I spent a lot of THE MURDER ON THE LINKS distinctly worried about Captain Hastings. Firstly, he spends some time seemingly flirting with a younger, French detective, even at points seeming to agree with this interloper that Poirot is past it; then he causes a crime scene to be corrupted; and finally he actually puts himself in opposition to Hercule Poirot. As if he could ever beat his old friend in a battle of wits or a battle of nerves or a battle of anything. In later Poirot novels, Hastings always seems the ultimate loyal and reliable friend. Prone to fall for pretty face, true, but basically a steady gentleman. Here, in his younger days as it were, it appears he was a complete loose cannon. Thank the Lord he settled down, or Poirot would have to had to find another Doctor Watson.
This early Poirot story still feels fresh now. Later in her career Christie was so sure of her usual tricks and deceptions, that she almost reels them out by rote. THE MURDER ON THE LINKS however, feels like an author still learning what she can do (and most importantly, what she can get away with) and that gives us a particularly entertaining and surprising mystery. True, the character of Hastings is all over the place, but Poirot is already perfectly realised and – since his creator is still a way off from getting bored of him – is a fantastically brilliant, enigmatic and full of life character to hang a tale of murder and intrigue around.
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