ABC Murders

Title: The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot #13)

Author: Agatha Christie

Category: Mystery

Published: 1936

Rating: 3½ out of 5

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“Mr. Hercule Poirot–you fancy yourself, don’t you, at solving mysteries that are too difficult for our poor thick-headed British police? Let us see, Mr. Clever Poirot, just how clever you can be.” Was the anonymous note a brilliant challenge or a crackpot hoax? The answer is as loud and clear as a woman’s scream–precisely that of Alice Ascher, a shopkeeper in Andover bludgeoned to death on the job. Next to her corpse, a clue that’s as simple as ABC. Alphabetically speaking, the master Belgian sleuth suspects it’s now a matter of one down, twenty-five to go…

“Who are you? You don’t belong to the police?”

“I am better than the police,” said Poirot. He said it without conscious arrogance. It was, to him, a simple statement of fact.

Poirot is so sure of himself. He can be egotistical, boisterous and vain. He can be difficult to work with and annoyingly fastidious. Nevertheless, he’s one of my favorite sleuths, maybe because I’ve read Christie’s books since late elementary and he’s one of my first “adult” detectives along with Holmes, maybe because he relies on his “little grey cells” rather than toting guns and chasing around town after that elusive clue. In this story, his friend Hastings is our narrator. He’s like us, confused, seeing what Poirot sees but not being able to put all the information together like the detective does.

This is Poirot’s first “serial killer” case. Scotland Yard is working on it, too, but they are all baffled. Poirot receives notes telling him shere and when the crimes will take place, but the killings are disturbing, first Alice Ascher, a shopkeeper in Andover, then Miss Bernard in Bexhill, next Mr. Clarke in Churston. The victims seem entirely unrelated and the causes of death vary, but at each murder scene, the killer leaves an ABC Railway Guide.

I like the plot in this one particularly. The character development is lacking a little, probably simply because there are so many friends and relatives of the deceased. There are also chapters that break from Hastings, who also has people he knows adding to the list of characters. But the plot is unique. Like I mentioned, Christie rarely writes of serial killers. Motive is so important in her novels, and killing just to draw attention, to taunt Poirot, for the sport of it, is not usually her thing. What I like here is how she takes a traditional motive and wraps an elaborate mystery around it. It’s a case of not seeing the single tree due to the forest. The killer is a very calculating man, not the madman the public assumes he is. His plan is set out to the smallest detail.

A good mystery, while not my favorite of Christie’s, certainly worth reading.

Challenges: WAYR, VM

Hercule Poirot series

  1. The Mysterious Affair at Styles
  2. The Murder on the Links
  3. Poirot Investigates [Short Stories]
  4. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  5. The Big Four
  6. The Mystery of the Blue Train
  7. The  Under Dog and Other Stories
  8. Peril at End House
  9. Lord Edgeware Dies (APA: Thirteen at Dinner)
  10. Murder in Three Acts (APA: Three-Act Tragedy)
  11. Murder on the Orient Express (APA: Murder on the Calais Coach)
  12. Death in the Clouds (APA: Death in the Air)
  13. The ABC Murders (APA: The Alphabet Murders)
  14. Murder in Mesopotamia
  15. Cards on the Table
  16. Dumb Witness (APA: Poirot Loses a Client)
  17. Death on the Nile
  18. Murder in the Mews (APA: Dead Man’s Mirror) [Short Stories]
  19. Appointment with Death
  20. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (APA: Murder for Christmas and A Holiday for Murder)
  21. One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (APA: The Patriotic Murders and An Overdose of Death)
  22. Sad Cypress
  23. Evil Under the Sun
  24. Five Little Pigs (APA: Murder in Retrospect)
  25. The  Hollow (APA: Murder After Hours)
  26. Taken at the Flood (APA: There is a Tide… )
  27. The  Labors of Hercules [Short Stories]
  28. Mrs. McGinty’s Dead (APA: Blood Will Tell)
  29. After the Funeral (APA: Funerals Are Fatal and Murder at the Gallop)
  30. Hickory, Dickory, Dock (APA: Hickory, Dickory, Death)
  31. Dead Man’s Folly
  32. Cat Among the Pigeons
  33. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and Selection of Entrees [Short Stories]
  34. The Clocks
  35. Third Girl
  36. Hallowe’en Party
  37. Elephants Can Remember
  38. Hercule Poirot’s Early Cases [Short Stories]
  39. Curtain:Hercule Poirot’s Last Case