Hercule Poirot returns to once again solve a murder, this time of a wealthy Frenchman who seems to have foreseen his death. It’s not about Poirot being smarter than other detectives or about him noticing more details—it’s about his method, his organized way of approaching those details and fitting the theory to the facts rather than the other way around.
Contrary to what the title might imply, there is no golf in this book. (Thank God.) Rather, the body turns up in an open grave on the golf course undergoing renovation. This is the first oddity in a series of oddities that the police overlook, much to their sorrow. But Hercule Poirot, no, he does not overlook such things! That and the lead pipe.
Much like The Mysterious Affair at Styles, this novel has Captain Hastings as the narrator. Hastings is even more of a buffoon here: he falls in love with a girl he meets on the channel ferry. In what is a most magnificent coincidence, she turns up again near the crime scene, and happens to be embroiled in the mystery. Excuse me while I roll my eyes.
Though Hastings’ characterization isn’t great here, the mystery itself is much more engaging. We’ve got two bodies, a neighbour who turns out to have a checkered past, unsanctioned love—all the good stuff. Christie even arranges for a tense climax where Poirot has a woman act as bait to reveal the murderer—but because she neglected to tell him that she changed rooms, she almost dies. Oops.
And while the characterization might not be great, the way Christie portrays the friendship between Poirot and Hastings is excellent. When it briefly appears as if Hastings’ sudden lady love might have done it, he sets himself against Poirot. Christie plays it as all very comical and English: Hastings is the utmost gentleman to Poirot, and Poirot mocks him for it in that needling Belgian way of his. Of course, it turns out in the end that Hastings was being a big galoot and Papa Poirot had it right all along—not that he bothered to tell Hastings.
Still, it’s a wonderful little diversion from the slavish loyalty one might expect in the detective/sidekick duo that now seems to pervade the mystery genre.
As with The Mysterious Affair at Styles and the more recently read Death on the Nile, Poirot doesn’t just solve the mystery: he plays matchmaker and generally raises the happiness of all involved, aside from those who deserve justice. Indeed, I’m not sure if this is something Christie sets out to do as a way of balancing the scales—her way of showing that even after tragedy, there is hope.
The Murder on the Links doesn’t stand out as one of Christie’s most salutary efforts, but it is by every measure competent and enjoyable. Hastings’ gentlemanly sexism and contrived romantic notions might be annoying, but if you read it with a sense of humour, you’ll have a grand afternoon ahead of you.