Review: The Hollow by Agatha Christie

Are you doing a reading challenge this year? I wasn’t going to – a more fluid approach to my reading is how I need to approach things – BUT then I saw this intriguing one from the official Agatha Christie estate (find out all about it here) and couldn’t resist. The Hollow fits in with the January prompt (a story set in a grand house) and isn’t a Poirot story I’d heard of before, so I was intrigued to get cracking.

Opening sentence: At six thirteen am on a Friday morning Lucy Angkatell’s big blue eyes opened upon another day and, as always, she was once wide awake and began immediately to deal with the problems conjured up by her incredibly active mind.

What is The Hollow?

Published in 1946, the book’s title refers to the grand house where the action (murder) takes place. Home to Sir Henry and Lady Lucy Angkatell, they invite a select few people over for a relaxing weekend, but things take a sinister turn.

We meet Lucy’s relations (mainly cousins of some degree) Edward, Midge, Henrietta and David and also a non-related couple – John and Gerda Christow.

A design of intermingled emotions and the clash of personalities. A strange involved design, with dark threads of hate and desire running through it.

It just so happens that Monsieur Hercule Poirot is staying in a little cottage close to The Hollow, so he is invited over for Sunday lunch. When he arrives though, he stumbles into what he assumes is a staged set-up – people thinking he will enjoy a fake murder scene – only to discover a real murder has taken place.

Given that a person is standing over the body holding a gun, what happened looks pretty clear – but is it…?

It has been a tiring day – one’s first introduction to murder.


Poirot’s presence

Interestingly, Poirot nearly didn’t make an appearance in The Hollow. Like another Agatha read I had recently, The Clocks, Poirot doesn’t actually play a huge part in the story. Agatha Christie stated in her autobiography that she wishes she didn’t include him here at all. I am a bit obsessed with the fact that, as the years went on, Agatha Christie liked Poirot less and less.

Well, I liked him here – he was there almost to add a familiar and slightly comedic layer to the story:

Your moustache, M. Poirot, is an artistic triumph. It has no associations with anything but itself. It is, I am sure, unique.


Strong characterisation

What struck me – and I really enjoyed – about The Hollow was that it has a much stronger dedication to characterisation than other Agatha Christie books I’ve reads. Less characters pop up than in some of her other murder mysteries and she takes the time to give them back stories and emotional depth, so we are treated to a deeper study into what makes them tick.

And when it comes to trying to work out which is the murderer – this sets things up for a very interesting state of affairs.

I was a particular fan of strong-minded sculptor, Henrietta Savernake – a feminist character who struggles with the fact she doesn’t fit into the role society wants her to.

The Hollow is full of Agatha Christie’s trademark dry humour and with the addition of more fully-rounded characters and a plot that actually shifts focus from the ins and outs of murder to gives us a more human and psychological approach, this has been an excellent way to kick-start my #ReadChristie2021 challenge. Bring on February (prompt: A story featuring love).

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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