Book Review: The A.B.C. Murders (1936)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1936 murder mystery written by Agatha Christie.

Synopsis: Super sleuth Hercule Poirot must match wits with a serial killer that is targeting his (or her) victims in alphabetical order and is taunting the detective by sending him letters that give advanced warning of where he will strike next. With no witnesses and no information about how the killer is picking his victims, it is one of the toughest cases Poirot has been asked to solve.


When I first read the description of this book, I was genuinely intrigued by the mystery. The idea of Hercule Poirot chasing a serial killer that picked his victims according to the alphabet and, at the same time, was arrogant enough to taunt one of the greatest detectives, definitely sounded interesting and I couldn't wait to get reading.

As it turns out, between my oldest daughter's skating lessons and my youngest daughter's dance competition this past weekend, I had plenty of time to read it. After finishing it last night, my overall opinion was a bit mixed.

The A.B.C. Murders
The A.B.C. Murders
Photo by Steven Helmer

After finishing the book, I do have to say I thought the mystery was better than expected. At first, I thought Christie was going to give away all the killer's secrets right away. But, as the book progressed, even though there was an obvious main suspect, there were still just enough questions to keep me wondering if he was really the killer or if it was just one big red herring. And, even if he did turn out to be the killer, his motive for the murders and, just as important, taunting Poirot, were still unclear.

As a result of this, I did find I enjoyed the twist at the end of the book, with Poirot solving the case by asking a single question to people who were connected to the victims and finding a way to connect all the dots.

That being said, I also found I wasn't that big of a fan of her decision to write the book both from a first person perspective (with Captain Hastings once again narrating) and a third person perspective (which Hastings supposedly added from second-hand information).

While it was unique and gave us some insight into some of the other characters, I think this would have been better had she just stuck with the first-person narrative. Murder mysteries, in my opinion at least, are much more fun when you feel as though you are in the room as it is being solved. That additional insight from the third-person narratives prevented that, especially since they allowed the case to progress without Poirot even being involved.

Final Opinion

As I said before, I could have done without the third-person narratives. However, thanks to a couple twists toward the end, the mystery did end up being better than expected and, overall, I do think I enjoyed reading this book.

My Grade: B

Updated: 03/19/2018, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 08/25/2018

StevenHelmer, Do you have a favorite Hercule Poirot mystery? What do you think of the film adaptations, such as with David Suchet in the role of the detective who sleeps with his hands precisely bent over the covers precisely pulled up to just below the shoulders?

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