2020-07-22

Agatha Christie 100 - The Hollow

The first Poirot novel after WWII, this continues Christie's foray into more character oriented writing.


Lady Angkatell has invited her closest family and friends to a weekend at her mansion, The Hollow. These people have different reasons for wanting to come - or not to come! - which creates tensions among the group. Then one day, one of the guests, John Christow, is killed next to the swimming pool, and when everyone arrives, his wife Gerda is standing above him with a gun in her hand. But can it really be so easy? Luckily, one of the guests that day is Hercule Poirot.

As a story of detection, there's not an incredible amount here. There's very few clues except for psychological ones. What makes this novel a success is the Angkatell family, who are very distinct personalities with various eccentricities. Poirot has almost met his match as the family closes ranks and are distinctly unhelpful.

The love stories here are handled quite differently - the John Christow, Gerda Christow and Henrietta Savernake triangle works wonderfully, while the romance between Edward and Midge takes some very sudden turns and therefore seems less realistic.

In the end, this succeeds on the strength of its characters, though the main misdirection in the murder is not bad at all. I'll rate this a 78 out of 100. A very good read, but not at Christie's highest level.

1947 1958 1966
1973 1981

Gropen is a literal translation of The Hollow, which I don't know whether I find ideal. But as you all know, I don't like titling novels after mansions and country houses, so you'll know I'm biased. Though it is worse when those house names are translated... Note that this fairly unsung novel has only had five editions in Sweden, and the latest of those is almost 40 years old by now.

The first cover from the late 40s is good. I like that it offers some originality by focusing on Henrietta's sculpturing, because almost every other cover focuses on the murder weapon instead. The first Zebra edition also uses an original cover, and presents us with Gerda standing next to John Christow and the pool. I'm not entirely convinced by the artist's depiction of Gerda's face, but it's still a pretty good cover.

Now, let's get stuck into those Fontana covers. As usual, Tom Adams is the cover artist, but interestingly, he made two different covers for Fontana, and one of those two was offered in two different variants. But fear not, us Swedes made sure that you could see all these cover variants over the next three editions!

The first of these covers can be seen on the second Zebra edition from 1966. As you can see it's got an image of the revolver in the pool. I like this cover, though I think that the rings in the water are too intrusive, nearly obscuring the revolver and the red leaf. (It has to be said that in the British original those details are easier to see - it's this Swedish edition that's mucked it up somehow.)

There is a variant of this cover with a greener tint to the pool water, and you can see this image on the 1981 edition. Though for some reason the Swedish publishers managed to reverse the cover...

The second, distinct cover from Tom Adams can be seen on the 1973 edition. This isn't bad either, with a revolver lying among a bunch of eggs in a basket. Though I do prefer the other ones here, because while the revolver does suggest some type of mystery I just don't get all that excited about an egg basket....

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