Sunday, May 16, 2021

The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie

I don't think I've said this enough: crime stories are the toughest books to write a review of. Why, you can't reveal too much of the story, lest you throw a spoiler. And when you want to analyze the case, you must do it cautiously, or with elusive sentences to avoid revealing just a tiny fact that will lead your readers to spot a spoiler! Hence, the biggest irony of my reading life - Agatha Christie is the writer whose works I read the most, but her books are the ones I'm most reluctant to write the reviews. Everytime I read Christie's, I'm always: "Do I really need to write a review? Can't I just read on?" But you know me... in the end I'll just do it. Just like this one: The A.B.C. Murders. Since I found it almost impossible to say anything about this book without revealing clues to the murderer, I must warn you to stop reading right here right now, if you can't stand any spoiler.

Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings, and Chief Inspector with-dry-humour Japp are reunited to solve a new case. It all begins when Poirot received an anonymous letter signed by A.B.C., challenging him to prevent a murder which he/she is about to commit in Andover at certain date. The murder did take place in the exact time and place. The victim was an old woman who keeps a tobacco shop. Near her body was found an opened ABC Rail Guide. This would be the first of a serial murder which will take place in random cities which names are in alphabetical order, and so are the victims'.

Unlike the usual Poirot-Hastings duets, which are always narrated by Hastings, this one came with first and third POV alternately (the first being Hastings, of course). And this is where it gets very interesting. Everytime the pen was picked by the invisible narrator, it's always to tell about a nervous war veteran who became a travelling salesman. The man is epileptic, and often had a memory blackout. He's the kind of man whom people never care for - a nobody - but had been named after two of the greatest generals: Alexander Bonaparte Cust - ABC!

At first I thought this is where Christie took a variation from her usual most-unpredicted-murderer, or the most-predicted-but-with-double-plot-twist ~ you know what I mean?... I thought she'd let us acquainted with the murderer from the first, you know... to learn how it is working with a murderer psychology? Then she'd probably bring us to connect him with the real scenes. However, through the story I had a sense of going alternately between two realms, the real one (narrated by Hastings), and another so far away from the real scenes. This ABC guy, whoever he is, though he seems to do the crimes, doesn't seem fit with the personalities of the murderer. I didn't buy it, "Christie must have prepared a surprise here", thought I. And then near the end, I even had even a suspect, who at the end is proved to be the real murder.

So to me, while The A.B.C. Murders is an interesting piece in psychology, it isn't a masterpiece in terms of crime story. I liked the story of ABC as the war veteran and all, and I loved the two narrations thing, but when you can guess the real murderer when you're quite far from the end... well, it's not that great!

Final rating: 3,5 / 5

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