Review: The Hollow, 1946 (Hercule Poirot #22) by Agatha Christie

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HarperCollins (2010) Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 985 KB. Print Length: 321 pages. ASIN: B0046H95OK. eISBN: 978000 8129583- First published in the United States by Dodd, Mead & co. in 1946 and in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club in November of the same year. A paperback edition in the US by Dell Books in 1954 changed the title to Murder after Hours.

510vuuNGZgL._SY346_Synopsis: Lucy Angkatell invited Hercule Poirot to lunch. To tease the great detective, her guests stage a mock murder beside the swimming pool. Unfortunately, the victim plays the scene for real. As his blood drips into the water, John Christow gasps one final word: ‘Henrietta’. In the confusion, a gun sinks to the bottom of the pool. Poirot’s enquiries reveal a complex web of romantic attachments. It seems everyone in the drama is a suspect – and each a victim of love.

More about this story: First published as a novel in the US in 1946 by Dodd, Mead and Company, The Hollow remains an example of classic Christie: a gathering of guests at a country house is disturbed by a sudden death and luckily Poirot is in attendance. The main players include a downtrodden wife, her successful husband, and the reappearance of an old flame. Ignoring her daughter Rosalind’s protests, Agatha Christie decided to adapt The Hollow for stage, affectionately describing Rosalind as having “the valuable role in life of eternally trying to discourage me without success”. So the play was adapted, Poirot ousted, and it was produced in 1951 under the same title, The Hollow. One reviewer described it as “ingenious entertainment”. It was adapted for TV in 2004 and starred David Suchet. Some changes were made to the narrative, but overall it remained fairly true to the novel. Agatha Christie described this novel as “ruined by the introduction of Poirot.”

My take: Lady Lucy Angkatell and her husband Sir Henry Angkatell have gathered a small group of guests to expend the weekend at their country house near London, The Hollow. Among them we find Dr John Christow and his wife Gerda, and several distant cousins like Edward Angkatell, Midge Hardcastle, David Angkatell, and Henrietta Savernake. The following day Hercule Poirot, the renowned Belgian detective, who just happen to have rented a nearby cottage, has been invited to have lunch with them. When Monsieur Poirot is ushered by the butler to the pool where most of the guests are gathered at the moment, Poirot gets the impression he is being the subject of a prank. The scene seems to be drawn from a stage play. A man lies over a puddle of red paint, dripping on the swimming pool water while several characters watch the scene with disbelief and one particular woman, astonished, holds a weapon between her hands. Soon Poirot realises his error. The scene is in fact real, the man is really dying, and the red paint is actually blood. The man in question turns out to be Dr John Christow who soon mutters his last words “Henrietta”. The astounded woman  holding the gun is none other than Gerda, his wife, who suddenly lets the gun drop into the pool. However,  the case is not as straightforward as it seems. Gerda used to have an almost reverential affection towards her husband and nobody can believe she had really shot him. Besides, as it was later on proved, the fatal shot that killed Dr Christow wasn’t the same calibre of the revolver Gerda was holding when her husband was killed.

For some of the reasons outlined by most reviewers, The Hollow is a rather peculiar Hercule Poirot mystery. It was written after a lapse of more than four years since his previous appearance in Five Little Pigs and, in this instalment, Poirot’s character doesn’t show up until well into the novel. In fact it does seem that he only plays a secondary role in the plot. Moreover it is widely accepted that Christie, who often admitted to have gotten tired of her character, particularly disliked his presence in this book, and she excluded him completely in a subsequent theatrical adaptation of the story. But anyway I’m among the ones that have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book mainly due to the in-depth psychology of its characters and a well constructed plot. 

I cannot resist the temptation to quote here the words by John F Norris on his blog Pretty Sinister Books:

The Hollow is the least Christie-like of her detective novels of the 1940s; it might even be called the most Westmacott of her detective novels for it shares a lot with what is found in the pages of Absent in the Spring. Identity, self-delusion, misplaced and misinterpreted affections are all on display. Above all, is one of her most recurrent themes — the dangers of possessive love. It barely makes the grade as a detective novel, though there is some detection by the variety of characters and Poirot who is, in fact, a supporting character and not the lead. The Hollow is Christie’s earliest attempt to write a wholly modern detective novel and uses the tropes and gimmicks that are her hallmark in a most realistic manner.

Highly recommended.

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the author: Agatha Christie was born as Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller in 1890 in Torquay, England. She is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most successful novelist of all time. Her books were only second (in sales) to Shakespeare’s plays and the Bible! She wrote over 100 plays, short stories, and novels but is best known for her mystery novels. As a young girl, she did not go to school but was taught by her mother and governesses. In 1912 she met pilot Archie Christie whom she married in 1914. She lived through both world wars. It was during World War I that her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles was published. She gave birth to a daughter, Rosalind, in 1919. After her mother died and her husband had an affair, Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days in 1926 until she was finally found in a hotel. She died in 1976.

The Hollow has been reviewed at Pretty Sinister Books, BooksPlease, The green capsule, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Mysteries in Paradise, and at ahsweetmysteryblog among others.

Harper Collins UK publicity page

HarperCollins US publicity page

Agatha Christie Official Website

Notes On The Hollow


Sangre en la piscina, de Agatha Christie

Sinopsis: Lucy Angkatell invita a Hércules Poirot a almorzar. Para burlarse del gran detective, sus invitados escenifican un simulacro de asesinato junto a la piscina. Lamentablmente, la víctima en la representación resulta auténtica. Mientras su sangre gotea en el agua, John Christow susurra una última palabra: ‘Henrietta’. En la confusión, una pistola se hunde en el fondo de la piscina. Las preguntas de Poirot revelan un complejo entramado de vínculos sentimentales. Parece que todos en el drama son sospechosos, y cada uno víctima del amor.

Más sobre esta historia: Publicada por primera vez en forma de novela en los Estados Unidos en 1946 por Dodd, Mead and Company, The Hollow continúa siendo un ejemplo de una clásica novela de Christie: una reunión de invitados en una casa de campo se ve perturbada por una muerte repentina y afortunadamente Poirot está entre los presentes. Entre los principales protagonistas se encuentran una mujer oprimida, su exitoso marido y la reaparición de un viejo amor. Ignorando las protestas de su hija Rosalind, Agatha Christie decidió adaptar The Hollow al teatro, describiendo afectuosamente a Rosalind como quien desempeña “el valioso papel en la vida de intentar eternamente desanimarme sin éxito”. En consecuencia la obra se adaptó, Poirot desapareció, y se representó en 1951 con el mismo título, The Hollow. Un crítico la calificó de “ingenioso entretenimiento”. Fue adaptada a la televisión en el 2004. protagonizada por David Suchet. Se hicieron algunos cambios en el relato, pero en general se mantuvo bastante fiel a la novela. Agatha Christie describió esta novela como “arruinada por la incorporación de Poirot”.

Mi opinión: Lady Lucy Angkatell y su esposo Sir Henry Angkatell han reunido a un pequeño grupo de invitados para pasar el fin de semana en su casa de campo cerca de Londres, The Hollow. Entre ellos encontramos al Dr. John Christow y su esposa Gerda, y varios primos lejanos como Edward Angkatell, Midge Hardcastle, David Angkatell y Henrietta Savernake. Al día siguiente, Hércules Poirot, el famoso detective belga que acaba de alquilar una casita de campo cercana, ha sido invitado a almorzar con ellos. Cuando el mayordomo hace pasar a monsieur Poirot a la piscina donde la mayoría de los invitados están reunidos en ese momento, Poirot tiene la impresión de que está siendo objeto de una broma. La escena parece sacada de una obra de teatro. Un hombre yace sobre un charco de pintura roja, goteando sobre el agua de la piscina mientras varios personajes miran la escena con incredulidad y una mujer en particular, asombrada, sostiene un arma entre sus manos. Pronto Poirot se da cuenta de su error. La escena es de hecho real, el hombre realmente se está muriendo, y la pintura roja en realidad es sangre. El hombre en cuestión resulta ser el Dr. John Christow, quien pronto murmura sus últimas palabras “Henrietta”. La asombrada mujer que sostiene el arma no es otra que Gerda, su esposa, quien de repente deja caer la pistola en la piscina. Sin embargo, el caso no es tan sencillo como parece. Gerda solía tener un afecto casi reverencial hacia su esposo y nadie puede creer que ella realmente le haya disparado. Además, como se demostró más tarde, el disparo fatal que mató al Dr. Christow no era del mismo calibre que el revólver que sostenía Gerda cuando mataron a su marido.

Por algunos de los motivos descritos en la mayoría de las reseñas, The Hollow es un misterio bastante peculiar de Hercule Poirot. Fue escrito después de un lapso de más de cuatro años desde su aparición anterior en Five Little Pigs y, en esta entrega, el personaje de Poirot no aparece hasta bien entrada la novela. De hecho, parece que solo juega un papel secundario en la trama. Además, es ampliamente aceptado que Christie, que a menudo admitió haberse cansado de su personaje, no le gustó su presencia en este libro, y lo excluyó por completo en una adaptación teatral posterior de la historia. Pero de todos modos, estoy entre los que han disfrutado mucho leyendo este libro, principalmente debido a la psicología profunda de sus personajes y a una trama bien construida.

No puedo resistir la tentación de citar aquí las palabras de John F Norris en su blog Pretty Sinister Books:

The Hollow
es la menos Christie de sus novelas de detectives de la década de los 40; quizá podría calificarse como la más Westmacott de sus novelas de detectives puesto que comparte mucho con lo que encontramos en las páginas de Absent in the Spring. Se muestra de todo, personalidad, autoengaño, afectos perdidos y malinterpretados. Sobre todo, nos encontramos con uno de sus temas más recurrentes: los peligros del amor posesivo. Casi que no puede ser considerada apenas como una novela de detectives, aunque hay una cierta investigación dada la variedad de personajes y la presencia de Poirot que es, de hecho, un personaje secundario y no el protagonista. The Hollow es el primer intento de Christie por escribir una novela de detectives totalmente moderna y utiliza las imágenes y los artificios que son su sello característico de la forma más realista.

Muy recomendable.

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Agatha Christie nació Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller en 1890 en Torquay, Inglaterra. Está incluída en el libro Guinness de los récords como la novelista de más éxito de todos los tiempos. ¡Sus libros son segundos (en ventas) tras las obras de Shakespeare y la Biblia! Escribió más de 100 obras de teatro, relatos cortos y novelas, pero es más conocida por sus novelas de misterio. Cuando era niña, no fue a la escuela sino que fue educada por su madre y por institutrices. En el 1912 conoció al piloto Archie Christie con quien se casó en 1914. Vivió las dos guerras mundiales. Fue durante la Primera Guerra Mundial que publicó su primer libro, El misterioso caso de Styles. Dio a luz a una hija, Rosalind, en 1919. Después de la muerte de su madre y tras conocer una aventura sentimental de su marido, Agatha Christie desapareció durante 11 días en 1926 hasta que finalmente fue encontrada en un hotel. Falleció en 1976.

18 thoughts on “Review: The Hollow, 1946 (Hercule Poirot #22) by Agatha Christie”

  1. I’m very glad you liked this so well, José Ignacio. I think the characters in this novel are very well-drawn. And the plot twists are well-designed, too. It is, as you say, an unusual Christie work, but a real success, in my opinion.

  2. Jose, I needed to find out why I was getting hits from your blog. Imagine my surprise when I saw that you had reviewed THE HOLLOW and “could not resist the temptation” to quote from one of my posts. Thanks so much. I’m flattered.

    This is one of the most underrated of Christie’s books, IMO. I remember that re-read this one and wrote it up to disprove all the naysayers who were calling it a weak effort. It is, in fact, quite the opposite! If one reads the book for itself rather than as a detective novel then it will reward the reader with a revelation of dark impulses and unsettling themes that are resonant with the most contemporary of novels being published today. THE HOLLOW surpasses what we see on modern bestseller lists and explores the same themes without any of the lurid characters, disturbing addictions and callous brutality found in the new line of “troubled women” mystery novels out there. Even with its limited cast of characters and claustrophobic setting it is one of Christie’s most dramatic and moving novels. I would love to see it on stage some day.

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