Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders


There’s a serial killer on the loose, bent on working his way through the alphabet. And as a macabre calling card he leaves beside each victim’s corpe the ABC Railway Guide open at the name of the town where the murder has taken place. Having begun with Andover and Bexhill, there seems little chance of the murderer being caught –- but he makes the crucial and vain mistake of challenging Hercule Poirot to frustrate his plans …

One of my all-time top-however-many favorite books by Christie. She was one of the first Golden Age authors to tackle the topic of a serial killer, and she did it vastly better and more successfully than the rest of the lot, with the possible exception of Roy Horniman’s Israel Rank (the basis for the movie Kind Hearts and Coronets, starring Dennis Price and Alec Guinness), which however is a horse of a totally different color. Christie eschews every single feature of what has long since become serial killer tropedom, while giving us a terriffic puzzle to solve, a murderer with a perfectly plausible motive — and showing an understanding of post-war PTSD far exceeding that of most of her contemporaries (with the notable exception of her fellow Detection Club founding member Dorothy L. Sayers).

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