Book name: The Hollow
Author: Agatha Christie
Publisher: Collins Crime Club
Format: ebook, print, audiobook
Genre: Murder mystery
Publication Date: 1946
Agatha Christie has sold more than two billion books worldwide, and she has been outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare.
The Hollow isn't one of her best-known novels. It's not immediately on the lips when people are asked to name one of her stories.
However, it features many of the key themes and locations of her work in general, as well as being the kind of taut drama and compelling study in character that fans expect from Agatha Christie.
Sir Henry and Lady Lucy Angkatell are neighbours of Hercule Poirot, whose weekend home Resthaven lies just a short distance from their estate The Hollow.
Lucy and Henry invite the kind of 'extended family plus friends of longstanding' guest list to their home for a long weekend that is the staple of many a murder mystery.
There's so much backstory there for Agatha Christie to exploit. The action centres upon the tumultuous personal life of John Christow, a Harley Street doctor and inveterate womaniser.
His pale, unassuming wife Gerda accompanies him, his mistress Henrietta is joining the house party and, unexpectedly, his former fiancee, film star Veronica Cray, turns up at The Hollow to see him, hoping to win him back after all these years.
John is shot down by the swimming pool on Sunday lunchtime, just at the butler is bringing the guests a tray of drinks.
John's wife is discovered moments later holding a revolver, although the police subsequently discover that this gun is not in fact the murder weapon.
Many twists and turns follow, with John's wife, mistress and former fiancee all falling suspect, along with many of the others present at The Hollow when he died.
Quite a few of Agatha Christie's stories involve a cheating husband and a mousy wife tormented by the insensitivity of infidelity paraded under her very nose.
Her experiences with her first husband are well documented, and it is clear that the effect of his behaviour upon her was long lasting.
The Hollow differs from some of her stories, in that the mistress (Henrietta) is presented comparatively sympathetically.
This is more complex than the simpler narratives where the wife is never in the wrong and the mistress is an evil, manipulative character. In this novel, that role falls to the supremely self-absorbed Veronica Cray.
The weekend house party is always fertile territory for murder mysteries. In many novels, the house is simply a means to corral everyone together and isolate them from the rest of the world.
Here, the house becomes almost a character in its own right.
Its beauty, the owners' love of it and the location of particular spots central to the plot are all vividly described.
The loyalty a landowner feels to their ancestral home is also explored via the link between Lucy and her cousin Edward.
Her family estate Ainswick was entailed, so when her father died she inherited his personal fortune but not the house. Edward, who did inherit it, loves Ainswick every bit as much as Lucy.
Agatha Christie is such a mistress of her art that she manages to work in some romance as well as a murder plot focusing upon marital infidelity.
A love triangle occurs between Edward, his dowdy cousin Midge and Henrietta, who has refused his proposal three time already.
This is more positive and forward looking than the one involving John, his wife and mistress.
The fact that Henrietta appears in both illustrates how complicated relationships can be.
I enjoyed The Hollow very much and would thoroughly recommend it.
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