The Hollow by Agatha Christie
Genre: Detective Fiction
Publishing Info: from the Agatha Christie Collection, Planet Three Publishing (first published 1946)
Star Rating: 4/5
Back Cover Summary:
When socialite Lucy Angkatell organises a weekend’s entertainment at her English country house, The Hollow, it seems she has thought of everything: the capable butler, the requisite number of kitchen maids – in fact, the only thing she seems to have overlooked is the fact that most of her guests hate each other.
A far-from-warm welcome greets Hercule Poirot as he arrives for lunch. Instead, a man lies dying by the swimming pool, as a gun sinks slowly to the bottom..
Having only read one other Agatha Christie novel – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – I have little to compare The Hollow to. While The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was written in a first person unreliable narrator style with a focus on the solving of the crime, The Hollow has quite a different focus. The murder – and Poirot – do not appear until a third of the way through the book, with the earlier chapters exploring the characters who will fall under suspicion.
Set in a country house with a host of guests, I was expecting a formulaic mystery. What I got was an exploration into the impact of murder on a group of people. Poirot features very little in the book. The focus is very much on the guests of the weekend country get away, their relationships with each other, and their reactions to murder. Since Christie spent time letting the reader get to know the characters, I cared more about them when murder came into the equation. Having more understanding of the victim and suspects’ characters meant I felt more engaged with the story.
Despite the focus on character, rather than mystery solving, I was still glued to the pages, eager to reach the end and find the solution to the murder. Satisfyingly, it wasn’t a predictable ending, and I hadn’t worked out the ‘whodunit’.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of Christie’s earliest published novels, with The Hollow published twenty years later. A development in her writing is evident. I found the writing in Roger Ackroyd rather simplistic, more so than I had been expecting. It was a pleasant surprise to find a much more mature and sophisticated style of writing in The Hollow.
Reading this book has made me curious to read more of Christie’s work. I hadn’t heard of The Hollow until I found it in a second hand book shop. I think it is therefore quite under-rated. It is a very interesting character study, whilst still being a highly satisfactory murder mystery tale.