RogerBW's Blog

The A.B.C. Murders 24 August 2021

2000 audio adaptation of Christie's 1936 mystery, in one 90-minute episode. Someone with the initials A. A. is murdered in Andover, then B. B. in Bexhill; and Poirot receives a boastful letter before each killing. But how to catch them?

The core conceit was of course one that G. K. Chesterton had used in 1911… actually there are two key ideas from Chesterton's stories from 1911 that get borrowed here, though obviously they're reworked to fit this plot. I wonder whether Christie had been rereading Father Brown? The murderer's motivation is a bit of a stretch, and the portrayal here doesn't fill in any of the blanks.

Captain Hastings is always hard work, because he only opens his mouth to be wrong. (I know, it's the job of the Watson, but it's a tough part for an actor, wanting to retain some sympathy rather than to descend into Blimpish farce but still having to be at least a bit fatuous. Hastings in particular also ends up chasing hopelessly after some nice young lady.) Simon Williams has a partner in thankless roles, though, Tom George as Inspector Crome, who is not only always wrong but needs to be a sneery bright young man, in this adaptation also incorporating the role of the forensic psychologist; they both make a decent fist of it. (Of course it's outside the scope of the detective story to consider that, the vast majority of the time, there isn't a terribly clever person manipulating things beind the scenes, and a crime is just what it appears to be, so really a policeman's working hypothesis ought to be the straightforward one.) With them as a contrast and terrible example, John Moffatt can show a more human Poirot.

On the other hand, the three young ladies who get involved in things don't have terribly distinctive voices. All right, the roles are similar too, in that each of them is a sensible person who knew one of the victims in some way; but if they can't be distinguished by their actions I'd at least like them to sound a bit more different.

A solid story, though, and an enjoyable adaptation of it.

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