Review: The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo.

Harper, 2013. Paperback Edition. First published in Great Britain by Collins in 1936. ISBN: 9780007527533. 288 pages.

Adobe Photoshop PDFAccording to Wikipedia, The ABC Murders (1936) is the thirteenth book by Agatha Christie starring Hercules Poirot. Most of the novels and short stories in the series can be read in any order (click here to access a suggested reading order). The story at hand is told in the first person by Captain Arthur Hastings who, in the foreword, warns us that: ‘In this narrative of mine I have departed from my usual practice of relating only those incidents and scenes at which I myself was present. Certain chapters, therefore, were written in the third person.’ The action begins in the summer of 1935 when Captain Hastings returns home from his ranch in South America, to spend about six months. One of the first things he does on reaching England is to visit his old friend, Hercule Poirot. Following the exchange of their first impressions, Poirot shows him a printed letter he has received signed A.B.C., telling him that something will take place in Andover the 21st of this month. On that precise date, the news from Andover confirm that an old woman of the name of Ascher, who keeps a little tobacco and newspaper shop, has been murdered. With one month apart on each case, two other letters arrive and two other murders take place on the announced date. First Betty Barnard, a waitress in Bexhill-on-Sea and then Sir Carmichael Clarke, a wealthy man in Churston. On all three occasions the murderer has left, an ABC Railway Guide, open at the name of the town. Incidentally, if it weren’t for those letters, in each case an innocent would have been accused of murder. This case is going to be without doubt one of Poirot’s biggest challenges, as he himself recognises:

‘You are quite right, my friend. Always up to now, it has fallen to our lot to work from the inside. It has been the history of the victim that was important. The important points have been: “Who benefited by the death? What opportunities had those round him to commit the crime?” It has always been the “crime intime”. Here, for the first time in our association, it is cold-blooded, impersonal murder. Murder from the outside.’

I’m quite sure that this story was considered very original at its time. Not only for the way in which the plot unfolds, incidentally very cinematographic, but also for the resolution of the case. Perhaps today the story has lost some of its freshness and novelty. In this sense, the nowadays reader is much more used to the narrative form used and has also seen a similar conclusion to the case repeated ad nauseam in zillions of TV series. But having said that, I don’t believe these details can seriously affect the enjoyment of this extremely gratifying detective novel. I cannot agree more with what Margot Kinberg has written about this novel: ‘The dual points of view, the tension of different agencies trying to work together and the misdirection caused by prejudice are all used in this novel to move the story along and keep the reader engaged.’

My rating: B (I really liked it)

The ABC Murders (aka The Alphabet Murders) has been reviewed at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist…. (Margot), Mysteries in Paradise (Kerrie), In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel (Steve), Past Offences (Rich), Tipping My Fedora (Sergio), among others.

HarperCollins Publishers

Agatha Christie Official Webpage

El misterio de la guía de ferrocarriles de Agatha Christie


Según Wikipedia, El misterio de la guía de ferrocarriles (1936) es el décimotercer libro de Agatha Christie, protagonizado por Hércules Poirot. La mayor parte de las novelas y cuentos de la serie se puede leer en cualquier orden (haga clic aquí para acceder al orden de lectura sugerido). La historia que nos ocupa está narrada en primera persona por el capitán Arthur Hastings quien, en el prólogo, nos advierte que: “En esta narración mía me he apartado de mi práctica habitual de relatar únicamente aquellos incidentes y escenas en los que yo mismo estaba presente . Ciertos capítulos, por lo tanto, han sido escritos en tercera persona.” La acción comienza en el verano de 1935 cuando el capitán Hastings regresa a casa de su rancho en América del Sur, para pasar unos seis meses. Una de las primeras cosas que hace al llegar a Inglaterra es visitar a su viejo amigo, Hércules Poirot. Tras el intercambio de sus primeras impresiones, Poirot le muestra una carta impresa que ha recibido firmada ABC, diciéndole que algo va a tener lugar en Andover el 21 de este mes. En esa fecha precisa, las noticias de Andover confirman que una anciana de nombre Ascher, que regentaba una pequeña tienda de venta de tabaco y periódicos, ha sido asesinada. Con un mes de diferencia entre cada caso, otras dos cartas llegan y otros dos asesinatos tienen lugar en la fecha anunciada. Primero Betty Barnard, una camarera en Bexhill-on-Sea y luego Sir Carmichael Clarke, un hombre acaudalado en Churston. En las tres ocasiones el asesino ha dejado, una guía ABC de ferrocarriles, abierta por el nombre de la ciudad. Por cierto, si no hubiera sido por esas cartas, en cada caso un inocente habría sido acusado de asesinato. Este caso va a ser sin duda uno de los mayores retos de Poirot, como él mismo reconoce:

“Tiene usted razón, amigo mío. Siempre hasta ahora, nos ha caído en suerte trabajar desde el interior. Lo que ha sido importante hasta ahora ha sido la historia de la víctima. Las preguntas importantes han sido: “¿Quién se ha visto beneficiado por esta muerte? ¿Qué oportunidades han tenido para cometer el crimen quienes le rodeaban? “Siempre ha sido el “crime intime“. Aquí, por primera vez en nuestra asociación, se trata de un asesinato a sangre fría, impersonal. Un asesinato desde el exterior.’

Estoy bastante seguro de que esta historia se consideró muy original en su momento. No sólo por la forma en que se desarrolla la trama, por cierto muy cinematográfica, sino también por la resolución del caso. Quizás hoy la historia ha perdido parte de su frescura y novedad. En este sentido, el lector de hoy en día está mucho más acostumbrado a la forma narrativa utilizada y también ha visto una conclusión similar al caso repetida hasta la saciedad en infinidad de series de televisión. Pero una vez dicho esto, no creo que estos detalles pueden afectar gravemente el disfrute de esta novela de detectives extremadamente satisfactoria. No puedo estar más de acuerdo con lo que Margot Kinberg ha escrito acerca de esta novela: “El doble punto de vista, la tensión de los diferentes organismos que tratan de trabajar juntos y la desorientación causada por los prejuicios son utilizados en esta novela para hacer avanzar la acción y mantener al lector enganchado.”

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó mucho)

15 thoughts on “Review: The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie”

  1. Thank you very much for the kind mention, José Ignacio, and for this thoughtful and well-written review. You make a very well-taken point about the difference between readers at the time the novel was written, and today’s readers. I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

  2. Great review José Ignacio. I think you are right,, that some of the freshness will have been lost given that this may prove to be Christie’s most influential book, closely followed by AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, in terms of the amount of popular fiction that seems to have been inspired by it. And than you for the mention, very kind.

  3. Loved reading your review as it reminded me of why this is one of my favourite Christie’s. When I began reading crime fiction a lot a few years ago, this is one of the early ones that I read, so for me I think the novelties it presented were still very fresh to me.

  4. Hello Jose Ignacio

    Could you go to the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival site and add this post please ? I’m not sure I can do this myself as I am Travelling.

    Sitting in Dallas airport waiting to board our flight for Tampa in about an hour. Have just been through the security system and Bob’s blood is boiling because of the queues etc.

    Cheers Kerrie Smith Sent from my iPad

    1. Sorry to hear about the “pleasures” of travelling Kerrie. Have just added my review to the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival site.

  5. Thanks for the link, Jose – it’s Steve, by the way for future reference ☺. I think this this is the finest of the “gimmick” Poirot novels. There’s a few that I prefer overall, but not many…

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