The Murder on the Links is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by The Bodley Head in May 1923 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in the same year. It features Hercule Poirot and Arthur Hastings. The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6) and the US edition at $1.75.
The book is notable for a subplot in which Hastings meets his future wife, Dulcie Duveen, a development "greatly desired on Agatha's part … parcelling off Hastings to wedded bliss in the Argentine."
- 1 Plot summary
- 2 Characters in "The Murder on the Links"
- 3 Literary significance and reception
- 4 References to actual history, geography and current science
- 5 References in other works
- 6 Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
- 7 Publication history
- 8 International titles
Captain Hastings arrives in the flat that he now shares with Poirot in London, eager to tell the Belgian detective about a woman with whom he has fallen hopelessly in love on the train from Paris to Calais. But Poirot is busy sorting his mail, impatiently tossing aside bills and banal requests "recovering lost lap dogs for fashionable ladies". Then he finds an extraordinary letter from the south of France: "For God's sake, come!" writes Monsieur Paul Renauld. Poirot decides to investigate and he takes Hastings to France and the Villa Genevieve in Merlinville-sur-Mer on the northern French coast where Renauld wrote from. Asking for directions near the Villa Genevieve, they are watched by a young girl outside another smaller villa who has "anxious eyes".
Arriving at Renauld's house, they find they are too late: Renauld is dead. He and his wife were attacked in their rooms at 2.00 in the night by two masked men. Madame Renauld was tied up and her husband taken away by the men wanting to know "the secret". They appear to have got in to the house through the open front door with no sign of forced entry. His body was found stabbed in a newly dug open grave on the edge of a nearby golf course which is under construction and next to the placing of a bunker which was due to be dug that day. The Renaulds' son, Jack, had just been sent away on business to South America and Renauld also gave the chauffeur an unexpected holiday leaving just three female servants in the house who heard nothing. The eldest of the three servants tells Poirot and the police that quite often, after Madame Renauld has retired to bed for the night, her husband has been visited by a neighbour, Madame Daubreuil, who is the mother of the girl with the "anxious eyes", Marthe Daubreuil.
The dead man changed his will just two weeks before, leaving almost everything to his wife and nothing to his son. There is a smashed watch at the scene of the kidnap which is still running but has somehow gained two hours. The widow inspects the body to identify it. She loses her composure and collapses with grief at the sight of her dead husband.
Poirot is puzzled by some of these findings—why is the watch running fast? Why did the servants hear nothing? Why was the body found somewhere where it was bound to be quickly discovered? Why is there a piece of lead piping near the body? Poirot is hampered in his investigations by the attitude of Monsieur Giraud of the Sûreté who plainly believes the elderly Belgian is too set in his old-fashioned ways to solve the mystery. The local Examining Magistrate, Monsieur Hautet, is more helpful and tells Poirot that he has found out that the Renaulds' neighbour at the Villa Marguerite, Madame Daubreuil, has paid two hundred thousand francs into her bank account in recent weeks: was she Monsieur Renauld's mistress? They visit the lady who is furious when the suggestion is put to her and throws them out. Having now met Madame Daubreuil for the first time, Poirot tells Hastings that he recognises her from a murder case going back some twenty years.
Soon after, Jack Renauld arrives back; his trip to Santiago was delayed enabling him to return when he heard of his father's murder. Jack admits to rowing with his father over who he wanted to marry, hence the change of will. Poirot suspects that Marthe Daubreuil is the girl in question and feels that the answer to the problem lies in Paris. He goes there to investigate. Whilst he is away another body is found in a shed on the golf course. No one recognises the man who by his hands could be a tramp but is dressed in finer clothes. The strangest thing is that the man has been dead for forty-eight hours and thus died before Monsieur Renauld's murder. No one recognises the new corpse.
Poirot returns from Paris and, without being told details beforehand, staggers Hastings by correctly guessing the age of the man, place of death, and manner of death, despite having been clearly shocked when Hastings originally told him of this new development. He examines the new corpse with the doctor. Poirot sees foam on his lips and the doctor realises the man died of an epileptic fit and was then stabbed after death.
When alone, Poirot tells Hastings that his investigations in Paris have borne fruit and that Madame Daubreuil is in fact a Madame Beroldy who was put on trial twenty years previously for the death of her elderly husband. He too was murdered by, supposedly, two masked men who broke into their house at night wanting to know "the secret". Madame Beroldy had a young lover, Georges Conneau, who absconded from justice but wrote a letter to the police admitting to the crime; there were no masked men and he stabbed Monsieur Beroldy himself. Madame Beroldy managed a tearfully-convincing performance in the witness box, convincing the jury of her innocence, but leaving most people suspicious. She then disappeared herself.
Poirot deduces that Paul Renauld was in fact Georges Conneau. He fled to Canada and then South America where he made his fortune and gained a wife and a son. When they returned to France, by great misfortune, the immediate neighbour of the house he bought was Madame Beroldy, now Madame Daubreuil, who started to blackmail him. When a tramp died on his grounds of an epileptic fit, Renauld saw a chance to duplicate the ruse of twenty years earlier by faking his own death and escaping his blackmailer with his wife's cooperation. His plan was to send his son away on business, give his chauffeur a holiday, and stage a kidnapping by tying his wife up and disappearing. After leaving the house he would go to the golf course and dig a grave where he knew it would be discovered; he would then put the tramp into the grave after destroying his features with the lead pipe. The plan was for this to happen at midnight, giving Renauld the chance to get away from the local station on the last train and use the smashed watch to create an alibi. Unfortunately, the smashing of the watch did not stop it, so the deception failed on Poirot at least. What then went wrong was that Renauld was stabbed by someone else after he finished digging the grave but before he could fetch the body of the tramp, hence his wife's faint when she saw that the body actually was her husband's.
Jack is proven innocent by another girl he was also in love with and as far as Poirot is concerned that leaves only one suspect who had anything to gain by Renauld dying: Marthe Daubreuil, who did not know of the change of will disinheriting Jack and thought that by killing his father she would gain his fortune when she married his son. She overheard the Renaulds discussing using the dead tramp as a ruse and stabbed Renauld on the golf course after he had dug the grave. Poirot arranges for Madame Renauld to openly disinherit Jack in an attempt to force Marthe out.The attempt succeeds and Marthe dies when she tries to kill Madame Renauld. Her mother disappears again. Jack and his mother go to South America and Hastings ends up with Dulcie Duveen, the sister of the girl who was able to prove Jack's innocence. She is also the woman he met on the train at the beginning of the novel.
Characters in "The Murder on the Links"
At the Villa Geneviève
- Paul Renauld – formerly Georges Conneau
- Eloise Renauld – his wife
- Jack Renauld – their son
- Françoise Arrichet – elderly servant in M. Renauld's house
- Léonie Oulard – a young maid in M. Renauld's house
- Denise Oulard – her sister and also a maid in M. Renauld's house
- Auguste – gardener at M. Renauld's house
- Gabriel Stonor – M. Renauld's secretary
At the Villa Marguerite
- Madame Daubreuil – neighbour of Paul Renauld, formerly Madame Jeanne Beroldy
- Marthe Daubreuil – her daughter
Merlinville and Parisian Police
- Lucien Bex – Commissary of Police
- Monsieur Hautet – Examining Magistrate
- Dr Durand – the local doctor in Merlinville
- Monsieur Giraud of the Paris Sûreté
- Monsieur Marchaud – Sergent de Ville
- Magistrate at Merlinville
- Joseph Aarons – British theatrical agent
- Bella Duveen – fiancé of Jack Renauld and stage performer
- Dulcie Duveen – sister of Bella and part of her stage act – known to Hastings as "Cinderella"
- Maître Grosier – Jack Renauld's counsel
Literary significance and reception
The Times Literary Supplement reviewed the novel in its issue of 7 June 1923. The review compared the methods of detection of Poirot to Sherlock Holmes and concluded favourably that the book "provides the reader with an enthralling mystery of an unusual kind".
The New York Times Book Review of 25 March 1923 began, “Here is a remarkably good detective story which can be warmly commended to those who like that kind of fiction.” After detailing the set-up of the story the review continued, “The plot has peculiar complications and the reader will have to be very astute indeed if he guesses who the criminal is until the last complexity has been unravelled. The author is notably ingenious in the construction and unravelling of the mystery, which develops fresh interests and new entanglements at every turn. She deserves commendation also for the care with which the story is worked out and the good craftsmanship with which it is written. Although there is not much endeavour to portray character, except in the case of M. Poirot, several of the personages are depicted with swiftly made expressive and distinctive lines.”
The unnamed reviewer in The Observer of 10 June 1923 said, "When Conan Doyle popularised Sherlock Holmes in the Strand of the 'nineties he lit such a candle as the publishers will not willingly let out. Not a week passes which does not bring a 'detective' story from one quarter or another, and several of the popular magazines rely mainly on that commodity. Among the later cultivators of this anything but lonely furrow the name of Agatha Christie is well in the front. If she has not the touch of artistry which made The Speckled Band and The Hound of the Baskervilles things of real horror, she has an unusual gift of mechanical complication." The reviewer went on to compare the novel with The Mysterious Affair at Styles which they called, "a remarkable piece of work" but warned that, "it is a mistake to carry the art of bewilderment to the point of making the brain reel." They did admit that, "No solution could be more surprising" and stated that the character of Poirot was, "a pleasant contrast to most of his lurid competitors; and one even suspects a touch of satire in him."
Robert Barnard: "Super-complicated early whodunit, set in the northerly fringes of France so beloved of the English bankrupt. Poirot pits his wits against a sneering sophisticate of a French policeman while Hastings lets his wander after an auburn-haired female acrobat. Entertaining for most of its length, but the solution is one of those 'once revealed, instantly forgotten' ones, where ingenuity has triumphed over common sense".
Some additional blurbs regarding the book, and used by The Bodley Head for advertising subsequent print runs, are as follows:
- "One of the best mystery stories I have read." – S.P.B. Mais in The Daily Express.
- "A clinking yarn, most ingeniously contrived and skilfully evolved … there is not a superfluous word or a dull one from start to finish … the very best of this sort of fiction." – Winnifred Blatchford in The Clarion.
- "A thrilling and accomplished book." – The Observer.
- "Mrs. Christie has a surprising gift of keeping the reader's tension unslacked, of heaping excitement on excitement, and of always having a surprise up her sleeve." – Daily Mail.
- "Unhesitatingly we recommend ‘The Murder on the Links’ to every lover of such tales, and every non-lover likewise we advise to read it and thereupon reconsider their previous opinion." – Queen.
- "A godsend to hardened readers of fiction." – Illustrated London News.
- "A very convincing and most readable book." – Challenge.
- "A really good detective story." – Tatler.
- "A capital story, cleverly designed, briskly told." – Bookman.
- "None can say that Mrs. Christie is lacking either in imagination or the ability to tell a good story." – Daily Graphic.
- "A rattling, ingenious mystery yarn." – London Opinion
In a modern work of literary criticism, Christie biographer Laura Thompson writes:
Murder on the Links was as different from its predecessor as that had been from Styles. It is very French; not just in setting but in tone, which reeks of Gaston Leroux and, at times, Racine … Agatha admitted that she had written it in a "high-flown, fanciful" manner. She had also based the book too closely upon a real-life French murder case, which gives the story a kind of non-artistic complexity.
But Poirot is magnificently himself. What originality there is in Murder on the Links comes straight from his thought processes. For example he deduces the modus operandi of the crime because it is a repeat, essentially, of an earlier murder; this proves his favourite theory that human nature does not change, even when the human in question is a killer: "The English murderer who disposed of his wives in succession by drowning them in their baths was a case in point. Had he varied his methods, he might have escaped detection to this day. But he obeyed the common dictates of human nature, arguing that what had once succeeded would succeed again, and he paid the penalty of his lack of originality."
References to actual history, geography and current science
Christie recalls the plot idea coming from a cause célèbre in France which centered around a tale of masked men breaking into a house, killing the owner and tying up the wife. As the case continued, the wife’s story was disproved and she was accused of making the story up. Christie took inspiration from this, deciding that her story should start with the wife being acquitted of the murder. "A mysterious woman would appear somewhere, having been the heroine of a murder case years ago." Christie set the story in France, making it the first of Poirot's foreign cases.
References in other works
The character of the theatrical agent Joseph Aarons also features in the 1928 short story Double Sin which was published in book form in the US in Double Sin and Other Stories in 1961 and in the UK in Poirot's Early Cases in 1974.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
Saturday Night Theatre (BBC Radio 4)
The Murder on the Links was presented as a one-hour, thirty-minute radio play in the Saturday Night Theatre strand on BBC Radio 4 on 15 September 1990, the centenary of Christie's birth.
Agatha Christie's Poirot
Graphic novel adaptation
The Murder on the Links was released by HarperCollins as a graphic novel adaptation on 16 July 2007, adapted by François Rivière and illustrated by Marc Piskic (ISBN 0-00-725057-6). This was translated from the edition first published in France by Emmanuel Proust éditions in 2003 under the title of Le Crime du Golf.
- 1923, John Lane (The Bodley Head), May 1923, Beautiful Orange Art Deco Hardcover, 326 pp, reprinted twice more same year.
- 1923, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1923, Plain green Hardcover, 298 pp
- 1925, John Lane (The Bodley Head), March 1925, Hardcover (Cheap edition – two shillings) Lavender Art Deco cover
- 1931, John Lane (The Bodley Head, February 1931 (As part of the An Agatha Christie Omnibus along with The Mysterious Affair at Styles and Poirot Investigates, Hardcover (Priced at seven shillings and sixpence, a cheaper edition at five shillings was published in October 1932).
- 1932, John Lane (The Bodley Head), March 1932, Paperback (Ninepence)
- 1936, Penguin Books, March 1936, Paperback (sixpence) 254 pp
- 1949, Dell Books, 1949, Dell number 454, Paperback, 224 pp
- 1954, Corgi Books, 1954, Paperback, 222 pp
- 1960, Pan Books, 1960, Paperback (Great Pan G323), 224 pp
- 1977, Ulverscroft Large-print, 1977, Hardcover, 349 pp ISBN 0-85456-516-7
- 1978, Panther Books, 1978, Paperback, 224 pp
- 1988, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 208 pp, ISBN 0-00-617477-9
- 2007, Facsimile of 1923 UK first edition (HarperCollins), 5 November 2007, Hardcover, 326 pp ISBN 0-00-726516-6
The novel received its first true publication as a four-part serialisation in The Grand Magazine from December 1922 to March 1923 (Issues 214 – 217) under the title of The Girl with the Anxious Eyes before it was issued in book form by The Bodley Head in May 1923. This was Christie's first published work for the Grand Magazine which went on to publish many of her short stories throughout the 1920s.
Christie's Autobiography recounts how she objected to the illustration of the dustjacket of the UK first edition stating that it was both badly drawn and unrepresentative of the plot. It was the first of many such objections she raised with her publishers over the dustjacket. It would appear that Christie won her argument over the dustjacket as the one she describes and objected to ("a man in his pyjamas, dying of an epileptic fit on a golf course") does not resemble the actual jacket (illustrated above) which shows Monsieur Renauld digging the open grave on the golf course at night.
Christie dedicated her third book as follows:
"TO MY HUSBAND. A fellow enthusiast for detective stories and to whom I am indebted for much helpful advice and criticism".
Christie refers here to her first husband, Archibald Christie (1890–1962) from whom she was divorced in 1928.
The dustjacket front flap of the first edition carried no specially written blurb. Instead it carried quotes of reviews for The Mysterious Affair at Styles whilst the back jacket flap carried similar quotes for The Secret Adversary.
- Czech: Vražda na golfovém hřišti (Murder on the Golf court)
- Dutch: Moord op de golflinks (Murder on the Links)
- Estonian: Mõrv golfiväljakul(Murder on the Golf court)
- French: Le Crime du golf (The crime of golf)
- German: Mord auf dem Golfplatz (Murder on the Links)
- Hungarian: Az ijedt szemű lány (The Girl with the Anxious Eyes), Gyilkosság a golfpályán (Murder on the Links)
- Indonesian : Lapangan Golf Maut (The Deadly Golf Court)
- Italian: Aiuto, Poirot! (Poirot, Help!)
- Japanese: ゴルフ場殺人事件 (Murder on the Golf court)
- Polish: Morderstwo na polu golfowym (Murder on the Golf court)
- Portuguese: Poirot, o Golfe e o Crime (Poirot, Golf and Crime) and Crime no Campo de Golfe (Crime at the Golf Court)
- Spanish: Asesinato en el campo de golf (Murder on the Golf court)
- Swedish: Vem var den Skyldige? (Who was the Guilty?)
- Turkish: Dersimiz Cnayet (Our Lesson is murder)