September's Book of the Month - The Murder on the Links

TuppenceTuppence City of London, United Kingdom

An urgent cry for help brings Poirot to France. But he arrives too late to save his client, whose brutally stabbed body now lies face downwards in a shallow grave on a golf course.

But why is the dead man wearing his son’s overcoat? And who was the impassioned love-letter in the pocket for? Before Poirot can answer these questions, the case is turned upside down by the discovery of a second, identically murdered corpse.

This month we're reading Agatha Christie's second Poirot novel, The Murder on the Links. Find out more here.

Leave your thoughts and questions about The Murder on the Links here. Is it one of your favourite Christie mysteries? 


  • This is a very complicated mystery full of subplots, a slew of clues, and miataken identities. I haven't read the book in YEARS but I remember the complicated plot. Actually I read the book only once. I did like the subplot with Poirot and Giraud and the wager they had. I did like where Christie got the idea for the book -- she got the idea from an newspaper article about a crime similar to the one she wrote about. So when a person asks how and where does a writer get his/her ideas the answer should be " anywhere, everywhere".
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I didn't like this 1st time round, recently re-read it to see if I liked it and don't.
  • @Tommy_A_Jones, what did you not like about the book? 
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I found it complicated, I couldn't understand which woman was who, The Plot bored me and I struggled with it from start to finish, it is in my view one of the weakest Poirot books with Hastings and one Christie I have no intention to read again, Twice is more than too much thank you.  
  • edited September 2016
    I found it complicated, I couldn't understand which woman was who, The Plot bored me and I struggled with it from start to finish, it is in my view one of the weakest Poirot books with Hastings and one Christie I have no intention to read again, Twice is more than too much thank you.  
    I think if Agatha offered her opinion of the book -- more specifically, told us what she would change looking back over the course of her career, I think she wouldn't have jam-packed "Links" with so much stuff. I remember in her autobiography she commented on how Murder At The Vicarage contained too many characters and I would also say too many subplots and they both go hand-in-hand. And I think she would she say something similar pertaining to "Links".

    She was ecstatic to send Capt. Hastings packing and she wouldn't have changed that part of the story!
  • edited September 2016
    I know in my experience when writing a story, there are times I want to jam-pack it with so much material -- subplots, characters, complications, motifs, and symbolisms -- and as I write the story I realize over the course of it that I need to lay off and allow the story to have some breathing space. And I realize that maybe this story doesn't need this subplot, that it doesn't need to be this complicated and perhaps I can add that subplot in another story. But you know what? You can have a story that is complicated and still allow it to have some breathing room and that is what Christie did with many of her books but with "Links" there is clearly too much going on. I'm currently reading NEMESIS which has a lovely complication but it's not one with too many clues, subplots, and characters like "Murder On The Links" or "Murder At The Vicarage" which I referred to in a previous post. If you need a timetable, a roster, or a list of characters and a description of them to keep track of who is who then there's a good possibility the story is too complicated.  

    By the time Christie wrote "Links",  she was still a fairly young writer with 3 books under her belt. And at this time she wasn't fully experienced as she would later become. Later on as she became more professional, refining the skills of her craft, she was able to identify the flaws of her earlier books which she didn't repeat in her later ones. The plethora of subplots and characters contained in a story were chucked and she gave her stories some breathing space, but never at the expense of making a good, complicated mystery with clues and red herrings in which the reader would not be able to ‘spot’ the murderer which she stuck to since she took on that bet from her sister, resulting in her first mystery "The Mysterious Affair At Styles"
  • I think what is wrong with Murder on the Links is the pace. It doesn't have the thrill and suspense. In fact, is the a problem with the Hasting books? People find fault with Peril at End House, although, in essence it has great ingredients and is difficult to solve. People would agree that the insight into Poirot's methods in 'Peril'  is brilliant, but does Hasting's style corrupt all the novels which he is involved in/narrates?

    The murderers in 'Links' are boring and archaic. I can't even remember the crime  motive, but it wasn't like a real-life motive. The book belongs to the capers category of Christie novels. These are all like early talkie movies and full of effects. The Man in the Brown Suit just about works from this point of view but the 'Big Four' type spy ones are poor, IMO.

    I don't know what Agatha Christie means about my favourite, Murder at the Vicarage. If there were any fewer characters it would be obvious who did it. This is because it is hardly going to be the SPOILER vicar, or his wife or adorable nephew, or else the narrator (the vicar) wouldn't have been feeling like writing the whole story up so cheerfully afterwards, and lacing his prose with humour. This only leaves Miss Marple and the ones so obviously indicated initially that it can't be them, (the actual murderers) and a few others. AC didn't know she was going to keep Miss Marple going at the time, so maybe she thought the reader might think it was her, but really, Lettice, Archer, the archeologist and Miss Cram, and Mrs Lestrange, that is not a long list compared with the ones for her finest works: Murder at the Vicarage and Death on the Nile, Murder on the Orient....etc.
  • Griselda said:
    I think what is wrong with Murder on the Links is the pace. It doesn't have the thrill and suspense. In fact, is the a problem with the Hasting books? People find fault with Peril at End House, although, in essence it has great ingredients and is difficult to solve. People would agree that the insight into Poirot's methods in 'Peril'  is brilliant, but does Hasting's style corrupt all the novels which he is involved in/narrates?
    I don't think Capt. Hastings first person narrative corrupts or interferes with the stories. It sure doesnt get in the way of The ABC Murders which combines first and third person. I think having that third person narrative in that book added more suspense whereas if Hastings narrated the whole book the suspense would not have been as strong and we couldn't get a look into Alexander Bonaparte Cust and his mental processes and whereabouts. 
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    The Murder on the Links was partly inspired by a couple of prominent true-crime cases.  Here are my notes on the crimes:


    THE HEADLINES : George Harry Storrs was a wealthy business magnate.  In 1909, Storrs was attacked in his country home and was fatally stabbed.  Storrs was not liked much by those around him, even his relatives and wife.  The only person who might have cared for him was Maria Hohl, a young woman who may have become his mistress and may have become pregnant by him, and did definitely die of drowning, possibly a suicide.

    Soon after Hohl drowned, Storrs started to receive letters warning him that his life was in danger.  Storrs took steps by engaging a capable friend to help protect him, and installing an alarm bell in his house.  A "dry run" of bell ringing infuriated the police, and when Storrs was genuinely attacked, the authorities refused to respond to the summons for help.  A local man, Cornelius Howard, was charged with the crime, but there was no solid evidence against him and he was found not guilty.  A second trial followed, this time for Mark Wilde, an individual with a reputation for violent behavior, but this case similarly led to an acquittal.

    THE NOVEL The death of Paul Renauld in The Murder on the Links has several points of similarity to the Storrs case.  In both cases, a man announces that he is about to be murdered and is later fatally stabbed.  Both victims face the consequences of a shady past.  And in both cases, someone is charged with the crime, exonerated at trial, and then a different person is arrested but soon released.  There, the similarities end- Christie had too much ingenuity to rip from the headlines too closely. 

    Another case of a man receiving threatening letters and then dying of stab wounds is in Murder on the Orient Express, although the parallels are substantially more oblique.


    THE HEADLINES : In 1922, Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters were tried for the stabbing death of Thompson's husband Percy.  The Thompsons had allegedly been assaulted outside their home one night.  Edith received only minor injuries, but Percy was killed.  Edith implicated Bywaters, but when her love letters were found amongst Bywaters's possessions, Edith was arrested, too.  Bywaters confessed to his own culpability, but insisted that his paramour was completely innocent, despite her frequent declarations that she wished her husband was dead.  The jury thought that Bywaters was just being chivalrous, and both defendants were convicted and hanged.

    THE NOVEL : The Thompson/Bywaters affair occurred in the year before The Murder on the Links was published, so given the fame of the case, it seems probable that the Beroldy case in the book was impacted by the Thompson/Bywaters media circus.  In the book, a wealthy Frenchman named Beroldy was murdered years before the events of the book, and his wife and her lover were implicated.  Madame Beroldy was loosely bound and gagged in a presumed burglary, but evidence mounted against her and her boyfriend.  The lover, Georges Conneau, confessed to the fatal stabbing but fled the country.  Madame Beroldy was tried alone, but her impassioned testimony in defense of herself led to an acquittal.  Years later, this past crime leads to a new murder mystery.  Christie altered the location from England to France, and changed the outcome of the trial, but otherwise the similarities are evident.

  • When I think of the book THE MIRROR CRACK'D FROM SIDE TO SIDE, the situation with Marina Gregg and the German measles (rubella) and losing her child sounds all to familiar with actress Gene Tierney who experienced the same heartbreaking situation. With this particular situation she ripped from the headlines very closely.....but this time out of a very private, personal tragedy. 
  • Thanks, GKCFan for the detailed information on parallels between Links and real-life crimes.

     What is striking about these real-life crimes is that they are completely devoid of the features of ordinary human passions and weaknesses: they are, in fact, completely extraordinary and bizarre - clothed in illogic. By contrast, when I read one of my favourite Christies' The Moving Finger', I can imagine the SPOILER country solicitor, respected and diligent, but finding himself falling totally for the charms of a young beautiful woman, victim, as Miss Marple explains to the common condition which can affect middle age men; that is., that they find themselves, unaccountably, in the grip of a true, deep love, for the very first time. Once again, (see Three Act Tragedy for this occurrence too) AC puts her finger on a truism about the human condition. I grow in my understanding as I finish the novel, and my mind can't get rid of that  image of the decent solicitor, not very blessed with fine characteristics, as Miss Marple points out, but probably reliable in his job,  and I see, with mounting pleasure, that behind the words on the page, there lies the frailty of the human being laid bare by a genius writer who understands life.

     However, in life, there are  some odd people, and one reads about them sometimes in the newspaper, who don't behave in very natural ways, and they make us sit up and take notice for a moment or too, but can we ever recognize them as people who could be us, and be lastingly engaged? I think not.  I'm thinking of killers or suspected killers who do the most weird and unaccountable  things, such as, just  a for instance, enlisting the help of another person who has no vested interest in their case, and not thinking that this person might one day be a liability to them. But these people are strange and, sort of from another planet, compared with ordinary human beings.

     So, talking about strange and illogical people,  I can't understand people like Edith Thompson. I mean, if you've written love letters to your boyfriend, why get them involved in your husbandocide crime; isn't it obvious they may not have destroyed your letters? Then again, the George Harry Storrs crime is so divorced from real-life experience that, although supposedly true, it doesn't sound very true . ( You wonder if there was more behind the threats that we don't know about and if the real story is as it has been passed down. After all, who honestly, in real life, writes threatening letters and then actually kills someone having made it harder to kill them by putting them on their guard. Furthermore, if someone wants to help by warning the intended victim, why not rather really help them by going to the police and saying how they know what they know. It is all silly and unbelievable.) The details of the crime, being odd and unaccountable,  are consequently, too outlandish to engage the emotions and make me think I've learned something about life.

    What does make an impression is a lesser aspect of the main Storrs crime, and that is tha, in those days, people who had a bad reputation, like Wilde and Howard, could find themselves on a rap for murder with insubstantial evidence against them: what a horrible idea. (Echoes of Archer, the poacher, in Murder at the Vicarage). I learn and am engaged by considering that this episode shows how far social justice has evolved, in some aspects - although not for all in society, many would say.

    The 'Links' crime is like the real-life ones described above, but the real-life ones described are not very typical of how emotions and desires usually lead people to behave in real life.
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
  • I just read this for the first time, and loved The Murder on the Links...apart from the bit where Hastings commits an egregious act of sheer stupidity.  I will not refer to it here, as it's close to a spoiler, but I think we all know what I'm talking about.
  • It's September 19th, and there hasn't been a comment about The Links for eight days. Doesn't somebody who answers to the soubriquet of moderator need to kick start debate before the month ends, and we leave the work with a trail of loose ends and no fruit from the labours of our collective effort? Suggestion: maybe look on the Facebook Agatha Christie web page and import some commentary and synthesise a new angle? Perhaps suggest which bits could have pruned in the interests of rationalisation? Perhaps recap any dramatisations?
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    Here's a question– (SPOILERS) – do you think that Christie made the right creative decision by marrying off Hastings?  Though Hastings would narrate many Poirot novels over the next two decades, eventually he was discontinued until Curtain.  What do you think of the Hastings-narrated books vs. the others? 
  • I prefer the 'others,' such as Five Little Pigs, or Evil Under The Sun.  There's more individual character development for me.
  • I liked Peril at End House: the circle of surrounding suspect was not brought to life with real understanding, but I felt I gained a deep insight into Poirot's methods and his thought processes in particular through Hastings's narrative. I think AC may have wanted to send Hastings abroad in order to get rid of the Holmes/Watson sidekick idea, feeling that this form and feel wasn't her thing after all. The thing she may not fully have taken into account is the fact that she is a great humourist, and the gentle parrying of insults and jests between the pair really entertain us. Hastings also appears in short stories of course.
     I think too that Hastings is a great foil to Poirot's foreign-ness, Poirot's flamboyant manner contrasting with the dull English, as he might see it. As a plot device, I can see, too, that Hastings's presence at Poirot's side ensures their joint admittance to company to which Poirot wouldn't exactly be excluded or unwelcome, but to whom he would have to explain Himself. Hastings is an Old Etonian, I think, and readily assimiable  into 'Society'. I think, too, that Hastings also foils and accentuates Poirot's genius and penetration, in the sense that the way in which Hastings sees situations is similar to how the majority of the guests, characters, etc, in most of the stories would superficially see people and events: he stands for Everyman, being very conventional, and so we get a better sense of Poirot's sly methods, of how he does not say what he thinks, but silkily works his way around his subject like a cat stalking a mouse, and how he kind of ruminates aloud and gets an almost tactile feeling for a problem before he makes his decision about what he thinks.

    I wonder sometimes if Agatha Christie preferred the continental insight of Poirot to the stolid Brits. I know that other posters have commented that they think AC had an English upbringing, but she was half American, wasn't she? I wonder if Hastings gave her the chance to lampoon people she knew who had irritated her?
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    Christie didn't need Hastings to lampoon people who annoyed her.  The victim in Murder in Mesopotamia is based on a real-life woman who made everything uncomfortable for everybody around her on archaeological digs.  

    Yes, Christie's father was American, and her older brother was born in New York.
  • I think Christie made the right decision in marrying off Hastings. It gave her more freedom as an author to experiment with ideas that would not have worked with Hastings as the narrator (I am thinking specifically of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd).

    A narrator helps set the tone of a novel and Hastings generally creates a lighter tone in the novels in which he features. I think Hastings adds to the humor of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Murder on the Links, and Peril at End House. It is hard to imagine novels that explore more serious themes, like Appointment with Death and Sad Cypress, being narrated by Hastings. If Christie had kept Hastings in every Poirot novel, she would have had to drastically revise these two novels and others so that the typical Hastings humor would work.

    In the adaptations of Christie's Poirot novels and short stories, Hastings is often placed in stories in which he did not originally feature. This usually works well for the short stories that needed to be fleshed out, but there are other cases where Hastings tends to distract rather than to add to the original story. While Hastings adds some humor to the movie version of Murder in Mesopotamia, his inclusion reduces the novel's narrator, Amy Leatheran, to a non-entity. This is a shame because Amy Leatheran's narration provides an interesting new perspective of Poirot rather than the same view of Poirot that we always get from Hastings.

    All series, if they last long enough, run the risk of becoming formulaic. Including Hastings in every novel would have made Christie's work more formulaic. Instead, by marrying him off in Murder on the Links, Christie made it easier to experiment with different styles of stories and thus, enabled herself to produce the wide variety of Poirot novels we know and love today.
  • I think you are right, on balance, P.Lombard, but I would have liked him to appear in a few more. The interest is there for we readers, and we would have loved to read about more happy reunions for the pair. Perhaps Christie actually found it a bit hard inventing dialogue between them, and continuing the dialogue without making Hastings look a total dimwit.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    No I think Agatha Christie made the wrong decision Marrying off Hastings, there was no need for it, the wife never appeared after Murder On The Links and only referred to in The Big Four, she could have had small appearances in later books which would have been more natural, Some of the Books with Hastings are Brilliant and some with Poirot but without Hastings like CAT P, After The Funeral and Mrs McGintys Dead are Brilliant and some especially Murder in Mesopotamia should have him I am glad The Film Dead Man's Folly has him.
  • edited September 2016
    P_Lombard said:

    While Hastings adds some humor to the movie version of Murder in Mesopotamia, his inclusion reduces the novel's narrator, Amy Leatheran, to a non-entity. This is a shame because Amy Leatheran's narration provides an interesting new perspective of Poirot rather than the same view of Poirot that we always get from Hastings.

    And this is the problem with the Evil Under The Sun adaptation. Capt. Hastings adds humor in the film but I felt like with the inclusion of Hastings (having Chief Inspector Japp was appropriate . . . . Miss Lemon, not so much I think) and with the silly subplot about Poirot's weight (which causes him to go to Burgh Island . . . . why can't Poirot just decide to go on vacation just because he wants to as originally in the book?), it got in the way in the development of the other characters. I felt like I didn't know them, I didn't get a good idea of who they were - they weren't well-drawn as in the book. The most important character to get right was Arlena and I don't feel like the Suchet version did so. I didn't feel like I had a good reason as to why Arlena Marshall should have been killed like in the Peter Ustinov version. Any opportunities that the suspects had appeared to be stronger in the Ustinov version. In the Suchet version the actress who plays Arlena says a few lines, that's about it. There was nothing to really show off her horrible treatment of her step-daughter Linda  [in the Suchet version it's Lionel]. Arlena in the Ustinov version was a tad bit meaner (to put it in nicer words) than the book but my gosh, I definitely felt like I was given a stronger a reason for why Arlena was killed. If time wasn't allotted to the silly subplot and the inclusion of Hastings, even if the short running time of the film remained at 1 hr, 40 mins, they could have still developed the characters a lot more and potentially made a better film than they did. I don't think the running time affected the film one bit. What I did like about the Suchet version which stuck close to the book was the ending when the murderer (not going to divulge the murderer for those who haven't read the book or saw the film yet) lunges at Poirot. I mostly prefer the book but I do have to say that David Suchet could have made a great Evil Under The Sun and it's unfortunate that this wasn't the case. 
  • I think having Capt. Hastings return in Curtain was appropriate and ties up neatly like a bookend to the first story The Mysterious Affair At Styles and to the series as a whole. If Christie didn't include him we would be wondering about him and how he's doing, how is his married life, etc. We would be left hanging. But she doesn't do that. I'm satisfied with how Christie handled Hastings and the number of stories he appeared in -- she made the right decision. I like the world she presented us with and the colorful variety of characters she wrote along the way such as Ariadne Oliver. 
  • I just finished Murder on Links and I liked it although as one of members said too many characters involved and he was right. After I watched tv version of AC's Poirot and it was changed considerably from book. I heard David Suchet started to produce the episodes as he wanted it to be authentic to the book. I agree as I was disappointed in tv version.
  • Banks1957Banks1957 New York City
    I started the book two weeks ago and find it very slow moving.  "The Moving Finger" and "The Murder at Styles" were both more interesting than this one.  I think I will stick with it a while longer since I want to be as familiar as possible with most of her works.
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