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."
Captain Hastings has breakfast in the flat that he shares with Poirot in London. Poirot receives an extraordinary letter: "For God's sake, come!" writes Monsieur Paul Renauld. Directly, Poirot and Hastings go to Renauld's home, the Villa Genevieve in Merlinville-sur-Mer on the north coast of France. Near the villa, they are watched by a beautiful girl with "anxious eyes". At the gates, the police tell them that Renauld has been murdered this morning.
The couple were attacked in their rooms at 2:00 am by two men. Madame Renauld was tied up and her husband taken away. Entry to the house was through the open front door. Renauld's body was found, stabbed in the back, in a newly-dug open grave on the edge of an adjacent golf course, undergoing construction. Renauld had sent his son Jack away on business to South America; given the chauffeur a holiday; his secretary, Gabriel Stoner, remains in England, leaving three female servants in the house.
One servant reports that neighbour Madame Daubreuil visited M. Renauld after Madame Renauld had retired for the night. She is the mother of Marthe, the girl with the "anxious eyes". Another servant says it was an unknown woman who came the day before, whom Renauld urged to "leave now". There is a smashed watch at the scene, a long piece of lead pipe, a love letter signed by "Bella", the fragment of a check with the name "Duveen", and the murder weapon, a letter opener used as a dagger. One upper storey window could be accessed by a tree; Poirot considers the matter of footprints in the flower beds near the tree the most important of the clues. After telling her story, the widow inspects the body to identify it. She collapses with grief at the sight of her dead husband.
Poirot investigates in Renauld's name, while the French magistrate and police do their work. Monsieur Giraud of the Sûreté is overtly hostile to Poirot. The Examining Magistrate, Monsieur Hautet, is not, and shares key information. Renauld changed his will two weeks before, leaving almost everything to his wife and nothing to his son. Mme Daubreuil has paid two hundred thousand francs into her bank account in recent weeks. She rejects the suggestion they were lovers. Marthe pursues Poirot to learn if anyone is named as a suspect. Poirot recognizes the mother's face from news photos of an old case. Unexpectedly, Hastings encounters the young lady "Cinderella" at the golf course, a woman he met once on a train to Calais. She asks to be shown the exciting crime scenes, then disappears as unexpectedly as she had arrived, taking the murder weapon with her.
Stoner returns, suggesting blackmail is more likely than an affair, as Renauld's past before his career in South America is a mystery. Jack Renauld returns home, his ship having been delayed. Jack admits to arguing with his father over who he wants to marry, but shows he is unaware of the change in the will. Marthe is the girl in question, considered unsuitable to both his parents.
Poirot conducts research in Paris. While he is away, another body is found with the dagger in his heart. No one recognises the well–dressed man who, by his hands, could be a tramp. The man died before Renauld's murder. Back from Paris, Poirot examines the new corpse with the doctor. The man died of an epileptic fit, and was stabbed after death. Renauld's murder is similar to a famous case 22 years earlier. Young Mme Beroldy was on trial for the death of her husband. Two masked men who broke into their house at night to murder him. Mme Beroldy's young lover, Georges Conneau, wrote a letter to the police admitting to the crime; there were no masked men and he stabbed the husband, and fled. He confessed because he learned that Mme Beroldy planned to marry yet another man once widowed. Her tearful performance in the witness box convinced the jury of her innocence. She and her young daughter left Paris. Giraud concludes that Jack Renauld murdered his father and arrests him. Poirot sees two flaws in Giraud's theory: there was no advantage to Jack in murdering his father unless his father's body was discovered promptly; and the presence of the piece of lead pipe near the corpse remains unexplained.
Poirot deduces that Paul Renauld was Georges Conneau. He fled France to Canada, gaining a wife and a son, then making his fortune in South America. When the family settle in France, by great misfortune their immediate neighbour is the former Mme Beroldy, who blackmails him. Worse, his son falls in love with her daughter. When a tramp dies on his grounds, Renauld repeats the ruse of years earlier, but with one change. He will fake his own death to escape his blackmailer. He sends away those who could recognise him, then stages his kidnapping. The tramp's body, disfigured by the lead pipe, will be buried, and Renauld will leave on the last train. The plan was foiled when Renauld was stabbed by someone else after he finished digging the grave but before he could fetch the tramp's body. Thus his wife, when shown the first dead body, was truly shocked to discover it was her husband's after all.
Poirot learns that Jack has fallen out of love with Marthe and in love with English stage performer Bella Duveen. Jack is released from prison when Bella Duveen confesses to the murder, falsely. Jack tells Poirot how the two arrived by chance simultaneously at the site of his father's death. Poirot realises that leaves only one person with a motive: Marthe Daubreuil. She overheard the Renaulds discussing the ruse, and she stabbed Renauld on the golf course after he had dug the grave. Poirot asks Mme Renauld to openly disinherit Jack so he will leave his mother alone in the house to give Marthe a chance to show her motives. Marthe dies trying to kill Mme Renauld, who 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 living in London
- Captain Arthur Hastings, shares flat with Poirot, assists him
At the Villa Geneviève in France
- Paul Renauld – formerly Georges Conneau
- Eloise Renauld – his wife
- Jack Renauld – their son
- Françoise Arrichet – elderly servant in M. Renauld's house
- Léonie Oulard – a young maid in M. Renauld's house
- Denise Oulard – her sister and also a maid in M. Renauld's house
- Auguste – gardener at M. Renauld's house
- Gabriel Stonor – M. Renauld's secretary
At the Villa Marguerite
- Madame Daubreuil – neighbour of Paul Renauld, formerly Madame Jeanne Beroldy
- Marthe Daubreuil – her daughter
Merlinville and Parisian Police
- Lucien Bex – Commissary of Police
- Monsieur Hautet – Examining Magistrate
- Dr Durand – the local doctor in Merlinville
- Monsieur Giraud – Detective of the Paris Sûreté, at odds with Poirot
- M. Marchaud – Sergent de Ville
- Magistrate at Merlinville
- Joseph Aarons – British theatrical agent
- Bella Duveen – fianceé of Jack Renauld and stage performer
- Dulcie Duveen – sister of Bella and part of her sister's stage act; known to Hastings as "Cinderella"
- 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".
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. John Moffatt starred as Poirot. The play's recording took place on 21 June 1989 at Broadcasting House.
Adaptor: Michael Bakewell
Producer/Director: 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 book was adapted for television by Carnival Films as a ninety-four-minute drama and transmitted on ITV in the UK on Sunday, 11 February 1996 as a special episode in their series Agatha Christie's Poirot.
The adaptation has several notable changes from the novel:
- In the novel, Poirot is invited by Paul Renauld to France, from London, and arrives after his murder. In the adaptation, Poirot is on holiday with Hastings in Deauville, staying at a hotel owned by Paul, alongside a golf course. When Paul sees Poirot the evening before his murder, he meets with him and asks for his assistance - Poirot learns of his death the same as in the novel.
- Paul Renauld's murder takes place just 10 years after the Beroldy murder (rather than 20 as in the novel). As a result, the character of Jack Renauld is changed to a stepson, with a strong motive to kill his stepfather. The murder occurs in England, not France, and Renauld leaves for South America, not Canada. Martha's mother and Paul do not meet when he settles in Deauville, but while he conducts business at a bank, at which point she takes a house next to his own.
- The characters of Dulcie and Bella Duveen are merged. In this adaptation, Hastings does not first meet Bella on the train in England but meets her in France. The final scene shows them kissing by the beach, rather than heading off to South America. They still do head for South America.
- The tramp's body is examined in Deauville, and not Paris; Poirot does his research of the case both in Deauville and in London.
- Parts of the penultimate scene were changed slightly, in that Martha's mother does not disappear but is arrested by police, unaware her daughter has died, while Poirot explains the remaining mysteries of the case after Martha's death, and not by Jack telling him what happened beforehand.
The episode was filmed on location in Deauville, France. A poster seen in one scene and a calendar in another set the episode in the week of 18 May 1936, though it also includes a performance of the song J'attendrai that was not released until 1938.
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.
- 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 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. An Autobiography (pp. 282–283). Collins, 1977; ISBN 0-00-216012-9