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the murder on the links

11 june 2020

I was hoping for more golf in The Murder on the Links. While the murder in question certainly does occur on the links – the corpse is found lying face-down in a sand trap with a dagger in his back – the crime is not golf-related, and the various detectives who investigate, including Hercule Poirot, do not appear to understand golf in the slightest.

The basic device of The Murder on the Links is doubling. Soon after the initial corpse fetches up in the sand-trap, another similar one is discovered, stabbed with what appears to be the same bizarre souvenir dagger. The murders remind Poirot of a famous case, twenty years in the past: a wife tied up, mysterious ruffians doing her husband in. Hastings, our befuddled narrator, contributes to the doubling by meeting a pair of acrobats, a sister act – in fact, actual twins.

Poirot himself is doubled. Not content with the usual dynamic in which Poirot is considerably smarter than Hastings and the police, Agatha Christie throws another master detective into the mix, Giraud of the Sûreté. Like Poirot, Giraud has his methods, but they do not involve the little grey cells. Giraud is the kind of genius who has memorized the tobacco and matches of all the world's nations: but of course, little good does this do him in combat with Poirot.

Poirot and Giraud agree on just one thing: "A man must have been connected with the case, in order to dig the grave" (Chapter 19). This bit of sexism goes unchallenged and indeed eventually contributes to the solution: a man is involved, just not a man that anyone suspects. In a world where women perform feats of acrobatics and plan and commit several murders, digging a shallow grave in a sand trap apparently requires the masculine touch.

In the end, Hastings falls in love with one of his acrobats, after briefly suspecting the worst of her. I must say that Hastings and Poirot go to extaordinary lengths to fend off suspicion that they're queer. The whole routine they go through whenever a woman appears, each smirking about the other's interest in her, yells "closet door" to anybody with even modest gaydar. But dash it all, when a chap makes up his mind to kiss a girl, one ought to give up that kind of thinking, don't you know.

Christie, Agatha. The Murder on the Links. 1923. Kindle Edition.