The Murder on the Links is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie, first published in the US by Dodd, Mead & Co. in March 1923, and in the UK by The Bodley Head in May of the same year. It is the second novel featuring Hercule Poirot and Arthur Hastings. The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6), and the US edition at $1.75.
The story takes place in northern France, giving Poirot a hostile competitor from the Paris Sûreté. Poirot’s long memory for past or similar crimes proves useful in resolving the crimes. The book is notable for a subplot in which Hastings falls in love, a development “greatly desired on Agatha’s part… parcelling off Hastings to wedded bliss in the Argentine.”
Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings travel to Merlinville-sur-Mer, France, to meet Paul Renauld, who has requested their help. When they arrive, local police greet them with the news that Renauld was found dead that morning, stabbed in the back with a knife and left in a newly dug grave adjacent to a local golf course. His wife, Eloise Renauld, claims masked men broke into the villa at 2 am, tied her up, and took her husband away with them. Upon inspecting his body, Eloise collapses with grief at seeing her dead husband. Monsieur Giraud of the Sûreté leads the police investigation, and resents Poirot’s involvement.
Poirot notes four key facts about the case: a piece of lead piping is found near the body; only three female servants were in the villa as both Renauld’s son Jack and his chauffeur had been sent away; an unknown person visited the day before; Renauld’s immediate neighbour, Madame Daubreuil, had placed 200,000 francs into her bank account over recent weeks.
When Renauld’s secretary, Gabriel Stonor, returns from England, he suggests blackmail, as his employer’s past is a complete mystery prior to his career in South America. Meanwhile, Hastings unexpectedly encounters a young woman he had met on the train, known only as “Cinderella.” She asks to see the crime scene and then disappears with the murder weapon.
Poirot discovers that the case is nearly identical to one from 22 years ago, in which a man called Georges Conneau and his lover, Madame Beroldy, conspired to kill Madame Beroldy’s husband. Poirot travels to Paris to discover more about the Conneau murder. On returning, Poirot learns that the body of a tramp has been found, stabbed through the heart with the murder weapon. An examination shows that he died before Renauld’s murder from an epileptic seizure and was stabbed later.
Giraud arrests Jack on the basis that he wanted his father’s money. Poirot reveals Renauld changed his will two weeks before his murder, disinheriting Jack. Jack is released from prison after Bella Duveen, an English stage performer he loves, confesses to the murder. Both had come across the body on the night of the murder, and each assumed the other had killed Renauld. Poirot reveals neither did, as the real killer was Marthe Daubreuil.
Poirot elaborates on his theory: Paul Renauld was really Georges Conneau, who returned to France after fleeing years ago. By misfortune, he found that his immediate neighbour would be Mme Beroldy; like him, she changed her identity to become Mme Daubreuil. Blackmailed by her over his past, Renauld’s situation worsens when Jack becomes attracted to her daughter. When a tramp died on his grounds, he saw an opportunity to stage his own death and escape Mme Daubreuil. He would disfigure the tramp’s face with the pipe, and then bury the tramp and the pipe beside the golf course, before fleeing the area by train. Anyone who would recognise that the body was not his would be sent away. However, the plan was discovered by Marthe, who followed Renauld and stabbed him after he dug the grave for the tramp’s body. Her motive is money; Jack will inherit his father’s fortune on his mother’s death. To expose Marthe as the killer, Poirot asked Eloise to openly state she will disinherit Jack. Marthe attempts to kill Eloise in her villa but dies in a struggle with Hastings’s Cinderella.
Marthe’s mother disappears again. Jack and his mother plan to go to South America, joined by Hastings and his Cinderella, who is revealed as Bella Duveen’s twin sister Dulcie.
- 1923, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), March 1923, hardcover, 298 pp
- 1923, John Lane (The Bodley Head), May 1923, hardcover, 326 pp
- 1928, John Lane (The Bodley Head), March 1928, hardcover (cheap ed. – 2 s.)
- 1931, John Lane (The Bodley Head, February 1931 (as part of the An Agatha Christie Omnibus along with The Mysterious Affair at Styles and Poirot Investigates, hardcover (priced at 7/6, a cheaper edition at 5s. was published in October 1932).
- 1932, John Lane (The Bodley Head), March 1932, paperback (6 p.)
- 1936, Penguin Books, March 1936, paperback (6 p.) 254 pp
- 1949, Dell Books, 1949, Dell number 454, paperback, 224 pp
- 1954, Corgi Books, 1954, paperback, 222 pp 1960, Pan Books,
- 1960, Paperback (Great Pan G323), 224 pp
The novel received its first true publication as a four-part serialisation in the Grand Magazine from December 1922 to March 1923 (Issues 214–217) under the title of The Girl with the Anxious Eyes before it was issued in book form by The Bodley Head in May 1923. This was Christie’s first published work for the Grand Magazine which went on to publish many of her short stories throughout the 1920s.
The Murder on the Links – First Edition Book Identification Guide
The books are listed in the order of publication. While the majority of Agatha Christie’s books were first published in the UK. There are many titles that were first published in the US. The title of the book may differs from the UK edition in some cases.
|Year||Title||Publisher||First edition/printing identification points|
|1923||The Murder on the Links||The Bodley Head, London , ||First edition. "First Published in 1923" stated on the copyright page. Decorative orange cloth, lettered in black. Price 7/6.|
|1923||The Murder on the Links||Dodd, Mead & Co, NY, 1922||First American edition. Date on the title & copyright page matches. No statement of later printings. Green cloth lettered in orange. Price $ 1.75.|
Note about Book Club Editions (BCE) and reprints:
UK: You can see statements of later reprint dates or of book club on the copyright page.
US: The US reprint publishers usually use the same sheets as the first edition and are harder to identify by looking at the title page or the copyright page. One may identify a BCE by looking at the DJ, which doesn’t have a price on top of the front flap and a “Book Club Edition” imprint at the bottom. If the dust jacked is clipped at both the top/bottom of the front flap. You can safely assume it’s a BCE . If the book is missing the dust jacket. Later BCE editions can be identified by its plain boards, while first printings are issued in quarter cloth.
Please refer to the gallery for detailed images of true first edition bindings and dust jackets.
The Murder on the Links – First Edition Dust Jacket Identification Guide
First edition bindings and various dust jacket printings identification.