Hercule Poirot receives a letter from someone calling themselves ABC and threatening something bad a certain day in Andover. And when shopkeeper Alice Ascher is found dead on that date in that very place, Poirot smells something evil. This feeling is only strengthened when a further letter from ABC is delivered to him...
From the introduction above, you won't be completely surprised to hear that I've never really seen the greatness of this novel. I think when I read this the first time, it just caught me at a bad time, and I've brought that feeling with me ever since.
But even knowing that, I'm still not entirely convinced by it. It's one of those serial killer fair play mysteries mash-ups that never really truly work, in my opinion. Because if it's gonna be a fair play story, the serial killer angle can really only have one solution.
Still, this is never less than competent. In fact, I think it's a very good novel, and Christie does as well with the premise as anyone can do. And of course there is still the challenge of trying to identify the real killer of the story, which is not easy even though you're an experienced reader and know where this is heading.
It's enjoyable to meet Hastings again - he's a bit more tolerable when he's not in every story, and I have a feeling he's not quite as dim as he was in those 20s novels.
Let's rank this 65 out of 100. Overall, it's still a very enjoyable Christie, and as I've said a couple of times by now, in the mid 30s, Christie was firing on all cylinders and couldn't really do anything wrong.
The first edition, published the same year as the first British edition, has a cover that is marginally better than the others from around the same time frame which only featured the title in large print on the cover. Here, there is at least a body with an ABC timetable lying on it. The 1951 cover features more or less the same thing, just from a different angle. Both are kinda all right, but not too exciting.
The Zebra edition from 1967 and Delfinserien's cover from the following year are more distinctive. This time, it's the Zebra edition that steals the cover from the British Fontana edition. It looks reliably sinister. The 1968 cover is is the one I own, and it is quintessential for Swedish covers from around that time. We had several illustrators doing work in a similar style - this is Per Åhlin's work, but Hans Arnold had several very interesting covers around this time. In this particular case, I do think I'd prefer something more than just the huge ABC, but it certainly stands out.
In 1982 we had a book club version, and this one is in fact not all that bad. Like the British cover above, it focuses on the train - I guess because of all the travels Poirot and Hastings make over the course of the story - but I have no idea if that's supposed to be Poirot on the Swedish cover.
The two Bonnier paperback editions from the mid 80s are not bad either, particularly the first one from 1985. It features a scene from the first murder. And I suppose that the map of Great Britain on the latter is again supposed to refer to all the travelling in the novel - otherwise it really could have been used for any mystery set in Britain.
There are TWO book sale editions for this title, one from 1998 and one from 2006. The first one is pretty generic, though has some atmosphere, while the other at least tells us it's a Poirot novel. I suppose that's a sealed letter with some spots of blood?
That cover from around the turn of the century is very unimaginative with just a huge magnifying glass. The large print edition from 2003 is as dull as it could possibly be - it looks like an ABC book for kids, really. And finally, the latest edition is one of the more baffling covers - is that supposed to be a hand putting poison somewhere? I don't remember anything like that from the novel.