Date of Publication: 1935
Number of Pages: 184
Synopsis (from back cover): A is for Mrs. Ascher – fatally attacked in Andover. B is for Betty Barnard – strangled on the beach in Bexhill. C is for Sir Carmichael Clarke – now a corpse in Churston. If nothing else, the murderer knew is ABCs. But the alphabetical assassin would need to know more that that to outwit the world’s cleverest detective…Hercule Poirot!
Review: This is the first Agatha Christie story I have read, although I am familiar with the Hercule Poirot series on television. This was also my first foray into this genre; most “mysteries” I have read are actually gory crime thrillers. It was refreshing to have a main character, the dapper Poirot, instead of some gritty detective with emotional problems. Poirot is brilliant, polished, and funny. He’s even well-adjusted. I also appreciated the fact that the story was told from the perspective of Poirot’s friend, Captain Hastings, meaning that I was left out of Poirot’s thought-processes, so every twist and turn was a surprise.
The story starts out with the arrival of a teasing letter at Poirot’s home. It warns of something happening in Andover on a specific day. When Alice Ascher is found dead, it’s obvious that the murderer is engaged in a lethal game with Poirot. The cast of characters keeps expanding as more murders occur, including family members and distraught boyfriends. Although everyone is a suspect, there are mysterious chapters interspersed throughout the book that feature a strange man named Alexander Bonaparte Cust…A.B.C. Who is this man? What is his connection to the murders?
As the police are scrambling to try to find A.B.C. and to prevent these murders from happening on their appointed days, Poirot is using all his mental powers to try and figure out why these murders are happening. Even when it seems that the case is all locked up, Poirot still tries to understand the underlying reasons behind the crimes. It is this reason that finally blows the case wide open and provides a stunning twist at the end.
This book is a classic of Christie’s and really demonstrates her skills as the premier mystery writer. It will obviously appeal to all mystery fiction fans, but also to anyone who is curious about this classic genre. I am looking forward to reading more of Christie’s books, and especially those featuring this comically brilliant detective.