I’ve read a lot of Agatha Christie books at this point (but still have so many left! She was a gift) and this has to be one of my favorite so far. This was also the first of her novels I’ve not read by audiobook, and I liked it! (I do still love the indulgent feeling I get from listening to a Christie by audio, especially if it’s Dan Stevens reading it to me.) I will probably pepper in a few hard copies here and there as I make my way through her work.
The premise here is that Hercule Poirot takes on a serial killer, or rather, the serial killer takes on Poirot. Hastings, the boob, is back in town from Argentina and is hanging around, also, so that’s a treat. He narrates the book and is appropriately clueless and as always makes a nice foil for Poirot. Poirot is sent a letter by a killer saying that there will be a murder in Andover, and daring Poirot to solve it. The murder indeed occurs, a woman named Alice Ascher, despite the police taking no stock in Poirot’s letter. When a second murder occurs in Bexhill with a victim whose name begins with ‘B’, Poirot’s hunch is confirmed. The killer is working the alphabet. The question is, why?
As always, Christie is too clever for me, and the conceit here is one I haven’t seen before, and if it’s been copied, I haven’t seen that either. I was very curious to see how she dealt with the topic of serial killers, as it’s not one she’s known for, but she handled it beautifully, and book still feels like a classic whodunit despite the more sensational type of the murders. The cast of characters here was also particularly good, and the structure of the murders also lent a structure to the book that was both satisfying and played right into Christie’s hands.
Was almost tempted to give this five stars, but I think I would have needed some emotional oomph for that to happen. Still, this is as close as you can get.