Henry Angkatell and his wife Lucy Angkatell invite their friends John Christow – a passionate doctor – and Gerda Christow – a plain and a little stupid woman, but a devoted wife to John – to their country-side home named The Hollow. They also invite Henrietta Savernake, a friend, a sculptor who works on clay-art by profession, who is also having an affair with John ; Edward Angkatell, a distant cousin who lives in Ainswick and who has proposed 3 times to Henrietta ; Midge Hardcastle, Lucy’s young cousin who works in a cloth store to meet both ends ; David Angkatell, a not-so-social student who prefers library and books to the people around him. They also invited Hercule Poirot, a new neighbour, a detective by profession, for lunch the next day.
That night, their another neighbour, Veronica Cray, an actress by profession, who was engaged to John long time ago, suddenly enters the house requesting for match-sticks and is surprised to find John there. She asks John to drop her home and he returns very late from her place (3am). Next morning, John takes a walk and sits beside the swimming pool for a little while. Suddenly he is shot dead. When Poirot enters the home as a guest, he witnesses that Gerda is standing beside John’s body holding a revolver.
As investigations begin, Gerda is the top-most suspect because she was holding the gun. Henry is the next suspect because he was in love with Henrietta, Veronica is another suspect because she and John had had a fight that very morning. Last but not the least, Henrietta is the suspect because she was having an affair with John. But all the clues and investigations lead them nowhere. Finally it’s Poirot who deduces and finds the culprit.
To be really frank, I was totally disappointed with this novel. And if not for the name Agatha Christie, I’d have just shut the book after first 20 pages only. It takes long, painful and a little boring 140 pages for the author to produce the murder scene. The first and probably the biggest let-down for me. There is a lot of blabbering and unnecessary talking in the introduction of all the characters. That could’ve been easily cut short.
Though the brownie points must be given to the author as to how different people would react to a murder is beautifully expressed by her. So many pages are spent in the psychology of all the characters and how they think, speak, react on the occurrence of a murder in their house. Also, there is a little hint of philosophy every now and then.
But what is missing is the thrill, for the readers, of police investigations, deductions, theories, making a list of suspects and then eliminating them one by one to finally arrive at the culprit etc., which, all of these put together, usually make reading murder mysteries a delightful read. There is nothing much for the Poirot to do or even for Inspector Grange to do except for asking questions.
On the whole, the book as a mystery/suspense novel is a big let-down but if you’re a Agatha Christie or a Hercule Poirot fan, you can try it.