Laurel Young's Reviews > Evil Under the Sun

Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
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Mar 22, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: my-year-of-agatha

Evil Under the Sun is an excellent early Agatha (1941), and it reminds me strongly of her short novella "Triangle at Rhodes" from 5 years earlier. I wonder if perhaps Dame Christie realized that she had the seeds of a longer piece based around the same theme of Poirot at the beach and a romantic triangle that one has to shake like a kaleidoscope to see from the correct angle.

Characters and setting are all top-notch here. The Jolly Roger Hotel gives us a wonderful picture of what "holidays at the sea" were like in England in the early 20th century, before all-inclusive resorts and other such modern extravagances. I found myself really wanting to vacation there! The cast is varied and interesting; I was especially struck by the portrayal of Rosamund, whom one might almost call Poirot's Irene Adler--the one woman who really captures his fancy. Poirot alludes vaguely to ladies he has admired in his youth in various of Christie's novels, but this is the only one I can think of where he really does seem smitten in the present tense! I found myself rooting for Rosamund even though we know right away that she loves another and is unlikely to become Madame Poirot. :)

I was also impressed with the sheer variety of possible motives for the murder of Arlena Marshall--everything from a religious complex to greed to jealousy to hatred, etc. One gets the sense that she was bound to die sooner or later, the main question being who would get to her first! And therein lies what may or may not be a flaw, but made me hesitate to give Evil Under the Sun 5 stars: when we finally do learn whodunnit and why...well, it is certainly a breathtaking, clever twist, but the mechanics of it are SO complicated that it's hard to believe it could actually come off. I actually had suspected some of what turned out to be the truth, but couldn't see how it work or what motive there could be. I do feel that we don't have sufficient clues to deduce the motive until very late in the game, which isn't quite as fair-play as usual from Christie. So, I had a slight sense of frustration about that, but this is still a classic mystery with tons of vintage charm that I will certainly return to...perhaps as a perfect beach book??
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