Tuesday, 19 March 2019

#CBR11 Book 7: "Why Didn't They Ask Evans?" by Agatha Christie

Page count: 279 pages
Audio book length: 7 hrs 12 mins
Rating: 4 stars

When out golfing one afternoon, young Mr Bobby Derwent finds a handsome stranger at the bottom of a cliff, near death. While his golfing companion goes to get help, Bobby sits with the stranger, who soon expires, but not before uttering: "Why didn't they ask Evans?" While looking for signs of identification, Bobby finds the photograph of a very beautiful woman in the dead man's pockets, but nothing else to give him a sign of the man's identity.

The local inquest rules the man's death a tragic accident. Yet Bobby can't entirely shake the feeling that there's something else afoot. Strangely, shortly after the inquest, the slightly aimless young vicar's son is offered a lucrative job in a law firm in South America, but feels he must decline. The next thing he knows, he wakes up in hospital, having been the victim of an attempted poisoning while eating a picnic lunch. It's almost miraculous that he survived. By this point, both Bobby and his childhood friend Lady Frances "Frankie" Derwent are convinced that the stranger was murdered. They decide to team up to discover why the stranger was murdered and what the significance of his last words were.

Over the course of my early teens, I pretty much read every Agatha Christie book that I could get my hands on. This is the very first one of Ms. Christie's books that I ever read. I got my love of books from my mother, and through my adolescence, I was a member of a subscription book of the month club. Only once I got older, did I realise just how generous my Mum actually was. I was rarely interested in every book, but if I asked for a book, she never said no. I'm pretty sure she easily gave me six to eight hardback books a year, just because I shared her love of reading (neither of my brothers are great readers).

After reading and very much enjoying this story, I went through my Mum's collection of Agatha Christie books (she's always enjoyed mystery as a genre and had quite a few). Then I took out any I could find at the local library. As I mentioned in my review of The Murder on the Orient Express, I was a big enough fan of Ms. Christie that I chose to write my 9th grade in depth term paper on her. I think I have also mentioned in a previous review that Christie's stand alone mysteries (not featuring Miss Marple, Poirot or even Tommy and Tuppence), usually with a romantic subplot are my favourite of her books.

Not that the romance is at the forefront here. Bobby and Frankie are very good friends, and grew up together, but she's the younger daughter of an Earl, while he's the third son of the local vicar and co-owner of a garage, they're not exactly social equals. There's some mild jealousy on both of our protagonists' part when the objects of their affection gets a briefly smitten by a handsome gentleman murder suspect (Frankie) and the soulful, sensitive and slightly harried wife of a sinister country doctor who runs an asylum (Bobby). Naturally, it all works out in the end.

Bobby and Frankie go through quite a few elaborate plots in order to try to solve the mystery. There's several likely suspects, some handsome, some sinister. Frankie stages a car accident in order to worm her way into the household of one of the potential murderers. There's attempted murders, and abductions and all manner of hijinks before the mystery is finally solved and our intrepid amateur sleuths get their well deserved happy ending.

Like a lot of the Agatha Christie audio books on Audible, this one is narrated by Emilia Fox. She does a better job with the many varied voices in this one than in The Man in the Brown Suit, where she sadly had the love interest's voice be so gravelly, he sounded like full on Christian Bale Batman. Not the most attractive of qualities.

I'm glad I finally found the time to revisit this favourite of my early teens, and even more glad that it held up as well as I remembered.

Judging a book by its cover: This isn't exactly the most exciting of covers, is it? A colour palette in shades of distinctly brown, with the exception of the silhouette of the couple in the centre of the cover. Doesn't exactly scream excitement and mysterious goings on. I remembered this book fondly, and was glad to see that it lived up to my memory. The book deserves a more inviting cover design.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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