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And the Queen of Mystery is back! After liking And Then There Were None, loving Murder on the Orient Express, and disappointed by The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, I am now here to tell you that I… am… conflicted… by… The A.B.C. Murders… and how much of a fan I am of Agatha Christie’s after all.
Not to say there isn’t a genius to her work, but hear me out:
The A.B.C. Murders is Hercule Poirot’s first serial murder mystery and features the return of his confidante, Hastings. And I say “return,” but this is my first time actually encountering him because he was not in any of the previous books I’ve read. I was happy to meet him, but he didn’t leave much of an impact overall (he’s basically the Watson to Holmes, so there was nothing new there). Genius consultant Poirot is disturbed by a series of letters taunting his inability to prevent and solve the murders of victims who apparently have nothing in common whatsoever except for the fact that their initials go sequentially as such: A.A., E.B. (but with the nickname, B.B.), and C.C.
I think the premise was very interesting, which is why I chose to read this book. However, the execution was less than thrilling. This novel, actually, had a reverse effect on me than The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I found myself relatively bored for most of The A.B.C. Murders, honestly thinking of giving it a 2 out of 5 stars (I mean, considering the interesting subject matter, the story shouldn’t feel so uneventful)–until I got near the end. And then things got quite exciting and I was definitely left surprised with my jaw opened. With Roger Ackroyd, I found the story had a pretty good pace overall and then I was left sort of stunned (not in a good way) at the hurried conclusion and unconvincing culprit.
The style of The A.B.C. Murders may be preferable, though, because everything wraps up quite nicely and makes sense in the end, no matter my dislike of who the culprit ends up being. I could still buy into the story, and I could recall past hints she subtly dropped that made go, “Oh, yes, so that was what Christie was wrapping up to–quite genius, really!” (Yes, read that in a British accent, because that’s how I wrote it.) She tied up all the loose ends, and each revelation came as a pleasant surprise to me. I would gasp in delight, like, “Oh! My! Goodness!” and, “I really should’ve thought of it before.”
So the book definitely had a satisfying ending and convincing plot twists, which are quite important. My main problem was the pacing. For a serial murder mystery, everything felt a bit slow. I wasn’t as invested in the characters, either. They did not stand out quite so much, which was a shame, because I think one of the best things about Christie’s novels is that she puts together a very interesting ensemble. You’re left to suspect every single one of them, but with The A.B.C. Murders, I wasn’t as intent on figuring out who the murderer was ahead of time.
The last point is that this book reminded me of Dan Brown’s style of writing, actually. This wasn’t bad or good, just interesting. (**Spoiler**) The back and forth between the focus on Poirot and the red herring, Alexander Bonaparte Cust, reminds me of what Dan Brown did in The Da Vinci Code. Yes, they were involved, but they were not the main culprit. I think Christie’s use of this tactic threw me off, though, because I did not think Cust could have done it, simply because there was a clear reason for her providing this perspective–to throw us off. Again, her use of literary techniques unraveled the part of the ending prematurely, but it was definitely a nice touch. If she hadn’t done so, the reveal would not have been as huge a twist.
Overall, I relatively enjoyed The A.B.C. Murders. I’m not sure if I’m so eager to pick up another one of her books, though, because so far, except for her most famous works, her novels have been mediocre. Pleasant reads, yes, but not so entrancing I have to immediately move onto the next one. I do think it’s because she’s the mother of crime novels, so I’ve seen many newer works that may have been inspired by her. Maybe I shall try the Miss Marple books next!
You can grab a copy of The A.B.C. Murders here*.