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Literature / The Murder on the Links

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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 Renauld is found stabbed to death in an open grave in the golf course he was constructing. Poirot, who had received a letter from Renauld shortly before his death, tries to trace the murderer. There are several suspects: the widow who inherits Renauld's entire estate, the son who had recently quarreled with his father, the woman who might have been Renauld's mistress... However, the pattern of events in the murder of Renauld bear strong similarities to a case that happened 20 years ago. Is the same mind at work behind both cases?

The story was adapted 1996 for the sixth series of Poirot. Tropes unique to the adaptation can be found there.

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

  • Accidental Murder: When Marthe Daubreuil attempts to murder Madame Renauld, Dulcie Duveen comes to the rescue, and accidentally kills Marthe during the ensuing struggle.
  • Asshole Victim: Downplayed. The narrative regards Paul Renauld's death as a well-served justice because he is 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 bet 500 francs on who will solve the case first.
  • 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 Renauld pretend to disown her son, so that the true murderer would be forced to reveal themselves in their attempt to murder her.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Hastings' girlfriend, Dulcie Duveen aka "Cinderella", does acrobatic tricks as part of her vaudeville act. At the climax, she leaps from a tree branch to Madame Renauld's window, thus saving her life.
  • Continuity Nod: When Hastings is trying to impress a pretty girl, he asks her "Do you remember the Styles case?" That's the first Poirot mystery, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Escaped criminal Georges Conneau returns to France, under a new identity. He has the entire country of France to settle down in, but he picks the village of Merlinville, right next to the one person in the entire nation who knows his secret.
    • Georges Conneau aka "Paul Renauld" and his wife are thinking about how to fake his death. What happens, at that very time? A random tramp stops at the mansion, and then dies of an epileptic fit, conveniently providing them with a body.
  • Crisis Catch And Carry: An amusing anecdote from Poirot details how a friend of his crossed the English Channel during World War 1 with his seasick and ocean-phobic wife... by carrying her aboard the ship.
  • Deep Sleep: In the novel, Jack collapsed into a feverish sleep due to the nervous breakdown of going through a grueling arrest, which was followed by his mother publicly disowning him.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Despite Renauld's past as a criminal, he genuinely loves his wife, and left all his inheritance to her.
  • Exact Words: Giraud holds out a matchstick to Poirot and asks him what he sees. Poirot says he sees nothing. Giraud smugly points out that it's a South American brand. The twist is that Poirot has already uncovered evidence that shows the matchstick was planted and is useless as evidence, so he really doesn't see anything important.
  • Faking the Dead: Invoked. Renauld wanted to fake his death so that he could escape from blackmail, but ended up getting killed for real.
  • The Flapper: Hastings is a conservative, a traditionalist, and has no patience for the modern woman of 1923.
    I have no patience with the modern neurotic girl who jazzes from morning to night, smokes like a chimney, and uses language which would make a Billingsgate fishwoman blush!”
  • Genre Savvy: The case, at first sight, is like most romantic cases of masked men seeking for secrets. That is why Poirot discards this as false and a cover for another agenda.
  • Gold Digger:
    • Madame Beroldy was married to a much older gentleman, but was 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 Renauld, and began blackmailing him.
    • Her daughter, Marthe Daubreuil, is much the same. She murders her lover's rich father, who did not approve of their relationship, and anticipates that said lover would then be free to marry her, and she would become rich from his inheritance.
  • He Knows Too Much: Inverted. When he was being blackmailed, Paul Renauld 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.
  • History Repeats: A major theme of the novel is that the titular crime is similar to another crime that took place years earlier.
  • I Have No Son!: Even after he is acquitted of his father's murder, Mrs Renauld still holds Jack responsible for Paul Renauld's death, and publicly denounces her son when he returns home. On Poirot's advice — so that the real murderer will try to kill her and reveal herself.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Hastings eventually goes against Poirot to save Dulcie, whom he mistakes for Bella. Poirot sorts out the confusion though and the two get together happily.
  • Love Confession: Hastings gives this to Bella, or so he believes. It's actually to her twin Dulcie, who tries to give him one herself through a letter detailing a proper confession of her involvement.
  • Love Epiphany: One that comes to Poirot himself, rather than to Hastings. It's a moment of Heartwarming and Tearjerker, as Poirot felt that Hastings may have compromised their work on the case but apart that he has no ill will towards him.
  • Karma Houdini: Jeanne Beroldy, better known as Madame Daubreuil, is a cold-hearted manipulator who tricks one of her lovers to murder her husband so that she could marry another rich suitor. When the scheme was found out, she 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 a rich man himself. 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 disappears before the police could arrest her.
  • Karmic Death: Renauld 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 admits to his affair with Madame Daubreuil which is a lie, but is completely devoted to him, and shows genuine sorrow when he dies.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Poirot measures the length of an overcoat at the Renauld mansion. Hastings asks him why, and Poirot says "To see how long it was." (The real reason is that Poirot suspects that M. Renauld took the wrong overcoat.)
  • Obfuscating Postmortem Wounds: Paul Renauld was stabbed in the heart, then beaten about the head with a lead pipe. This was to disguise the fact that body in the grave was not Paul Renauld. For that matter, he was already dead before being stabbed.
  • Out-Gambitted: Paul Renauld's plan to fake his death to escape Madame Daubreuil's blackmail is overheard by Marthe, who kills him for real during the night when he is trying to carry out his plan. She wants him dead so that she can get his money by marrying his son.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Paul Renauld forbids his son Jack from marrying Marthe Dubriel, and cuts him out of his will. It transpires that Marthe is the murderous daughter of a blackmailing murderess, so he had a point.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Poirot is horrified when he learns that Madame Renauld changed to a different bedroom, saying "I demand of you—why—was—I—not—told?" This is a big deal because he was setting up a trap for the murderer, one which almost went wrong because Poirot was watching the wrong bedroom.
  • 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.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Giraud ignores the evidence of a piece of lead piping found by the body (intended to disfigure the originally-planned fake corpse after death to hide its true identity). He also fails to properly explain why, if Jack Renauld killed his father for his inheritance, he would have bothered trying to bury the body afterwards; since it would surely be to Jack's advantage for the body to be found immediately, there was no reason for him to try and hide it in the first place.
  • Shout-Out: Hastings' marriage at the end of the story is reminiscent of Watson's in The Sign of the Four.
  • Smug Snake: Giraud.
  • Spanner in the Works: Bella Duveen. She not only interferes with Paul Renauld's plans, but when she gives herself up to save Jack, it spoils Poirot's deductions.
  • Stopped Clock: A clue that helps Poirot unravel the mystery, due to a failed Stopped Clock gambit. Someone smashed Madame Renauld's wristwatch, in an effort to give a false time for the crime...but the watch kept ticking, and was two hours ahead. This helps Poirot figure out that the crime happened earlier than was supposed.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Jack Renauld 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 life.
  • Take That!: The story takes Giraud's Great Detective manner, styled on Sherlock Holmes and C Auguste Dupin, and deconstructs them with Giraud being an egomaniac who is easily misled and makes errors of judgement.
  • Taking the Heat: Jack Renauld and Bella Duveen to each other. When the police arrest Jack for the murder of his father, he quietly accepts his fate in order to divert the suspicion from Bella, whom he believes to be guilty because she 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.
  • Translation Convention: For some reason, Poirot and Monsieur Bex, two Francophones who have known each other for years, address each other in English from their first meeting. Even before Bex knows that Poirot's buddy is an Englishman.
  • Villainous Lineage: A major theme of the novel:
    • 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 Renauld 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 Renauld is a woman of great character.
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": After receiving his 500 francs, Poirot bought himself a foxhound statuette, which he named "Giraud".