When Hercule Poirot arrives at The Hollow – home of the Angkatell family – he is greeted by what he perceives to be an artificial murder scene staged for his amusement. Soon the world famous detective understands the horrible truth: in front of his eyes lies a dying man uttering his last words.
The Hollow, published in 1946, is one of Agatha Christie’s famous country house murder plots and has been adapted into a successful play. The novel is named after a fictitious home owned by the prominent Angkatell family, which through tragic events, turns into the scene of the murder.
The novel features Christie’s popular detective Hercule Poirot, who arrives as a guest to visit the house and comes upon a bloody sight: John Christow, a successful doctor, is lying in a pool of his own blood with his family standing around – all looking rather suspicious.
Even though the identity of the murderer seems evident, Poirot sees a mystery in the much obvious solution and the strange behaviour of the family.
A strange submissive figure , a figure offering up worship to an unseen deity – the face raised – blind, dumb, devoted – terribly strong, terribly fanatical… He said:
“That’s rather a terrifying thing that you have made, Henrietta!”
Henrietta shivered slightly.
She said, “Yes – I thought that…”
John said sharply:
“What’s she looking at – who is it? There in front of her?”
Henrietta hesitated. She said, and her voice had a queer note in it:
“I don’t know. But I think – she might be looking at you, John.”
In The Hollow, Christie has created some of her most fascinating and well rounded characters. Even if the plot is not overly complicated, the novel revolves around an interesting ensemble of people and the tangled relationships between them. The readers get to know the brilliant and beloved Dr John Christow and his submissive wife Gerda, the headstrong and spirited Henrietta Savernake, the unconventional Lucy Angkatell married to the gun loving Henry, the seductive Veronica Cray and the selfless middle class Midge as well as sad Edward, who is to inherit the family fortune. Not to forget Gudgeon, the all knowing and seeing butler.
Poirot, who shows up at the Hollow only after the murder has taken place, is written almost like an afterthought since the book focuses so heavily on the other characters, whom we get to follow closely even when Poirot is not present. The detective could almost have been taken out of the plot and the story would still thrill and surprise with its use of misdirection, red herrings and the surprising layers of characterisation.
“For what he was looking at was a highly artificial murder scene. By the side of the pool was the body, artistically arranged with an out flung arm and even some red paint dripping gently over the edge of the concrete into the pool. It was spectacular body, that of a hand in hand, was a woman, a short powerfully-built middle-aged woman with a curiously blank expression.“
The Hollow explores how betrayal, loyalty, unconditional love and family bonds blend together into a delicious (and most devious) mix making Hercule Poirot’s work cut out for him! Can he use his understanding of psychology to stop more tragedy from unfolding?
Verdict: 4 out of 5
– LS –