In keeping with last week’s review of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles I this week reviewed another detective novel. One murder with a seemingly obvious criminal, yet deeper examination shows discrepancies. Christie stated in her autobiography that she had had second thoughts about Poirot’s involvement. I enjoyed the book a great deal, and disagree with Christie’s view (though Poirot is absent from most of the story)-there are several suspects, motives for everyone, everyone seems to be trying to throw off the police-just how I like a detective fiction.
Though two pillars of the genre, Holmes and Poirot can be different-in The Hound of the Baskervilles there is a thrilling subcurrent, in The Hollow there is much less drama, but the social tensions of a houseful of people who really don’t like each other very much. Though there are some stories which are similar, these are not except for the loosest aspects.
The plot consists of a basic set up-Dr John Christow is murdered, all the visitors to the fine country house ‘The Hollow’ rush to the scene and find his wife, Gerda, holding a revolver. It isn’t, however, an open and shut case, especially when one peculiar piece of evidence comes to light. Everyone has a secret to hide, and all have reasons to hate the other visitors. Rest assured, not an easy case, but Poirot, in his nearby home, is on hand to deal with the case.
What surprised me most about this novel (excepting the magnificent plot twists) was the slow opening. The murder happens at the end of the tenth chapter. One hundred and thirty-six pages were devoted to scene setting, which, when clinically examined, appears a long time. Some may say Christie was resting on her laurels. For me, however, the pages flowed by, and I felt an intimate knowledge of each of the characters.
The skill with which plot twists were thrown at the reader was brilliant, every character was hiding something seemingly important, and the final twist was both simple and astonishingly complex in its revelation.
One of the things (though not Christie’s fault) that spoilt the novel somewhat were a couple of typos, the one I noticed most being “pleasantly”. It wasn’t much, but it did give me a small feeling of annoyance that the editors failed to find basic typos-the aforementioned one should be caught in even the most basic spellchecker-and the other should be caught reading over-“nothing” rather than “noting” (my mistaken edition reads “nothing with malicious pleasure”).
Christie surprised me in the novel in that Poirot was merely there to chivvy the plot along when it needed a little help, no-one knows where item X is, speak to Poirot and he’ll know. I miss his foreign charm and entertaining skills which he uses well, and feel that his absence is to the detriment of the novel.
Overall, a couple of typos and Poirot’s absence throughout most of the book disappointed me, but the brilliant plot twists and Christie’s ability to entertain no matter the subject matter shone through, and made this thoroughly enjoyable.
£3.85 Kindle (not available)
Publishing house-Harper Collins
My edition-2002, 384 pages, Harper Collins
Value for money-68 years after initial publication, prices are too high-★★★
Character development-excellent, one could not ask for any more, the depth given to each character is astounding-★★★★★
Readabillity-as with most Christie books, she knows how to keep the reader going with superb plot twists-★★★★★
Overall-an excellent plot, lacking only an actual detective or truly likable character-★★★★ (85)