The Hollow
by Agatha Christie
  

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

a Hercule Poirot mystery

Collins: London, 1946
256 pages

Dodd, Mead: New York, 1946
279 pages

sometimes reprinted as —
Murder After Hours

March 2009

  
To Hercule Poirot there was only one thing more fascinating than the study of human beings, and that was the pursuit of truth.


  

This is a fine mystery novel by Agatha Christie, and I enjoy it even more in rereading. The characters in The Hollow are a fascinating assortment, thoughtfully and empathetically shown, and these people beautifully dovetail into their various roles around the central mystery. There is some tangled romancing of a subtlety that is not so common in a Christie novel. We also have passages of lyrical writing about the English countryside; intriguing excursions into psychology, art, and the psychology of art; and of course, holding all of these firmly in the plot, a neatly crafted puzzle of detection.

It is quite a challenge to Agatha Christie's great Belgian detective Hercule Poirot: sharp of eye and mind, impeccably dressed, justly famous, and no more falsely modest than excellent manners require. Although the novel is told from multiple viewpoints, Poirot takes part in the narrative almost from the beginning, and in fact is present at the murder scene and virtually a witness to the act.

Fascinating ingredients in complex interplay. But what is the truth of it?
  

Later, Hercule Poirot has an interesting exchange with a professional sculptress, one of the guests staying at her relatives' country house called The Hollow to which Poirot also has been invited. This conversation is after the crime takes place, and the investigation seems stalled. She is deprecating the muddle of her studio back in London, and Poirot answers:

"But I can understand that, mademoiselle. You are an artist."

"Aren't you an artist, too, M. Poirot?"

Poirot put his head on one side,

"It is a question, that. But, on the whole, I would say no. I have known crimes that were artistic — they were, you understand, supreme exercises of imagination — but the solving of them — no, it is not the creative power that is needed. What is required is a passion for the truth."
  

As a title, The Hollow is much more evocative than the alternate Murder After Hours: which, if not quite a publisher's random phrase containing the word murder, is trivial. The Hollow has one up-front referent (the name of the country house); it's also a poetic image from a verse of Tennyson; yet another referent Poirot develops fairly late in the story (you may smile when you recall who sent you to this book); and there are I think two others implied by Christie.

A fine example of the Hercule Poirot series, and without qualification, a fine novel. Read it as slowly as you may, for the mystery plot; and after a time, read it again, for Agatha Christie's own artistry.

  

© 2009 Robert Wilfred Franson


  
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