Agatha Christie 100 - Why Didn't They Ask Evans?

A non-series novel in the middle of a slew of Poirot titles, how does this story hold up with all those classics surrounding it?

Bobby Jones is out golfing when he comes across a man who seems to have fallen down a cliff. His golfing partner goes to find help while Bobby remains with the man, who is obviously dying. But before expiring, the man utters the words that have given this novel its title. When an attempt at Bobby's life is made a little later, he and his friend Lady Frances "Frankie" Derwent decide to investigate...

Well, this was one of the titles I was looking forward to, because I didn't remember too much of it. Unfortunately much of the plot came back to me while reading it, so I wasn't very surprised at the twists and turns. The reader is well advised to remember that this is NOT a mystery novel, it's another one of Christie's romantic adventure thrillers. In fact, while I was reading it I felt as if this was almost the same story as the later N or M. We'll see if I still think so when I re-read that novel...

And yes, this story is a Tommy & Tuppence story in all but name - I am still a little baffled as to why Christie chose to invent a new pair of sleuths for this one. It's a fun story, but there is very little detection. What we get is a couple of annoying deus ex machina scenes and a pair of protagonists that, while being good companions on the road towards the dénouement, just stumble and fumble about before a hunch gives them the solution.

I'd rank this 44 out of 100. While it's a fun ride, everything's a bit too coincidental, and I also question how Christie chooses to deal with her villains.

1943 1966 1977
1984 1990 1995
In translating the British title of this novel, the Swedish publishers had a small problem, because the word "ask" can be translated in two different ways in Swedish, depending on whether it means "ask a question" or "ask someone to do something", though I guess that both interpretations could be valid with this story. In the end, they went with the latter, and otherwise Varför bad de inte Evans? is a literal translation.

The first translation of this story had to wait almost a decade. It features a cover that isn't bad at all. The steep cliffs are quite evocative. The only thing missing is the golf connection, but I guess all the other covers make up for that.

The Zebra edition and Delfinserien use the same cover, nicked from the first British Fontana edition, though the later one is just a tad more colourful. I like it quite a bit. The mid 80s cover is perhaps too focused on the golf thing, making this seem like one of P. G. Wodehouse's golf story collections.

The cover from 1990 also concentrates on the golf setting, and I like the tiny detail that the golf ball is a skull. And talking about skulls, the rather well-made mid 90s cover also has one, this time in place of an eye. It doesn't really scream mystery - apart from that skull - but I like the way that it presents a face both in profile and en face.

To be honest, I think this might be one of the novels with the best Swedish covers overall so far.


  1. Fascinating as always Christian, particularly about the different ways to translate the title. The ambiguity of that phrase is certainly a big part of this read but the exact meaning I suppose remains unclear. I do agree that those covers are fantastic though.

    1. Thanks, Aidan, it's much appreciated.

      One of those things that a native speaker might never think of are these tiny little things where a word in their own language can have quite different meanings in other languages. In this case, I don't think the translators would have been wrong, whichever option they went for, but I think they made the best choice anyway.