BOOK REVIEW: THE MURDER ON THE LINKS by Agatha Christie

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Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

Characters

  1. Hercule Poirot – The famous Belgian detective called in by the man who would be murdered.
  2. Captain Arthur Hastings – Poirot’s assistant on the case, accompanying him at his request, and the narrator of the story.
  3. Monsieur Giraud – Detective of the Paris Surete and the investigating officer. Considers Poirot to be his rival and resents his involvement in the investigation.
  4. Monsieur Hautet – Examining Magistrate, and Giruad’s assistant. More respectful of Poirot’s reputation, and thus more helpful to the Belgian detective.
  5. Paul Renauld/Georges Conneau – The victim of the case. Requested Poirot’s assistance for an unknown matter, prior to his murder. Involved in the Beroldy murder some 22 years ago, in which he was the killer, but escaped justice when caught.
  6. Eloise Renauld – Renauld’s wife, whom he met in South America. Helped her husband fake his kidnapping on the night of his death. Initially suspected of the murder by Poirot, until Eloise sees her husband’s body.
  7. Jack Renauld – Renauld’s son, born in South America, and raised both there and in France. Mistakenly suspected of murder by Giraud, due to an argument between him and his father. Formerly in love with Marthe, now in love with Bella.
  8. Madame Daubreuil/Madame Jeanne Beroldy – Renauld’s neighbour and blackmailer. Involved in plotting the murder of her husband 22 years ago, but escaped justice when exposed.
  9. Marthe Daubreuil – The killer. Madame Daubreuil’s daughter, who wants to marry Jack, but is unaware that he is in love with another woman.
  10. Gabriel Stonor – Renauld’s secretary. Absent at the time of the murder, and has no knowledge on his employer’s past.
  11. Bella Duveen – A stage performer, with whom Jack is in love, twin of Dulcie Duveen.
  12. Dulcie Duveen – A stage performer and Bella’s sister, who works under her stage name of “Cinderella” and the twin of Bella. She is the love interest of Hastings during the novel.
  13. Lucien Bex – Commissary of Police for Merlinville.
  14. Monsieur Marchaud – Police sergeant in Merlinville’s police.
  15. Dr Durand – Local doctor and police surgeon in Merlinville.
  16. Françoise Arrichet – An elderly servant of the Renauld’s household, one of three servants present at the Renauld’s house during the crime.
  17. Léonie Oulard – A young maid of the Renauld’s household, one of three servants present at the Renauld’s house during the crime.
  18. Denise Oulard – A maid of the Renaulds’ household and Léonie’s sister, and one of three servants present at the Renauld’s house during the crime.
  19. Auguste – Renaulds’ gardener. Absent from the house on the night of the murder.
  20. Joseph Aarons – A British theatrical agent.

    Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings travel to Merlinville-sur-Mer, France, to meet Paul Renauld, who has requested for their help. Upon arriving at his home, in the Villa Genevieve, local police greet them with news that Paul Renauld has been found dead that morning. Renauld had been stabbed on the back with a letter-opener and left in a newly dug grave adjacent to a local golf course. Renauld’s wife, Eloise Renauld, claims masked men broke into the villa at 2 am, tied her up, and took her husband away with them. Upon inspecting Paul Renauld’s body, Eloise collapses with grief at seeing her dead husband. Perhaps, she was not expecting this. Monsieur Giraud of the Sûreté leads the police investigation, and resents Poirot’s involvement in the case, where Monsieur Hautet, the Examining Magistrate, is more open to sharing key information with him.

    Poirot notes four key facts about the case: One, a piece of, lead piping, is found near the body. Two, only three female servants were in the villa, as both Renauld’s son Jack and his chauffeur had been sent away. Three, an unknown person visited the house the day before, whom Renauld urged to leave immediately. Four, Renauld’s immediate neighbour, Madame Daubreuil, had placed 200,000 francs into her bank account over recent weeks.

    When Renauld’s secretary, Gabriel Stonor, returns from England, he suggests blackmail, as his, employer’s past is a complete mystery prior to his career in South America.     Meanwhile, Hastings, Poirot’s number two, unexpectedly encounters a young woman he met before, known to him as “Cinderella”, who asks him to see the crime scene, and then mysteriously disappears with the murder weapon. Poirot later travels to Paris to research the case’s similarities to that of a murder case some 22 years ago, which has only one difference – the killer, Georges Conneau, later confessed to the crime, in which he and his lover, Madame Beroldy, had plotted to kill her husband and claim that the murder was carried out by masked intruders; and where, both disappeared soon afterwards.

    Returning from Paris, Poirot learns that the body of an unknown man has been found, stabbed through the heart with the murder weapon. An examination shows he has the hands of a tramp, that he died before Renauld’s murder from an epilectic fit, and that he was stabbed after death. Giraud the investigating officer arrests Jack Renauld on the basis that he wanted his father’s money. Jack admits to police that he had argued with his father over wishing to marry Madam Daubreuil’s daughter Marthe, whom his parents found unsuitable. Poirot reveals a flaw in Giraud’s theory, as Renauld had changed his will two weeks before his murder, disinheriting Jack. Soon afterwards, Jack is released from prison after Bella Duveen, an English stage performer he loves, confesses to the murder. Both had come across the body on the night of the murder, and assumed the other had killed Renauld. Poirot reveals neither did, as the real killer was Marthe Daubreuil.

    Poirot elaborates on his theory. Paul Renauld the victim was in fact Georges Conneau, while fleeing France, he changed his name in Canada to start a new life. After gaining a wife and a son, and making a fortune in South America, he returned to France to settle down with his new family. But by misfortune, he found that his immediate neighbour was Madam Beroldy, and like him, she too, had changed her identity to become Madam Daubreuil. Blackmailed by her, over his past, Renauld’s situation worsens when Jack his son gets attracted to her daughter. But when, a tramp dies on his grounds, he sees an opportunity to escape Madam Daubreuil. He uses the same ruse, as he had used before, while committing a murder, but with one difference. This time, he uses it to fake his own death. His plan was simple – staging his own kidnapping at night. He disfigures tramp’s body with a pipe, and then buries him as Paul Reynold beside the golf course, before fleeing the area by train. Anyone, who would recognise the body as not his, would be sent away, so as to assure that his wife Eloise will falsely identify the body as his. Poirot suspected Eloise’s involvement in the scheme, as her reaction, to her husband’s death, was not genuine until she saw his body.

    However, the plan was unfortunately discovered by Marthe, who overheard, the Renaulds, discussing it together. She for sure stood to gain financially if she married Jack Renauld, their son, but the success of this scheme would ruin her plans. So, she decides to follow Renauld and stabs him, after he digs the grave, for tramp’s body. To expose Marthe as the killer, Poirot asks Eloise to openly disinherit Jack Renauld. That night, Marthe attempts to kill Eloise when Jack leaves her alone in the villa, but dies trying, when Eloise is saved by Cinderella. Marthe’s mother disappears again. Jack and his mother plan to go to South America, joined by Hastings and Dulcie Duveen — who is his Cinderella and Bella’s twin sister.

    The plot is a little less scheming. I would give the book seven of ten.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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