a more affectionate term. I loved their bantering over Hastings' romantic-sentimental view on the case investigations (especially when involving young beautiful women, LOL!). But I loved specially how Hastings represents common people, aka the readers; who are often deceived by sentimentality and action in crime cases, and rarely using—as Poirot often stressed it—‘our little gray cells'; who, when falling in love, would recklessly commit foolish things, or even attack our master if we thought he would put danger to our beloved. Hercule Poirot is always a kind demi-god, almost supernatural human, but Hastings is... well... just one of us!
Last thing… Of the three books I have read so far, I perceived something which I have missed on my first reading, which is the shifting women role in the world after World War I. I first noticed this from Hastings' surprise that a decent girl (Cinderella) could have had interests in a gory murder scene; that, and Cinderella's raw language, and her boldness. Then I also remembered Tuppence in The Secret Adversary. There also seems to be a pattern here (Secret Adversary and Murder on the Links); old fashioned men attracted to modern women. Moreover the center figures of the three books are always women: Mrs. Ingelthorp and Evelyn Howard in Styles, Jane Finn and Tuppence in Secret Adversary, and most distinguished is Murder on the Links which are full of strong and brave women: Mrs. Renauld, Bella, Madame Dabreuil, and Marthe Dabreuil, even Cinderella; and Christie really made a significant contrast here between the men and the women.
Considering all this, 5 / 5 is a fair credit.