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#BookReview: Hercule Poirot #25- The Hollow by Agatha Christie

Title and Author: The Hollow by Agatha Christie
Print Length: 384 Pages
Publication Date: 1946
Language: English
Genre: Mystery, Classic, Suspense, Thriller

Book Review:

A man lying by the pool is dying while a woman stands over him with a gun in her hand and several people stand shocked witnessing the scene but Hercule Poirot is not amused. He is annoyed with the scene which he believes to be set up for him.

"I, Hercule Poirot, am not amused."

But is the scene just a setup?

"And suddenly, with a terrific shock, with that feeling as of blurring on a cinematograph screen before the picture comes to focus, Hercule Poirot realized that this artificially set scene had a point of reality..."

A straightforward case of murder of a husband by his timid wife is the first impression but is the case this simple or is there something hidden that is yet to come to the surface?

The Hollow is one of those cases by Agatha Christie that present a splendid character study while also providing a mystery that is completely fantastic because of its simplicity! The story has an almost surreal feel. I felt like I was in a different world where heaven like places like Ainswick and The Hollow existed. A world where life is slow and peaceful. Here in this beautiful world where everyone knows everyone and where they like each other, can a woman like Gerda, who worshipped her husband, kill him in cold blood?

Crippled with hidden agendas, motives and goals this is a case that has Poirot clueless!

"He did not know- he simply did not know.

But he felt he ought to know."

First published in 1946,  The Hollow was later adapted for the stage by the author where she eliminated Poirot from the story.

Agatha Christie weaves a yet another mind blowing mystery that looks simple and yet has so much depth in  The Hollow. To reach the solution to this mystery, Poirot has to solve the mysteries of the characters of the people involved. People like Lucy Angkatell, the hostess, who is absentminded, often childlike but with a tendency to put people in controversial situations and make guesses that often came very close to the uncomfortable truth. Is she as simple as she looks?

"What made Lady Angkatell dangerous, he thought, was the fact that those intuitive, wild guesses of hers might be often right. With a careless (seemingly careless?) word she built up a picture - and if parts of the picture was right, wouldn't you, in spite of yourself, believe in the other half of the picture?..."

Then there is the victim, John Christow, a respected Harley Street doctor who although very good at work is often insensitive towards his wife, Gerda. Unfaithful to her, he is demanding, tyrannical and unconcerned about her happiness. 

Gerda, on the other hand, is almost a slave to her husband. She has no opinion of her own and agrees to any and every word out of the mouth of her husband. Unaware of his flaws, she has placed him on the highest pedestal of virtues and worships the ground he walks on.

Then there is Henrietta, a cousin of Lucy Angkatell and John Christow's latest love interest. She is a complex character. A sulptor by occupation, she is quick witted and often ruthless in her pursuit of artistic perfection! 

As, John Christow aptly describes Henrietta when he says,

"If I were dead, the first thing you'd do, with the tears streaming down your face, would be to start modelling some damned mourning woman or some figure of grief."

There are other characters of interest as well like Midge, another cousin of Lucy Angkatell; Edward, a yet another cousin of Lucy Angkatell who has been in love with Henrietta for ever and been rejected several times by her; David Ankatell, a cousin of Lucy who has come to The Hollow for the first time and is not liking it there and finally, Lord Angkatell, Lucy's husband who is honorable, simple and often worried for his meddling wife.

The plot is novel, ingenious and simply awesome. Although, the author felt like she had ruined the story by introducing Poirot, I feel the story became more appealing because of him. His bafflement and the unease at the instinctual feel that something was wrong that comes with experience was very exciting to watch and his steps to reconstruct the events leading to the crime and the solution is just marvelous!

Christie's writing style is simple, engaging and she keeps ahead of the reader all through. The extracts from Tennyson's poem give the story a more darker feel and it is from here that the title of the story is taken.

'I hate the dreadful hollow behind the little wood;

Its lips in the field above are dabbled with blood-read heath,
The red-ribb'd ledges drip with a silent horror of blood
And Echo there, whatever is ask'd her, answers "Death".'

Poirot aptly describes the case when he says,

"It has seemed to me from the beginning that either this crime was very simple- so simple that it was difficult to believe its simplicity (and simplicity, Mademoiselle, can be strangely baffling) or else it was extremely complex."

There is so much happening and so many story lines but the author handles it with expertise and makes the story so engrossing that it leaves the reader deeply affected and with a great insight into the human nature at the end. 

A book that is not-to-be-missed,  The Hollow left me speechless and totally awed. Full 5 on 5 stars to it and a strong recommendation that you read and enjoy this classic mystery from the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie! :)

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