Agatha Christie

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How does Agatha Christie's The A. B. C. Murders follow the elements of detective fiction, and can you provide an example for each element?

Quick answer:

The A. B. C. Murders has a distinctive detective in Hercule Poirot, a man of brilliant reasoning abilities. His companion, Hastings, fits the classic mold of the less intelligent but helpful sidekick. The murderer shows up before the novel is halfway through. However, this is not a classic "locked-room" mystery.

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In The A. B. C. Murders, the detective is a distinctive and unusual character. As we learn from the first chapter, Hercules Poirot is a distinctive person. He is a Belgian with a great set of mustaches of which he is very proud, he has refined tastes, and he speaks with an unusual mix of French and English. He also has a passion for symmetry, renting his new apartment for its symmetrical and orderly qualities.

The detective possesses great reasoning abilities. Throughout the novel, Poirot will show he is more methodical than the average person. Because of this, he is able to figure out that the murderer cannot be simply an insane serial killer. There is too much method in the killings, so Poirot begins to look for a methodical person among the suspects. Poirot also understands human nature, which allows him to think ahead and anticipate. For instance, after the first murder, he doesn't simply ask people if they saw someone near the tobacco shop at the time of the murder. Instead, he says he heard of a person of a certain description being there and sees if people confirm or deny it: he says if he asked them straight out what they saw, he would get no answer. He is also ahead of the game in thinking to lie to entrap the killer.

The detective has a not-so-brilliant but helpful companion: Hastings. Hastings is the classic sidekick foil in the mode of Sherlock Holmes's Watson. He is an average person with ordinary deductive abilities. His ordinariness and conventional thinking highlight Poirot's brilliance.

The guilty suspect, Franklin Clarke, turns up only after the third murder but before the book is half over, so he shows up fairly early. However, he is not there from the start.

This is not a classic locked room mystery. Such a story usually involves a room in which there doesn't seem any way for the murderer to escape. The term often expands to mean a group of people who are in a place that nobody can get into or out of, such as stranded in an isolated house in a snowstorm. In such a mystery, only the people in the house could have committed the murder. This is clearly not the case here.

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