Thursday, August 12, 2010

Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie

182 pages
Published in 1941 by Dodd, Mead & Company
Reprinted by Bantam Books, April 1988
Hicksville, NY

"It is peaceful. The sun shines. The sea is blue. But you forget, Miss Brewster, there is evil everywhere under the sun." (Chpt 1, pg 8)
The Plot
"Hercule Poirot is enjoying a well-deserved holiday on Smugglers’ Island holiday resort off the coast of Devon until the strangled body of glamorous actress Arlena Stuart is found. As Poirot becomes caught up in the murder investigation he discovers that nearly all the guests have a connection to Arlena. But which of these suspects, including her family, felt strongly enough about Arlena to kill her?" (Summary courtesy of

My Thoughts:
What better setting for a thrilling "who-dun-it" crime novel than a sea-side vacation spot where the beautiful and popular, yet most hated person present is murdered? And who better to solve this mystery than the renowned Belgian detective Hercule Poirot? If you are looking for a riveting beach read this summer than Evil Under the Sun might be just the book.

I know it is a well known fact that Agatha Christie found Hercule Poirot quite annoying and boorish, but I have to admit I feel quite the opposite. Although I do enjoy the other detectives Mrs. Christie created, I have a special place in my mystery-loving heart for the Belgian detective and his little grey cells. And once again, in this his 20th appearance in 29 consecutive novels, he does not disappoint.

As is typical of Christie novels I was successful in picking up and piecing together several clues throughout the story, but I was unable to piece them all together before the end when all is revealed by Poirot. I've ceased to find this annoying and instead sit back and chuckle at how clever Agatha Christie was as a mystery writer. Although there may be characters, places, or aspects of her novels that link one to another, each mystery is its own story and a fresh and interesting puzzle awaits me no matter which novel I've chosen to read. I suppose this should not come as a surprise, Christie is after all the "Queen of Crime" and best-selling mystery writer of all time.

As a side note, I couldn't resist this pop-culture reference. Within the TV show LOST (ABC, 2004-2010) the character Sawyer is seen reading numerous books. In one particular episode, if you look closely you'll find him sitting on the beach reading none other than Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun. Cool, right? Yeah, I thought so too.

And while on the topic of television -- I watched the 2001 adaptation of Evil Under the Sun with David Suchet as Hercule Poirot. As I've found to be typical of all modern adaptations to Christie's novels there were some liberties taken with the original story. Some characters and scenes were added, including the appearance of Hastings and Chief Inspector Japp as well as the whole motive for Poirot even being on vacation. In addition some of the suspects were altered, some left out entirely and others merged together into a new form entirely. But thankfully the main plot and the who, what, how and why remained the same.

Although I always lean towards recommending the book over the movie I have to say this time it's almost a tie. Yes, the book is the better of the two, but for the average reader (and yes, even the obsessed LOST fan) looking for a different type of beach read or the average mystery lover desiring some movie to entertain on a hot summer evening -- either way you won't go wrong with Evil Under the Sun.

As for me, what's next? Tommy and Tuppence return after two decades in N or M? Stay tuned for my thoughts on this WWII spy thriller.

Other Agatha Christie Reviews:
*Novels published from 1920-1923 see note below.

The Man in the Brown Suit (1924)
The Secret of Chimneys (1925)
The Big Four (1927)
The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928)
The Seven Dials Mystery (1929)
The Murder at the Vicarage (1930)
The Sittaford Mystery (1931)
Peril at End House (1932)
Lord Edgware Dies (1933)
Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (1934)
Three Act Tragedy (1935)
Death in the Clouds (1935)
The A.B.C. Murders (1936)
Murder in Mesopotamia (1936)
Cards on the Table (1936)
Dumb Witness (1937)
Death on the Nile (1937)
Appointment With Death (1938)
Hercule Poirot's Christmas (1938)
Murder Is Easy (1939)
And Then There Were None (1939)
Sad Cypress (1939)
One, Two Buckle My Shoe (1940)

Absent In the Spring by Mary Westmacott (a.k.a. Agatha Christie) (1944)

* Christie's novels written from 1920 (The Mysterious Affair at Styles) through 1923 (Murder on the Links) I read before I began this blog hence no reviews are currently available.


Kerrie said...

Sarah I've add this post to the blog cranival for August. You should get an email confirming thta.

Nan said...

I loved this review! I feel the same way about Poirot. I truly enjoy him both in print and in the television versions. I like his little quirks which so often help him solve the mystery.