Literature / The Murder on the Links

Only the second of Agatha Christie's novels to feature Hercule Poirot, The Murder on the Links was first published in 1923. Millionaire businessman Paul Renaud is found stabbed to death in an open grave in the golf course he was constructing. Poirot, who had received a letter from Renaud shortly before his death, tries to trace the murderer. There are several suspects: the widow who inherits Renaud's entire estate, the son who had recently quarreled with his father, the woman who might have been Renaud's mistress... However, the pattern of events in the murder of Renaud bear strong similarities to a case that happened 20 years ago. Is the same mind at work behind both cases?


The Murder on the Links provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Murder: When Marthe Daubreauil attempts to murder Madam Renaud, Dulcie Duveen (or Stonor, in the TV adaptation) comes to the rescue, and accidentally kills Marthe during the ensuing struggle.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Compared to the novel, TV portrayal of Jack Renaud is very selfish, arrogant and overall a unpleasant character.
    • In the books, Jack loves both of his parents, including his father, despite having frequent rows with the latter. This aspect of his character is not seen in the TV, where Jack outright stated that he dislikes Paul (who is turned into his step-father, rather than his biological father).
    • In both versions Jack did allow himself to get arrested to protect Bella from suspicion, but his response when Bella arrives at his trial to confess to the crime was completely changed. In the books, he was distraught that his Heroic Sacrifice for her was all for nothing, and sent Stonor to stay for her trial to help her defence. In the TV, he happily went on to celebrate his acquittal with Marthe, apparently forgetting about Bella.
  • Adapted Out: Jeanne Beroldy's rich lover Mr Hiram is omitted in the adaptation. There, she manipulates George Conneau into murdering her husband to claim his inheritance, whereas in the books she wanted to be "freed" so she can marry Hiram.
  • Asshole Victim: Downplayed. The narrative regards Paul Renaud's death as a well-served justice because he's an escaped convict, but the fact that he has a genuinely loving relationship with his family, and is liked well enough by his current employees, prevents him from being a completely unsympathetic character.
  • The Bet: Poirot and Giraud makes one. In the TV episode, they wagered that if Poirot solves the case first, Giraud must give up his trademark pipe, whereas Poirot must shave his iconic moustache if Giraud wins. In the books, they bet 500 francs.
  • Betty and Veronica Switch: Sweet Girl Next Door Marthe seems like an obvious Betty, while vaudeville performer Bella is the Veronica. Until Bella pulls an I Want My Beloved to Be Happy and tries to perform a Heroic Sacrifice to save Jack, while Marthe turns out to be the murderer.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Marthe seems like a sweet, unassuming girl, but turned out to be a Gold Digger and a murderess.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Poirot has Madame Renaude pretend to disown her son, so that the true murderer would be forced to reveal themselves in their attempt to murder her.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: A likely reason for Jack Renaud's adaptational jerkass-ery in the ITV series: because the character of Bella Duveen, Jack's fiancee, is merged with Hastings' Love Interest, Dulcie, it needs to give the audience some more plausible explanation to why Bella would choose Hastings over Jack. Poirot lampshades this by saying that Jack doesn't deserve Bella's love in the film's final scene (in the books, it was the other way around — Jack feels that he doesn't deserve Bella because he tried to leave her for Marthe, but Poirot assures him that his willingness to die for Bella proves that he is worthy of her).
  • Composite Character: Dulcie is omitted in the David Suchet adaptation, and her sister Bella replaces her as Hastings' future wife.
  • Deep Sleep: In the novel, Jack collapsed into a feverish sleep due to the nervous breakdown of going through a gruelling arrest, which was followed by his mother publicly disowning him.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Hastings' marriage at the end of the story is reminiscent of Watson's in The Sign of the Four.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Despite Renaud's past as a criminal, he genuinely loves his wife, and left all his inheritance to her.
  • Faking the Dead: Invoked. Renaud wanted to fake his death so that he could escape from blackmail, but ended up getting killed for real.
  • Gold Digger:
    • Madam Beroldy was married to a much older gentleman, but is conducting two affairs with lawyer Georges Conneau and the wealthy Hiram Trapp. She arranges to have Conneau murder her husband, so that she could be free to marry Mr. Trapp. 20 years later, she encounters Georges Conneau, who has found success as Paul Renaud, and began blackmailing him.
    • Her daughter, Marthe Daubreuil, is much the same. She murdered her lover's rich father, who did not approve of the relationship, and anticipating that said lover would then be free to marry her, and she'd become rich from his inheritance.
  • Graceful Loser: Giraud, in the TV adaptation. He acknowledges his defeat to Poirot by giving up his trademark pipe to uphold his end of the bargain. The two detectives then part ways in good terms.
  • He Knows Too Much: Inverted. When he was being blackmailed, Paul Renaud plots to fake his own death, with the help of his wife, to escape his blackmailer. Of course, things goes wrong and he dies for real.
  • I Have No Son: Even after being acquitted of his father's murder, Mrs Renaud still holds Jack responsible for Paul Renaud's death, and publicly denounces her son when he returns home.
  • Identical Twin ID Tag: Dulcie and Bella are identical twins, but everyone can tell them apart, though Hastings doesn't describe how they are distinguished from each other. On stage, however, one of them would wear a blonde wig to invoke a contrasting appearance.
  • In the Blood:
    • Marthe Daubreuil, daughter of Jeanne Beroldy grows up to become a ruthless, calculating and cold-hearted gold digger who fails to see the inherent wrongness of killing for money.
    • Jack Renaud also worries that being Georges Conneau's son might make him a murderer, and that no one would be willing to take him because of it. Poirot reassures him that he's also his mother's son, and Madame Renaud is a woman of great character.
  • Inspector Lestrade: Detective Giraud is someone Poirot describes as the human foxhound — he can sniff out "clues" and "evidence" but couldn't draw the correct conclusions/deductions based from it.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: When Bella finds out about Marthe, she's willing to let Jack go so that he can be with the woman he actually loves. She even falsely confesses to murder in order to protect him, even knowing he wanted to marry someone else.
  • Karma Houdini: Jeanne Beroldy, better known as Madam Daubreuil, is a cold-hearted manipulator who tricks one of her lovers to murder her husband so that she could marry a rich suitor. When the scheme was found out, she then manages to charm the entire jury to declare her as innocent, and she lives a peaceful and comfortable life afterwards. She then blackmails her former lover, who had changed his identity and became himself a rich man. She also allows her daughter to seduce the man's son, and is implied that she knew of her daughter's scheme to murder the man so that she can cash in on the son's inheritance. Once again, she escapes justice and disappeared before the police could arrest her.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Renaud was killed for his money, but due to his criminal past, Poirot sees his murder as karma finally catching up to him.
  • Love Martyr: Mrs Renauld knows all about her husband's shady past, and is very likely aware of his affair with Madame Daubreuil, but is completely devoted to him, and shows genuine sorrow when he dies.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Madame Daubreuil's first name is never revealed in the books. In the TV, she's named "Bernadette". This is done so that the love letter found in Paul Renaud's pocket (signed by B.D.) could be attributed to her.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Dulcie Duveen introduces herself to Hastings as "Cinderalla". He doesn't get to know her real name until very late in the books.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Downplayed; in the TV adaptation, Madame Renaud shares a lot of intimate scenes with Stonor, which did not exist in the original books. Whether those moments are meant to be romantic is not really clear, however.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Inverted. Jack Renaud is Paul's step-son in the TV. In the novel, he's his biological son.
  • The Rival: Detective Giraud sees Poirot as an adversary and tries to one-up him at every opportunity. Poirot, on his part, sees Giraud as a nuisance who can't make proper deductions.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Jack Renaud looks so similar to his father that, when he first arrived at the crime scene, Hastings briefly thought that the deceased had come back to live. This is averted in the TV series, where Jack is Paul's step-son, rather than his biological son, and they look nothing alike.
  • Taking the Heat: Jack Renauld and Bella Duveen to each other. When the police arrests Jack for the murder of his father, he quietly accepts his fate in order to divert the suspicion from Bella, who possesses a knife identical to the murder weapon. Before he could be put on trial, Bella comes in to confess the crime, taking his place in custody.
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": After receiving his 500 francs, Poirot bought himself a foxhound statuette, which he named "Giraud".
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