The Murder on the Links
Dustjacket illustration of the first British edition.
|Publisher||The Bodley Head|
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback)|
|Pages||298 first edition hardcover|
|Preceded by||The Secret Adversary|
|Followed by||Poirot Investigates|
The Murder on the Links is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie, first published in the UK by The Bodley Head in May 1923, and in the US by Dodd, Mead & Co in the same year. It features Hercule Poirot and Arthur Hastings. The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6), and the US edition at $1.75.
The story takes place in northern France, giving Poirot a hostile competitor from the Paris Sûreté. Poirot's long memory for past or similar crimes proves useful in resolving the crimes. The book is notable for a subplot in which Hastings falls in love, a development "greatly desired on Agatha's part... parcelling off Hastings to wedded bliss in the Argentine."
Reviews when it was published compared Mrs Christie favourably to Arthur Conan Doyle in his Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Remarking on Poirot, still a new character, one reviewer said he was "a pleasant contrast to most of his lurid competitors; and one even suspects a touch of satire in him."
Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings travel to Merlinville-sur-Mer, France, to meet with Paul Renauld, who has requested their help. Upon arriving at his home, the Villa Genevieve, local police greet them with news that he had been found dead that morning. Renauld had been stabbed in the back with a letter opener and left in a newly dug grave adjacent to a local golf course. His wife, Eloise Renauld, claims masked men broke into the villa at 2 am, tied her up, and took her husband away with them. Upon inspecting his body, Eloise collapses with grief at seeing her dead husband. Monsieur Giraud of the Sûreté leads the police investigation, and resents Poirot's involvement; Monsieur Hautet, the Examining Magistrate, is more open to sharing key information with him.
Poirot notes four key facts about the case: a piece of lead piping is found near the body; only three female servants were in the villa as both Renauld's son Jack and his chauffeur had been sent away; an unknown person visited the day before, whom Renauld urged to leave immediately; Renauld's immediate neighbour, Madame Daubreuil, had placed 200,000 francs into her bank account over recent weeks. When Renauld's secretary, Gabriel Stonor, returns from England, he suggests blackmail, as his employer's past is a complete mystery prior to his career in South America. Meanwhile, Hastings unexpectedly encounters a young woman he met before, known to him as "Cinderella", who asks to see the crime scene, and then mysteriously disappears with the murder weapon. Poirot later travels to Paris to research the case's similarities to that of a murder case from 22 years ago, which has only one difference - the killer, Georges Conneau, later confessed to the crime, in which he and his lover, Madame Beroldy, had plotted to kill her husband and claim that the murder was carried out by masked intruders; both disappeared soon afterwards.
Returning from Paris, Poirot learns that the body of an unknown man has been found, stabbed through the heart with the murder weapon. An examination shows he has the hands of a tramp, that he died before Renauld's murder from an epileptic fit, and that he was stabbed after death. Giruad arrests Jack on the basis he wanted his father's money; Jack had admitted to police he had argued with his father over wishing to marry Mme Daubreuil's daughter Marthe, whom his parents found unsuitable. Poirot reveals a flaw in Giruad's theory, as Renauld changed his will two weeks before his murder, disinheriting Jack. Soon afterwards, Jack is released from prison after Bella Duveen, an English stage performer he loves, confesses to the murder. Both had come across the body on the night of the murder, and assumed the other had killed Renauld. Poirot reveals neither did, as the real killer was Marthe Daubreuil.
Poirot elaborates on his theory. Paul Renauld was really Georges Conneau; fleeing France, he changed his name in Canada to start a new life for himself. After gaining a wife and a son, and making a fortune in South America, he returned to France to settle down with his new family. By misfortune, he found that his immediate neighbour would be Mme Beroldy; like him, she changed her identity to become Mme Daubreuil. Blackmailed by her over his past, Renauld's situation worsens when Jack becomes attracted to her daughter. When a tramp died on his grounds, he saw an opportunity to escape Mme Daubreuil. He will use the same ruse from before, but with one difference: this time, he would use it to fake his own death. His plan was simple - staging his own kidnapping at night, he would disfigure the tramp's body with the pipe, and then bury both beside the golf course, before fleeing the area by train. Anyone who would recognise the body was not his would be sent away, so as to assure that Eloise will falsely identify the body as his. Poirot suspected her involvement in the scheme, as her reaction to her husband's death was not genuine until she saw his body.
However, the plan was discovered by Marthe, who overheard the Renaulds discussing it together - as she stood to gain financially if she married Jack, the success of this scheme would ruin this. Thus she decided to follow Renauld and stabbed him after he dug the grave for the tramp's body, before he had retrieved it. To expose Marthe as the killer, Poirot asks Eloise to openly disinherit Jack. That night, Marthe attempts to kill Eloise when Jack leaves her alone in the villa, but dies trying when Eloise is saved by Cinderella. Marthe's mother disappears again. Jack and his mother plan to go to South America, joined by Hastings and Dulcie Duveen — who is his Cinderella and Bella's twin sister.
- Hercule Poirot - The Belgian detective called in by the man who would be murdered.
- Captain Arthur Hastings - Poirot's assistant on the case, accompanying him at his request. shares flat with Poirot, assists him.
- Monsieur Giraud - Detective of the Paris Sûreté and the investigating officer. Considers Poirot to be his rival and resents his involvement in the investigation.
- Monsieur Hautet - Examining Magistrate, and Giruad's assistant. More respectful of Poirot's reputation, and thus more helpful to the Belgian detective.
- Paul Renauld/Georges Conneau - The victim of the case. Involved in the Beroldy murder 22 years ago, before escaping to start a new life under a new identity.
- Eloise Renauld - Renauld's wife.
- Jack Renauld - Renauld's son. In love with Bella Duveen after meeting with her; he had previously been in love with Marthe.
- Madame Daubreuil/Madame Jeanne Beroldy - Renauld's neighbour and blackmailer. Involved in plotting the murder of her husband 22 years ago, but escaped justice when exposed.
- Marthe Daubreuil - Madame Daubreuil's daughter. In love with Jack and seeks to marry him, despite his parents' dislike of her.
- Gabriel Stonor - Renauld's secretary. Is away at the time of the murder, but has no knowledge about his employer's past.
- Bella Duveen - A stage performer, Jack's lover. fianceé of Jack Renauld and stage performer.
- Dulcie Duveen - A stage performer and Bella's sister, who works as part of her stage act. She and Hastings met before, but under her stage name of "Cinderella", and is his love interest in the novel.
- Lucien Bex - The Commissary of Police for Merlinville.
- Monsieur Marchaud - A police sergeant in Merlinville's police.
- Dr Durand - Local doctor in Merlinville, relied upon as the police surgeon.
- Françoise Arrichet - An elderly servant of the Renaulds' household. Was one of three servants who were present on the night Renauld staged his kidnapping.
- Léonie Oulard - A young maid of the Renaulds' household. Was one of three servants who were present on the night Renauld staged his kidnapping.
- Denise Oulard - A maid of the Renaulds' household, and Léonie's sister. Was one of three servants who were present on the night Renauld staged his kidnapping.
- Auguste - The Renaulds' gardener. Was not present the night Renauld staged his kidnapping.
- Joseph Aarons - A British theatrical agent.
- Maître Grosier - Jack Renauld's counsel.
Literary significance and reception
The Times Literary Supplement reviewed the novel in its issue of 7 June 1923. The review compared the methods of detection of Poirot to Sherlock Holmes and concluded favourably that the book "provides the reader with an enthralling mystery of an unusual kind".
The New York Times Book Review of 25 March 1923 began, "Here is a remarkably good detective story which can be warmly commended to those who like that kind of fiction." After detailing the set-up of the story the review continued, "The plot has peculiar complications and the reader will have to be very astute indeed if he guesses who the criminal is until the last complexity has been unravelled. The author is notably ingenious in the construction and unravelling of the mystery, which develops fresh interests and new entanglements at every turn. She deserves commendation also for the care with which the story is worked out and the good craftsmanship with which it is written. Although there is not much endeavour to portray character, except in the case of M. Poirot, several of the personages are depicted with swiftly made expressive and distinctive lines."
The unnamed reviewer in The Observer of 10 June 1923 said, "When Conan Doyle popularised Sherlock Holmes in the Strand of the 'nineties he lit such a candle as the publishers will not willingly let out. Not a week passes which does not bring a 'detective' story from one quarter or another, and several of the popular magazines rely mainly on that commodity. Among the later cultivators of this anything but lonely furrow the name of Agatha Christie is well in the front. If she has not the touch of artistry which made The Speckled Band and The Hound of the Baskervilles things of real horror, she has an unusual gift of mechanical complication." The reviewer went on to compare the novel with The Mysterious Affair at Styles which they called, "a remarkable piece of work" but warned that, "it is a mistake to carry the art of bewilderment to the point of making the brain reel." They did admit that, "No solution could be more surprising" and stated that the character of Poirot was, "a pleasant contrast to most of his lurid competitors; and one even suspects a touch of satire in him."
Robert Barnard: "Super-complicated early whodunit, set in the northerly fringes of France so beloved of the English bankrupt. Poirot pits his wits against a sneering sophisticate of a French policeman while Hastings lets his wander after an auburn-haired female acrobat. Entertaining for most of its length, but the solution is one of those 'once revealed, instantly forgotten' ones, where ingenuity has triumphed over common sense".
Some additional blurbs regarding the book, and used by The Bodley Head for advertising subsequent print runs, include:
- "One of the best mystery stories I have read." – S.P.B. Mais in The Daily Express.
- "A clinking yarn, most ingeniously contrived and skilfully evolved… there is not a superfluous word or a dull one from start to finish… the very best of this sort of fiction." – Winnifred Blatchford in The Clarion.
- "A thrilling and accomplished book." – Observer.
- "Mrs Christie has a surprising gift of keeping the reader's tension unslacked, of heaping excitement on excitement, and of always having a surprise up her sleeve." – Daily Mail.
- "Unhesitatingly we recommend 'The Murder on the Links' to every lover of such tales, and every non-lover likewise we advise to read it and thereupon reconsider their previous opinion." – Queen.
- "A godsend to hardened readers of fiction." – Illustrated London News.
- "A very convincing and most readable book." – Challenge.
- "A really good detective story." – Tatler.
- "A capital story, cleverly designed, briskly told." – Bookman.
- "None can say that Mrs Christie is lacking either in imagination or the ability to tell a good story." – Daily Graphic.
- "A rattling, ingenious mystery yarn." – London Opinion.
In a modern work of literary criticism, Christie biographer Laura Thompson writes:
Murder on the Links was as different from its predecessor as that had been from Styles. It is very French; not just in setting but in tone, which reeks of Gaston Leroux and, at times, Racine… Agatha admitted that she had written it in a "high-flown, fanciful" manner. She had also based the book too closely upon a real-life French murder case, which gives the story a kind of non-artistic complexity.
But Poirot is magnificently himself. What originality there is in Murder on the Links comes straight from his thought processes. For example he deduces the modus operandi of the crime because it is a repeat, essentially, of an earlier murder; this proves his favourite theory that human nature does not change, even when the human in question is a killer: "The English murderer who disposed of his wives in succession by drowning them in their baths was a case in point. Had he varied his methods, he might have escaped detection to this day. But he obeyed the common dictates of human nature, arguing that what had once succeeded would succeed again, and he paid the penalty of his lack of originality."
She notes as well that the book, the second novel featuring Poirot, is notable for a subplot in which Hastings falls in love, a development "greatly desired on Agatha's part... parcelling off Hastings to wedded bliss in the Argentine."
References in other works
The character of the theatrical agent Joseph Aarons also features in the 1928 short story Double Sin which was published in book form in the US in Double Sin and Other Stories in 1961 and in the UK in Poirot's Early Cases in 1974.
Some plot twists are inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange".
- 1923, John Lane (The Bodley Head), May 1923, hardcover, 326 pp
- 1923, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1923, hardcover, 298 pp
- 1928, John Lane (The Bodley Head), March 1928, hardcover (cheap ed. – 2 s.)
- 1931, John Lane (The Bodley Head, February 1931 (as part of the An Agatha Christie Omnibus along with The Mysterious Affair at Styles and Poirot Investigates, hardcover (priced at 7 s. 6 p., a cheaper edition at 5 s. was published in October 1932).
- 1932, John Lane (The Bodley Head), March 1932, paperback (6 p.)
- 1936, Penguin Books, March 1936, paperback (6 p.) 254 pp
- 1949, Dell Books, 1949, Dell number 454, paperback, 224 pp
- 1954, Corgi Books, 1954, paperback, 222 pp
- 1960, Pan Books, 1960, Paperback (Great Pan G323), 224 pp
- 1977, Ulverscroft large-print, 1977, hardcover, 349 pp; ISBN 0-85456-516-7
- 1978, Panther Books, 1978, paperback, 224 pp
- 1988, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), paperback, 208 pp; ISBN 0-00-617477-9
- 2007, Facsimile of 1923 UK first edition (Harper Collins), 5 November 2007, hardcover, 326 pp; ISBN 0-00-726516-6
The novel received its first true publication as a four-part serialisation in the Grand Magazine from December 1922 to March 1923 (Issues 214–217) under the title of The Girl with the Anxious Eyes before it was issued in book form by The Bodley Head in May 1923. This was Christie's first published work for the Grand Magazine which went on to publish many of her short stories throughout the 1920s.
Christie's Autobiography recounts how she objected to the illustration of the dustjacket of the UK first edition stating that it was both badly drawn and unrepresentative of the plot. It was the first of many such objections she raised with her publishers over the dustjacket. It would appear that Christie won her argument over the dustjacket as the one she describes and objected to ("a man in his pyjamas, dying of an epileptic fit on a golf course") does not resemble the actual jacket which shows Monsieur Renauld digging the open grave on the golf course at night.
Christie dedicated her third book as follows:
"To My Husband. A fellow enthusiast for detective stories and to whom I am indebted for much helpful advice and criticism".
Christie refers here to her first husband, Archibald Christie (1890–1962) from whom she was divorced in 1928.
The dustjacket front flap of the first edition carried no specially written blurb. Instead it carried quotes of reviews for The Mysterious Affair at Styles whilst the back jacket flap carried similar quotes for The Secret Adversary.
The Murder on the Links was presented as a one-hour, thirty-minute radio play in the Saturday Night Theatre strand on BBC Radio 4 on 15 September 1990, the centenary of Christie's birth. It was repeated on 8 July 1991 and again in 2015. John Moffatt starred as Poirot. The play's recording took place on 21 June 1989 at Broadcasting House. It was adapted by Michael Bakewell and produced and directed by Enyd Williams.
- John Moffatt as Hercule Poirot
- Jeremy Clyde as Captain Hastings
- Madeline Smith as Dulcee Duveen
- Vincent Brimble as Inspector Giraud
- Geoffrey Whitehead as Inspector Bex
- Joan Matheson as Madame Renauld
- Stephen Tompkinson as Jack Renauld
- David King as Judge Hautet
- Petra Davies as Madame Daubreuil
- Francesca Buller as Marthe Daubreuil
- Barbara Atkinson as Françoise
- Joanna Mackie as Léoine
- Danny Schiller as Hotel Receptionist
- Ken Cumberlidge as Sergeant of Police
- Brian Miller as the Doctor
The novel was adapted as an episode for the series Agatha Christie's Poirot on 11 February 1996. Produced by Carnival Films, and filmed on location in Deauville, France, the adaptation was generally faithful to most of the novel's plot, yet featured a number of changes:
- The setting of the case is changed to Deauville.
- The Beroldy murder takes place tens years ago, in London, England - Madame Beroldy confesses to the crime when police discover she is lying. Paul Renauld flees after this to Chile, South America, and meets with his wife Eloise; Jack is her son from a previous marriage and become Paul's stepson after he marries her. Renauld's previous name is George Connor.
- Renauld requests Poirot's help the evening after he arrives at the resort hotel he founded upon returning to France - both Poirot and Hastings are there on holiday.
- Renauld's body is found after police are called to investigate his disappearance by foreign agents. The discovery is made by Hastings while golfing with others.
- Giruad makes a small bet against Poirot, after the investigation begins, in which he wagers his pipe against Poirot's moustache that he solves it before he does. Giruad loses the wager, but shows better respect for Poirot after he allows him to keep his pipe, on the understanding that "each time you light it, you will think of Hercule Poirot".
- The tramp's body is examined in Deauville when Poirot returns.
- The characters of Dulcie and Bella Duveen are merged to form a new character, Isabel "Bella" Duveen. She is a singer, who becomes Hastings' love interest during the investigation, after he sees her perform on the first evening in Deauville. She is Jack's former lover; when he is being questioned in court on his plea on the charge of murdering his father, Isabel interrupts it to confess to the crime.
- Poirot and Hastings are the only ones to watch the Renaulds' villa, after setting a trap to catch Marthe Daubreuil. Her attempted murder of Eloise is thwarted by Paul's secretary, who shoots her dead. Mme Daubreuil is arrested by police shortly after this.
- Poirot denouement of the crime is split into two parts before and after the attempted murder of Eloise - the first part outlays Renauld's actions before his murder; the second covers the truth of who killed him, and why Isabel and Paul were willing to confess to the crime rather than let the other do so.
Adaptor: Anthony Horowitz
Director: Andrew Grieve
- David Suchet as Hercule Poirot
- Hugh Fraser as Arthur Hastings
- Bill Moody as Giraud
- Damien Thomas as Paul Renauld
- Sophie Linfield as Marthe Daubreuil
- Katherine Fahey as Bernadette Daubreuil
- Jacinta Mulcahy as Bella Duveen
- Bernard Latham as Lucien Bex
- Ben Pullen as Jack Renauld
- Diane Fletcher as Eloise Renauld
- Terence Beesley as Stonor
- Andrew Melville as Dr Hautet
- Henrietta Voigts as Leonie
- James Vaughan as Adam Letts
- Ray Gatenby as a Station Master
- Randal Herley as the Judge
- Belinda Stewart-Wilson as a Dubbing Secretary
- Laurence Richardson as a golfer
The Murder on the Links was released by HarperCollins as a graphic novel adaptation on 16 July 2007, adapted by François Rivière and illustrated by Marc Piskic (ISBN 0-00-725057-6). This was translated from the edition first published in France by Emmanuel Proust éditions in 2003 under the title of Le Crime du Golf.
- The English Catalogue of Books. XI. Millwood, New York: Kraus Reprint. 1979 [A-L: January 1921 – December 1925]. p. 310.
- Cooper, John; Pyke, BA (1994). Detective Fiction – the collector's guide (2nd ed.). Scholar Press. pp. 82, 86. ISBN 0-85967-991-8.
- Marcum, JS (May 2007), American Tribute to Agatha Christie: The Classic Years 1920s, Insight BB, retrieved 27 January 2016
- Thompson, Laura (2008), Agatha Christie: An English Mystery, London: Headline Review, ISBN 978-0-7553-1488-1.
- The Times Literary Supplement, 7 June 1923 (p. 389)
- The New York Times Book Review, 25 March 1923 (p. 14)
- The Observer, 10 June 1923 (p. 5)
- Barnard, Robert (1990), A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie (rev ed.), Fontana Books, p. 199, ISBN 0-00-637474-3.
- Christie, Agatha. Poirot Investigates. John Lane co., The Bodley Head. 1924. Advertising supplements following p. 298 of collection.
- Ashley, Mike (2006), The Age of the Storytellers, The British Library and Oak Knoll Press, p. 84, ISBN 0-7123-0698-6.
- Christie, Agatha (1977). An Autobiography. Collins. pp. 282–283. ISBN 0-00-216012-9.
- "Poirot: Murder on the Links". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 February 2015.