- The Hollow
Dust-jacket illustration of the US (true first) edition. See Publication history (below) for UK first edition jacket image.
Author(s) Agatha Christie Cover artist Not known Country United States Language English Genre(s) Crime novel Publisher Dodd, Mead and Company Publication date 1946 Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback) Pages 279 pp (first edition, hardcover) ISBN NA Preceded by Sparkling Cyanide Followed by Come, Tell Me How You Live
The Hollow is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie and first published in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1946 and in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in November of the same year. The US edition retailed at $2.50 and the UK edition at eight shillings and sixpence (8/6). A paperback edition in the US by Dell books in 1954 changed the title to Murder after Hours.
The novel is a fine example of a "country house mystery" and was the first of her novels in four years to feature Christie's Belgian detective Hercule Poirot—one of the longest gaps in the entire series. Christie, who often admitted that she did not like Poirot (a fact parodied by her recurring novelist character Ariadne Oliver), particularly disliked his appearance in this novel. His late arrival, jarring, given the established atmosphere, led her to claim in her Autobiography that she "ruined [the novel] by the introduction of Poirot".
On the morning that he and his downtrodden wife, Gerda, are due to travel down to the country to weekend with friends, John Christow allows his little daughter to tell his fortune with cards. When the death card is drawn, he pays no attention, but the appearance of an old flame at The Hollow seems to be the final link in a chain of fatal circumstances.
The charming and eccentric Lucy Angkatell has invited the Christows, along with a number of other members of the extended family. John is already having an affair with Henrietta Savernake, a talented sculptor and, as is demonstrated by what follows, brilliant improviser. He has always remembered with nostalgia an early love, Veronica Cray, who suddenly appears in the house on Saturday night asking to borrow a box of matches. She is living at one of the two nearby cottages, the other of which is currently occupied by Hercule Poirot, who has been invited for lunch on Sunday. Veronica and John go off together, and he returns much too late: at 3 am.
The next day, Poirot arrives at the house to witness a scene that seems strangely staged. Gerda is standing with a gun in her hand above the body of John, who is bleeding into the swimming pool. Standing, seemingly transfixed, are Lucy, Henrietta, and Edward. John's last word, in a note of urgent appeal, is "Henrietta".
It seems cut and dried that Gerda is the murderess, but in taking the revolver from her hand Henrietta apparently fumbles and drops it into the swimming pool, destroying any evidence. Later, however, it is discovered that the pistol that Gerda had been holding was not the pistol with which John had been shot. None of the witnesses has actually seen Gerda shoot John, and it seems difficult to build a case against any of the other potential suspects. At first Lucy herself seems to be a strong suspect, when it is discovered that she had kept a pistol concealed in her basket of eggs, but the pistol seems to be of the wrong calibre. Henrietta is also implicated, not least by the leaving of an unusual doodle in the pavilion, apparently at the time that John had been killed. When the murder weapon turns up in Poirot's hedge, it has fingerprints on it that match none of the suspects.
These are all pieces of deliberate misdirection on the part of the family. They know in fact that Gerda is indeed the murderess, and are attempting to avoid her imprisonment. As it happens, the murder, with a motive of jealousy, was planned, in that she had taken with her two pistols, planning to be discovered with a pistol in her hands that would later be discovered to be the wrong weapon. Henrietta, who says that John asked her to help Gerda when he said her name, destroys the evidence of the first weapon instinctively, and later goes back and retrieves the second weapon. She hides it in a clay sculpture of a horse in her workshop, then gets it handled by a blind match-seller, and places it in Poirot’s hedge.
There is a romantic subplot in the novel. Midge is in love with Edward, but Edward has always been in love with Henrietta and Henrietta had refused several times his marriage proposals. Besides, she is now deeply in love with John Christow. During the course of the novel, Edward realises that Henrietta is not anymore the Henrietta he used to love and begins to stop seeing Midge as "little Midge". Therefore, he asks her to marry him. During a walk to an area where Edward has walked with Henrietta, Midge believes that he is too deeply in love with Henrietta still, and she calls off the wedding. Edward who does not know that she loves him, misunderstands her decision and later that night, he attempts suicide by putting his head in a gas oven but he is saved by Midge. With this rather dramatic proof of his need for her, she relents and the wedding is on again.
With all the evidence apparently destroyed, the family believe that they have saved Gerda, but there is one final clue: the holster in which the murder weapon was kept. Gerda has cut this up and placed it in her workbag. When Henrietta attempts to retrieve it in order to destroy the final means of proving Gerda's guilt, Poirot arrives and prevents her from drinking tea that Gerda has poisoned. Gerda herself accidentally drinks the poisoned tea and escapes justice by this means.
Henrietta who, along with Lucy, has emerged as an attractive and well-characterised heroine throughout the book, ends it by visiting in hospital one of John's patients who now has little hope of a cure but still shows a resilient spirit. Leaving the hospital, she reflects that there is no happy end for her, but she resolves to embark on a sculpture of herself as Grief.
Characters in "The Hollow"
- Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective
- Inspector Grange, the investigating officer
- Sergeant Clark, a policeman in the case
- John Christow, a Harley Street doctor. He is passionate about his work and dedicates himself to finding a cure for "Ridgeway's disease" - the aetiology of which bears a marked resemblance to multiple sclerosis. He is very self-confident, attractive, and has great charisma.
- Gerda Christow, John's wife. She is rather plain and stupid. She worries about everything. She idealises John, and blames herself for her problems, even when he is wrong. She inspired a sculpture by Henrietta called "The Worshipper", which is described as being frightening since it has no face.
- Sir Henry Angkatell, the owner of The Hollow.
- Edward Angkatell, a distant cousin of Henry and entailee of the family's beloved house, Ainswick. He has charm but is overshadowed by Christow's dominant personality. He lives in the past and has been devoted to Henrietta for years and years. He despises himself, thinking he is good for nothing.
- Lucy, Lady Angkatell, Henry's wife. An unusual character, whose sociable, charismatic veneer hides a very dark side to her personality, occasionally glimpsed by her family.
- Midge Hardcastle, Lucy's young cousin. She is only half an Angkatell. She refuses financial aid from her family, and works in a dressmaker's shop where she has to tolerate rude customers.
- David Angkatell, a student. Bookish, anti-social, and possessor of "modern" ideas regarding the working class. He tries to express an air of superiority.
- Henrietta Savernake, a sculptor. She always knows the right words to say to make someone feel comfortable, albeit sometimes at the expense of the truth. Her art is the core of her being, which, at times, conflicts with her second important characteristic; she loves Christow more than herself.
- Veronica Cray, an actress. She is very beautiful and abnormally egotistical. She wanted Christow to abandon everything to follow her to Hollywood, but he rejected her; she found this unbearable.
- Gudgeon, the butler.
- Beryl Collins, John's secretary.
- Mrs. Crabtree, a patient of John's, a victim of Ridgeway's Disease.
- Terence, John's young son.
- Zena, John's young daughter.
Literary significance and reception
Maurice Richardson, in the December 1, 1946 issue of The Observer wrote briefly, "Agatha Christie has staged, against her smartiest, most hyper emotional background so far, the shooting of a philandering doctor. Solution by a rather subdued Poirot. Good double-bluff surprise."
Robert Barnard: "Notable specimen, with more complex characterization than usual, and occasionally rising to wit (especially on the subject of cooking). Illustrates vividly one dilemma of the detective writer: if you establish characters of some psychological complexity, how do you prevent the routine detection stuff coming as an anticlimax? Christie records that her daughter protested against her decision to dramatize the book, and the instinct was probably right: most of the interest here, unusually, is internal, and difficult to present via Christie's rather old-fashioned stage techniques. Definitely among the top ten, in spite of the falling-off in the second half."
Modern French novelist Michel Houellebecq is an admirer of the book, and in his 2001 novel Platform described it as "a strange, poignant book; these are deep waters [she writes about], with powerful undercurrents."
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
Christie adapted the book into a highly-successful stage play in 1951 but omitted Poirot from the narrative.
In 2004, the novel was broadcast as a television movie featuring David Suchet as Poirot, Sarah Miles as Lady Angkatell and Megan Dodds as Henrietta Savernake, as part of the series Agatha Christie's Poirot. Some details are omitted; the drawing of the card representing death and Edward's attempted suicide, for example. Others - such as the dénouement involving poisoned tea - are altered (Gerda instead injects herself with potassium cyanide), but overall this adaptation is much more faithful to the book on which it is based than are many others in the series.
- 1946, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1946, Hardback, 279 pp
- 1946, Collins Crime Club (London), November 1946, Hardback, 256 pp
- 1948, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback (Pocket number 485)
- 1950, Pan Books, Paperback, 239 pp (Pan number 119)
- 1957, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 189 pp
- 1974, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 431 pp ISBN 0854563016
The US serialisation of this story was a four-part shortened version in Collier's Weekly between May 4 (Volume 117, Number 18) and May 25, 1946 (Volume 117, Number 21) under the title of The Outraged Heart with illustrations by Mario Cooper.
For Larry and Danae With apologies for using their swimming-pool as the scene of a murder
- Dutch: De Laagte (The Hollow)
- Hungarian: Hétvégi gyilkosság (Weekend Murder)
- Italian: Poirot e la salma (Poirot and the Dead Body)
- Spanish: Sangre en la Piscina (Blood in the Swimming Pool)
- Polish: Niedziela na wsi (Sunday in the Countryside)
- ^ John Cooper and B.A. Pyke. Detective Fiction - the collector's guide: Second Edition (Pages 82 and 87) Scholar Press. 1994. ISBN 0-85967-991-8
- ^ a b American Tribute to Agatha Christie
- ^ a b Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (Page 15)
- ^ Christie, Agatha. An Autobiography (Page 473). Collins, 1977. ISBN 0-00-216012-9
- ^ The Observer December 1, 1946 (Page 3)
- ^ Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie - Revised edition (Page 195). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0006374743
Works by Agatha Christie Detectives NovelsThe Mysterious Affair at Styles · The Secret Adversary · The Murder on the Links · The Man in the Brown Suit · The Secret of Chimneys · The Murder of Roger Ackroyd · The Big Four · The Mystery of the Blue Train · The Seven Dials Mystery · The Murder at the Vicarage · The Sittaford Mystery · Peril at End House · Lord Edgware Dies · Murder on the Orient Express · Why Didn't They Ask Evans? · Three Act Tragedy · Death in the Clouds · The A.B.C. Murders · Murder in Mesopotamia · Cards on the Table · Dumb Witness · Death on the Nile · Appointment with Death · Hercule Poirot's Christmas · Murder Is Easy · And Then There Were None · Sad Cypress · One, Two, Buckle My Shoe · Evil Under the Sun · N or M? · The Body in the Library · Five Little Pigs · The Moving Finger · Towards Zero · Death Comes as the End · Sparkling Cyanide · The Hollow · Taken at the Flood · Crooked House · A Murder is Announced · They Came to Baghdad · Mrs McGinty's Dead · They Do It with Mirrors · After the Funeral · A Pocket Full of Rye · Destination Unknown · Hickory Dickory Dock · Dead Man's Folly · 4.50 from Paddington · Ordeal by Innocence · Cat Among the Pigeons · The Pale Horse · The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side · The Clocks · A Caribbean Mystery · At Bertram's Hotel · Third Girl · Endless Night · By the Pricking of My Thumbs · Hallowe'en Party · Passenger to Frankfurt · Nemesis · Elephants Can Remember · Postern of Fate · Curtain · Sleeping Murder As Mary
collectionsPoirot Investigates · Partners in Crime · The Mysterious Mr. Quin · The Thirteen Problems · The Hound of Death · The Listerdale Mystery · Parker Pyne Investigates · Murder in the Mews · The Regatta Mystery · The Labours of Hercules · The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories · Three Blind Mice and Other Stories · The Under Dog and Other Stories · The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding · Double Sin and Other Stories · The Golden Ball and Other Stories · Poirot's Early Cases · Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories · Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories · The Harlequin Tea Set · While the Light Lasts and Other Stories
PlaysBlack Coffee · And Then There Were None · Appointment with Death · Murder on the Nile/Hidden Horizon · The Hollow · The Mousetrap · Witness for the Prosecution · Spider's Web · A Daughter's a Daughter · Towards Zero · Verdict · The Unexpected Guest · Go Back for Murder · Rule of Three · Fiddlers Three · Akhnaton · Chimneys Radio and
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