Monday, May 15, 2023

Why Didn't They Ask Evans? - Agatha Christie

I had such a good time reading an Agatha Christie novel a few weeks ago that I decided to give another one a try. I went with one of her stand-alones this time, WHY DIDN’T THEY ASK EVANS?, which was published originally in 1934 under the title THE BOOMERANG CLUE. I have both versions on my shelves, a Dell from 1966 of THE BOOMERANG CLUE and a trade paperback tie-in edition of WHY DIDN’T THEY ASK EVANS?, with the stars of the recent TV mini-series on the cover. I went with the newer one simply because the print is larger and easier to read, an increasingly important consideration at my age.

The book opens with a young man named Bobby Jones (not the famous American golfer, as Christie points out) playing a round on a course next to some seaside cliffs in Wales. Bobby is the son of the local vicar, a former naval officer who is at loose ends at the moment. When he hits a slice over a cliff, he looks for the ball and spots a body lying on the rocks below. Since he’s playing with the local doctor, Bobby scrambles down to check on the fallen man and finds that he’s still alive but badly injured. He regains consciousness long enough to say just one thing: “Why didn’t they ask Evans?” And then dies, seemingly the victim of an accident.

Ah, but we know better than that, don’t we? The man was murdered, and Bobby sets out to find the killer, with help from his childhood friend, the beautiful Lady Frances Derwent, who lives on a nearby estate. Frankie, as she’s known, tackles the case with as much enthusiasm as Bobby does, and their investigation sends them to London, among other places, and involves them with numerous potentially shady characters, including a drug addict, a sinister doctor, and the doctor’s beautiful young wife, who’s being held a virtual prisoner in her husband’s spooky sanatarium.

WHY DIDN’T THEY ASK EVANS? has a lot of thriller elements to go with its traditional mystery. The plot itself is a bit convoluted and bogs down slightly in the middle of the book, but it all fits together nicely enough in the end although there are a couple of things that stretch suspension of disbelief quite a bit. The main things that appeal about this novel are its extremely likable protagonists, the witty dialogue, and the headlong pace of much of it. Most of the time, Christie had me turning the pages eagerly to find out what was going to happen.

There is one twist at the very end of the book that I didn’t really care for, because it negated one of the things that I liked most about the novel. No spoilers, but you’ll probably know it when you come to it, if you haven’t read this one before. I wouldn’t put WHY DIDN’T THEY ASK EVANS? in the top rank of Christie’s work, but it is a good, solid, very enjoyable mystery yarn. Certainly worth reading, if you haven’t already. I might watch the TV adaptation, one of these days.

1 comment:

Mel Odom said...

The television adaptation is really good.