Monday, August 8, 2011

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

49. The ABC Murders - an Hercule Poirot mystery
by Agatha Christie
mystery, 1936
Kindle book - 28
finished, 7/11/11

This book has a very modern feel to it. There appears to be a serial killer on the loose who is killing random people in random places based solely on the alphabet, in alphabetical order. And the killer sends a letter to Hercule Poirot before each murder occurs. This is extremely troubling to the great detective. He is told the name of the town and the date a crime will take place. The very first of these letters says:
Mr. Hercule Poirot, - You fancy yourself, don't you, at solving mysteries that are too difficult for our poor thick-headed British police? Let us see, Mr. Clever Poirot, just how clever you can be. Perhaps you'll find this nut too hard to crack. Look out for Andover, on the 21st of the month.
Yours, etc.,
Poirot fears the worst - murder, and he is right. An old ('close on sixty!') woman named Alice Ascher is found dead in her tobacco and newspaper shop. Nothing was taken. Could it have been her abusive husband, from whom she was separated? Poirot wonders aloud:
'And was there nothing - how shall I put it - introduced into the shop? Nothing that was odd there - incongruous?'
And it turns out that yes, there was something, an ABC railway guide. Poirot is certain it was left on purpose because there are no fingerprints.
An innocent man would have left prints - a guilty man would not.
The crime remains unsolved, and then a month later a second letter arrives:
Dear Mr. Poirot, - Well, what about it? First game to me, I think. The Andover business went with a swing, didn't it?
But the fun's only beginning. Let me draw your attention to Bexhill-on-Sea. Date, the 25th inst.
What a merry time we are having!
Yours etc.,
In the early hours of that day, a young woman named Betty Barnard is found dead on the beach.

As you may imagine, this whole thing is awful for Poirot to be taunted in this manner, his whole being put into question, and awful for Hastings watching his old friend fail in apprehending the 'homicidal maniac.' Again, this gives the book a modern feel - a psychological battle between killer and sleuth.

The victims do not seem to have any connection to one another, other than the fact that
'An ABC open at the trains to Bexhill was found actually under the body.'
My trusty Agatha Christie, A Reader's Companion offers a photograph of a 1936 summer Railroad Guide.

The ABC Murders is one of the best Agatha Christie books I've read. I was riveted by the mystery, and could not imagine how Hercule Poirot would ever be able to find this killer. I highly recommend it.

A little note: as I was writing this book report, I had my Kindle beside me at the computer so I could quote some passages. When it turned off, there was Agatha's lovely face. I hope she knows how very, very much she is appreciated after all this time, and that her book from 1936 is still intriguing and interesting 75 years later.


  1. What a wonderful guide you have!
    The ABC Murders is one of the very few murders that I think I can actually remember the who/why of the ending.

  2. You're making me smile, Nan. I'm remembering writing book reports--from the hardcover to the typewriter-- long ago, then picturing you writing this one, Kindle beside computer.

  3. This sounds like another great piece of work by Agatha! I've only read a couple novels and many short stories, but enjoyed them all.

    P.S. I do not like the pics on the Kindle, but that's cool that she came up at that specific time.

  4. Oh, I love Hercule Poirot so much and I love Agatha Christie for creating him! David Suchet does such a wonderful portrayal of him on the PBS productions. I hope you are able to see them. Also, Bexhill-On-Sea is a beautiful seaside town in England that I don't think has changed too terribly much over the years.

  5. A terrific review. I love this book, Nan. In fact, it is one of my very favorite Hercule Poirot stories. I reread it all the time and I never seem to get tired of it. What an ingenious premise. Agatha was the Queen of Crime, for sure.

    I too hope she knows how much her work is loved these many years later.

  6. Nan, I remember reading this book when I was alot younger. Agatha Christie is one of my favorite authors!

  7. I need to revisit Agatha. I fondly remember reading every book possible when I was in junior high or high school - far too many years ago. Time to head to the library. Thanks for this post. Love your blog.


  8. Although I never really warmed to Poirot as a character, your review makes the book sound like something I'd actually enjoy.

  9. I will never forget the first Agatha Christie I read - The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - when I was in the hospital after the birth of my third child. Christie was my entree into the whole delicious world of mysteries - especially British.

  10. That book is so very special, raider girl.

    Clair, oh, how I hatedhatedhated the typewriter. I have none of the current nostalgia for it. All I remember is getting to the end of a page, making a mistake, and having to start all over again. That is a great comparison you made!

    Thoughts of Joy, I have actually thought of doing a little blog entry on those pictures. There are some I really love and others that creep me out! :<)

    Kay, I have seen quite a few Poirots and DS is definitely perfect. I should have looked up BoS for the book report!

    Yvette, I have yet to reread an AC. I still have too many to read for the first time!

    Sherri, I wish I had begun reading her years ago.

    Thank you, Joanne. I didn't begin reading AC until a few years ago. Great, great books.

    Librarian, from what I've read, Agatha wasn't all that fond of him either. I love the character, with his ego, his despondency when he fails, his bit of OCD, and his 'little grey cells.'

    I loved reading this, Pat! What a great memory.

  11. Oh, I will have to find a copy of this one. I love the Poirot character (an agree with Kay Guest that Suchet plays him so well. This seems to be the perfect Christie intrigue.

  12. Nan, you have "kindled" an interest in me in Agatha Christie's books. I haven't read many, but I ordered the ABC Murders, Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None," and "The Moving Finger, all for my Kindle. I'm looking forward to reading them! I must say I also like the looks of your Agatha Christie companion. I'm going to have to see if I can pick up one of those on Amazon.

  13. Don't fall off your chair, but do you know that I've never read a book by Christie?

  14. Penny, it really is an interesting one.

    Jill, that's so, so great! I've written about the last two so you can come back after you've read them to see if we felt the same way about them. The Companion book is one of the best with pictures and information about the time and setting of each book.

    Les, I hadn't read her when I was your age either. :<)

  15. Nan,
    I have visited Bexhill-On-Sea since it is near Eastbourne where my in-laws live. To me, there is a very unique atmosphere to every seaside town in England, but every one that I have seen always have that beautiful seafront with promenades or areas for walking, many with piers built in the Victorian times. And the flowers! Oh Nan, I actually have a post-card showing the seafront at Eastbourne from about 1900 and then the same scene depicted in modern times and the flower gardens are laid out in exactly the same manner! Only the length of the skirts are different.

  16. Ahhh, Agatha, she is such an all time comfort to read.

    Thanks for this.

    All joys,

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  17. Well, I have been looking for something to read and you have solved that problem. Thanks.

  18. Kay, it sounds so perfect!

    Sharon and Layanee, this is a great one by Agatha.


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