Published in 1936, The ABC Murders added significantly to Agatha Christie’s fame as a genius of a crime-writer. The book is considered one of her best works and is a thrilling adventure from start to end.The book features Hercule Poirot in his full glory along with Arthur Hastings and Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard.
The chase starts when Poirot receives a typewritten letter from a Mr. ABC informing him about the murder he is going to commit giving the exact date and place of the crime. While Poirot’s sixth sense tells him to take this man seriously, the police department considers it as one of the many anonymous notes they receive on daily basis. But, Poirot is proved right when an old lady shopkeeper named Alice Ascher is found murdered in Andover. Mr. ABC proceeds in alphabetical order and the second letter is followed by murder of a girl called Elizabeth “Betty” Bernard in Bexhill.
Now, everybody is taking Mr ABC seriously. The third letter however goes astray and reaches Poirot only on the morning of the day of the murder. Poirot and police reach the house of Sir Carmichael Clarke in Churston only to find him murdered in the woods. The ABC has left only one apparent clue with the dead body of every victim – ABC railway guides.
On interviewing the families and friends of the victims, Poirot observes that in every case, there was at least one person who had a motive to be the murderer. By declaring himself beforehand, ABC has actually saved these persons from bearing the burden of the crime. When Poirot receives the fourth letter, the police, the legion of friends of the deceased, Hasting and Poirot himself go to Danver, all determined to stop the murder. But, in spite of the extreme precautions, ABC successfully murders a man called George Earlsfield. It seems ABC mistook him for a man sitting only two seats away named Roger Emanuel Downs.
Parallel to this, we follow Mr. Alexandar Bonapart Cust, an old, dim-witted, ordinary salesman of stockings. Cust had served in the world war and received a head injury which has resulted into his having period of mental black-out. He is also a patient of epilepsy. By now, Mr ABC has gained the pinnacle of fame in the media as the homicidal lunatic who looks like a next-door person. Incidently, Mr. Cust’s landlady’s daughter and her fiancee find out that Cust had been present at the time of murder at all four places and inform police about his behavior. Police recovers the knife used for the forth murder, a bunch of ABC railway guides and the typewriter used for writing letters to Poirot from Cust’s home but Cust flees. Within a few days, he finally surrenders himself to the police. Though Cust admits that he did commit all those murders, he does not remember a single thing about any of those.
And what does Poirot think? His grey cells tell him that Cust is not the murderer. Is it just a hunch or does he have facts to back-up his conclusion? Who is the murderer, if not Cust? Well, read the book and let your brain do a good exercise to pick up the murderer from a large number of characters present here. Each murder had something to provide the clue and each victim had a bunch of family and friends full of peculiar personalities.