Review: The ABC Murders (Agatha Christie)

A serial killer, who calls himself ABC, writes to Hercule Poirot before each murder telling of the time and place where the murder will take place. Poirot and the police start working together to catch the murderer, but they are unable to stop him on the first three occasions. The killer apparently has no motive and kills at random, based on the names of the people. He has killed Alice Ascher of Andover, Betty Barnard of Bexhill-on-Sea, and Sir Carmichael Clarke of Churston and the only connection between the murders is the first letter of the names of the victims and the places are in alphabetical order and beside each victim an ABC railway guide is found.

When Poirot receives the challenge for the 'D' murder, he teams up with the police and the friends and relatives of the first three victims to stop the killer at any cost. Even though they fail to prevent the murder, they manage to catch the killer, who is called Alexander Bonaparte Cust. He confesses to the crimes, but has no idea how or why he comitted them. Poirot's explanation of how a man could kill four people without knowing how he did it forms the ending of what is perhaps the best Hercule Poirot mystery I've read so far.

People who like to solve mystery themselves while they're reading are probably cursing me for mentioning the name of the killer in this review. Don't worry, that's not a spoiler. That name is mentioned right at the beginning of the book and we know all along who the main suspect is. Poirot is the one in the dark throughout this book.

Christie has deviated from her usual style here. Instead the "who did it?" aspect of the mystery, the psychology of the crime has been given more prominence. Usually it's the crime/clues/suspects/motive/alibi formula that is used. Here Poirot doesn't have any suspects and has to rely on understanding the mind of the murderer to prevent the next crime.

Another one of the reasons why I loved this book was because Poirot's famed little grey cells were really stretched to their limit and most of the time he looked totally helpless. Serves him right for ridiculing poor old Captain Hastings all the time. This is one of those rare occasions where Hastings' common sense comes in more useful than all of Poirot's little grey cells. ;-)

My Rating: 10/10.


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alice said...

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