Dr. John Christow is a man whom everyone admires: his friends, his wife, his lover, and his ex-fiancee for a start. Yet he ends up dead with his wife holding a gun and his lover’s name as his last word. It’s a scene set for Hercule Poirot, who has been invited to dine with his wealthy neighbours, and to him, it all seems too contrived to be true.
I adore Agatha Christie. I’ve read probably about 90% of her mysteries (just not any Tommy and Tuppence) but once in a while I find one I missed. The Hollow was one of those.
Sadly, I wasn’t impressed. I’m a little upset to admit it. It wasn’t that the mystery was terrible (although I did guess it, which almost never happens because I am the credulous type); it was that it was completely and utterly disorganized, and it was overshadowed by little things I hated. I couldn’t even put any effort into making my summary at the beginning of the post seem exciting.
Normally I prefer less Poirot – amusing as he can be, he does wear on my nerves after a while, especially if he has the point of view – because then Christie has to purposefully withhold information from the reader, which is irritating. There’s a reason why some of her best are narrated by Hastings and similar bystanders. We need the Watson to guide us. Incredibly, in The Hollow, Poirot’s POV chapters were a goddamned relief, because the other POVs were a bloody mess. It read like a “how not to” example from a “how to write good fiction” type book, jumping back and forth between characters with no warning (and conveniently hiding motives from the readers).
Usually, Christie has the stock characters that feature in various incarnations every book or so. For the most part, I enjoy them. Sometimes I feel passionately about their endings. In The Hollow, there were only two central characters I didn’t actively dislike as people, and both of them were utterly superfluous to the plot. They weren’t even red herrings, which might have been forgivable, but merely as a lukewarm and rather off-putting love story that had been crudely shoehorned in for reasons unknown.
The worst offender of all was the victim: a completely unlikable ass who behaved abominably to his wife, somehow managed to convince his otherwise intelligent lover that he was worthwhile and important to her happiness, and then had the audacity to think that his ex-fiancee was egotistical. Sometimes you cheer when the victim gets it because they are a thoroughly evil person. John Christow wasn’t evil. He was, however, the type of person that if you met him in real life, you would immediately want to punch in the face if you had any sort of good judgement… like Joffrey Baratheon, if somehow everyone in Game of Thrones was convinced that Joffrey was an angel’s fart. Everyone in this book somehow thought that John Christow was amazing, and it made me very angry.
Oh, right, this was a mystery. Well, it was a rather bland one, to be honest. Somehow this has 4 stars on Amazon, and I don’t know why. First of all, only one person died, which was a huge let down. Someone had their head in an oven, but even that was half-hearted. I wish the murderer had taken out a few more people with him/her to liven things up. Poirot didn’t even get to have a snappy reveal of the type where he congregates everyone together and accuses like five different people like in the show. (Although normally I dislike those, I would have relished it by the end of this one.)
Overall, this book left a bad taste in my mouth, like mushy bananas or congealed oatmeal. Or ketchup. Blech. However, I am giving it 2 stars because for about an hour’s time in the middle of the book I forgot how glad I was that John Christow was dead and wondered if the bland love plot would work itself out. Also, it’s Christie. I’ve been a Christie fan since I was like eleven. I don’t think I could ever give her a 1 star review.
I will end this on a positive note. If you’re in the mood for a much better little-known Christie, read The Pale Horse. I’m pretty sure it has a lower rating on Amazon, but it was far more enjoyable. Lots more people die and it’s delightfully creepy.