Published 1936, reprinted 2006
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc
New York, NY
The A.B.C. Murders, also published as The Alphabet Murders is the 18th crime novel by Dame Agatha Christie and the 11th in the a series of mysteries involving the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.
Once again Poirot is joined by his friend (and on-again-off-again crime solving partner), Captain Arthur Hastings, who has returned to England from his South American ranch to sort out some business matters. As is generally the case when he is present, Hastings narrates the story, although there are a few chapters where there is an exception and the story is told in the third person. Avid readers of Ms. Christie's works will note this isn't the first time she has varied the narrative and point of view within a story. She did both within The Man in the Brown Suit (1924) and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), the latter being her most lauded work.
"Ascher in Andover, Barnard in Bexhill, Clarke in Churston – all are dead, each with an ABC Railway Guide found beside the body. A serial killer is on the loose, one who is determined to play games with the great Hercule Poirot. But can the Belgian detective come to grips with the mind of a psychopath? With the help of Hastings and Japp, Poirot must travel the length and breadth of England. Is he always destined to be too late?" (Summary courtesy of AgathaChristie.com)
"I admit,' I said, 'that a second murder in a book often cheers things up. If the murder happens in the first chapter, and you have to follow up everybody's alibi until the last page but one -- well, it does get a bit tedious." (Hastings to Poirot, Chapter 3, page 24)
From its very first pages The A.B.C. Murders is the furthest thing from tedious. It is an entertaining and engaging read with a fast moving plot, interesting and witty dialog, and a mix of characters that range from quirky to somewhat endearing and unique. As for the mystery I thought at one point I had the solution and that Ms. Christie's goal for the story was not for Poirot to solve the "who" of the crime, but the "why." But with the turn of a page, a close of a chapter... I realized I was wrong! Once again I was surprised by the ending and the tables were turned on the murderer as Hercule Poirot got the upper hand and solved not only the why, but the who of the crime.
I really enjoyed The A.B.C. Murders and have added it alongside Murder on the Links (no review) and The Man in the Brown Suit to my list of all-time Christie favorites. While this novel is less the mystery/romance that those other to novels are, it is still an excellent read as an action packed and truly puzzling Who-Dunit. On a scale of 1-5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent I would rate The A.B.C. Murders a 4.5 to a 5. This was one of Christie's best Who-Dunit's and I loved every minute of the read!
Readers who enjoy the screen adaptations will be interested to note The A.B.C. Murders has been adapted to the screen twice. First in 1966 with Tony Randall starring as Poirot and then again in 1992 with David Suchet as the Belgian detective.
Also another interesting note for fans of Christie's novels. In chapter 3 of The A.B.C. Murders Poirot and Hastings have a discussion of the "perfect" crime. what Poirot describes to be the perfect crime is actually the crime Christie uses in a later novel, Cards on the Table. I can't wait to get to that one!
In the mean time, check back next month when I review my next Christie novel and Hercule Poirot's next case, Murder in Mesopotamia.