Evil Under the Sun is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in June 1941 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in October of the same year. The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6) and the US edition at $2.00.
A quiet holiday at a secluded hotel in Devon is all that Hercule Poirot wants, but amongst his fellow guests is a beautiful and vain woman who, seemingly oblivious to her own husband’s feelings, revels in the attention of another woman’s husband. The scene is set for murder, but can the field of suspects really be as narrow as it first appears
Arlena is a very beautiful retired actress and a flirtatious young woman with many men attracted to her. She goes to the Jolly Roger Hotel with her husband and step daughter, Kenneth and Linda Marshall. Linda Marshall, a sixteen year old girl, dislikes her stepmother very much. Arlena flirts in the hotel with a handsome man named Patrick Redfern who is infatuated with her. This makes his wife Christine Redfern, an educated schoolteacher, jealous and hurt. Also staying at the hotel are famous detective Hercule Poirot, the dressmaker and Kenneth's childhood friend Rosamund Darnley, the American tourists Odell and Carrie Gardener, the retired Major Barry, the blatant Horace Blatt, vicar Stephen Lane and the athletic spinster Emily Brewster.
Early on the morning of the murder, Christine witnesses Linda accidentally dropping a parcel, which reveals a number of candles. Christine asks Linda to come to Gull Cove with her. On the same morning, Arlena goes out on a float (a type of boat) and asks Poirot not to tell anyone where she is going. In Poirot's mind Arlena is going to meet Patrick Redfern, but he is proved wrong when Patrick asks Poirot if he has seen Arlena.
Patrick Redfern asks Emily Brewster to join him in a rowboat outing. They eventually reach Pixy Cove and find a body lying there, her arms outstretched and her face hidden by a hat. It is the strangled body of Arlena, killed at about quarter to 12.
When they begin to question people's whereabouts, Kenneth Marshall says he was in his room typing letters at the time of the murder. Linda lies that she was fond of her stepmother. She also claims that she and Christine went to Gull Cove at about 10:30 and that she returned to the hotel at about quarter to 12, which would mean it was impossible for her to have committed the murder because the murder was committed at exactly quarter to 12. The Gardeners were with Hercule Poirot at that time of the murder and thus cleared of suspicion. Rosamund Darnley claims that she went to Sunny Ledge (above the Pixy Cove) to read a book. She says that she saw no one because she was concentrating on reading but while Emily and Patrick were rowing a boat, they saw her there. As for the rest of the group, Stephen Lane and Major Barry went out and Horace Blatt sailed. Christine, Rosamund, Kenneth and Mr. Gardener all went to play tennis at noon.
Meanwhile, Poirot asks the chambermaid, Gladys Narracott if she has observed whether a bottle was missing. He asks this because earlier that day of the murder Emily Brewster told them that she had nearly been hit with a thrown bottle. The chambermaid did not notice that a bottle was missing, but notes something else that seemed odd; somebody ran a bath at noon. Poirot says that the bath was nothing important but the bottle was very important. The chambermaid also heard Kenneth Marshall typing in his room, thus corroborating Kenneth's story and clearing him of suspicion.
Meanwhile, when the investigating officers and Poirot go to Pixy Cove to investigate the place, they find a pair of new scissors, a fragment of pipe, and a bottle. The pipe could be Kenneth's, as he told the investigating officers and Poirot earlier that he had mislaid his pipe. But he is not the only one who smokes a pipe. On entering Pixy's Cave the investigators find heroin. There are suspicions that Horace Blatt has something to do with smuggling of drugs or with the murder. Poirot also enquires about the murder of Alice Corrigan many years ago. It emerges that she was also strangled but her murderer was never caught. Alice's husband Edward claimed innocence and an alibi because he was away at that time, thus, making him impossible to commit the murder. Alice's body was found at the time by a school teacher.
Poirot has an idea to go for a picnic, perhaps to make a little test. Christine and Emily had both mentioned that they were afraid of heights (also called vertigo). Therefore, when they are made to cross a narrow bridge with running water below nearby on the way to the picnic, they should feel giddy and uncomfortable doing so. Emily does, yet Christine crosses the bridge without any problems. Therefore it is shown that she has told at least one lie - could all she had said earlier be lies too?
When they return to the hotel after the picnic, the chambermaid advises them that Linda is not feeling well. On entering her room it transpires that Linda took six sleeping pills in an unsuccessful attempt at suicide, leaving a letter confessing that she was the one who killed Arlena. As she recovers, the true nature of her confession is revealed - the mysterious parcel of candles she had dropped earlier was part of a magic spell directed at Arlena, and she mistakenly believed it to have killed her.
Patrick Redfern's real identity is Edward Corrigan, the husband of Alice Corrigan who was also murdered by Patrick years ago. The games mistress who found her body was Christine Redfern, then known as Christine Deverill, and she also helped Edward to kill Alice. So, Patrick Redfern and Christine Redfern killed Arlena.
Characters in "Evil Under the Sun"Modifier
- Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective with the little "grey cells"
- Colonel Weston, the Chief Constable
- Inspector Colgate, the investigating officer
- Sergeant Phillips, a policeman in the case
- Dr. Neasdon, the police surgeon
- Captain Kenneth Marshall, Arlena's present husband, proud as Lucifer
- Arlena Stuart Marshall, a former actress and Kenneth Marshall’s wife
- Linda Marshall, Kenneth’s daughter and Arlena’s stepdaughter, naive and precocious
- Patrick Redfern, Arlena’s lover and Christine's husband
- Christine Redfern, Patrick’s wife, pretty in a washed out way and a "mousy"/silent woman.
- Rosamund Darnley, a fashionable dressmaker and Kenneth's past childhood friend
- Emily Brewster, an athletic spinster
- Mrs. Carrie Gardener, A garrulous American tourist
- Mr. Odell Gardener, The husband of Mrs. Gardener who quite obligingly does whatever Mrs. Gardener says.
- Mr Horace Blatt, a yachtsman, a "self made" man
- Reverend Stephen Lane, a clerical guest who quite openly declares Arlena Marshall the evilest in the land.
- Major Barry, A retired officer who fought in India
- Gladys Narracott, a chambermaid in the Jolly Roger Hotel
- Mrs. Castle, the owner of the Jolly Roger Hotel.
Literary significance and receptionModifier
The verdict by Maurice Willson Disher in The Times Literary Supplement of June 14, 1941 was positive: "To maintain a place at the head of detective-writers would be difficult enough without the ever increasing rivalry. Even Miss Christie cannot stay there unchallenged though she has a following which will swear her books are best without reading the others. Unbiased opinion may have given the verdict against her last season when new arrivals set a very hot pace; but Evil Under the Sun will take a lot of beating now". After summarising the plot, the Mr. Disher concluded: "Miss Christie casts the shadow of guilt upon first one and then another with such casual ease that it is difficult for the reader not to be led by the nose. Everybody is well aware that any character most strongly indicated is not a likely criminal; yet this guiding principle is forgotten when Miss Christie persuades you that you are more discerning than you really are. Then she springs her secret like a land-mine."
In The New York Times Book Review of October 19, 1941, Isaac Anderson said, "The murder is an elaborately planned affair – a little too much so for credibility, in view of the many possibilities of a slip-up somewhere along the way – but Poirot's reasoning is flawless, as it always is. Evil Under the Sun adds another to the already long list of Agatha Christie's successful mystery tales."
Maurice Richardson in a short review in the June 8, 1941 issue of The Observer said, "Best Agatha Christie since Ten Little Niggers – and one can't say much more than that – Evil Under the Sun has luxury summer hotel, closed-circle setting, Poirot in white trousers. Victim: redhead actress man-mad. Smashing solution, after clouds of dust thrown in your eyes, ought to catch you right out. Light as a soufflé."
The Scotsman of July 3, 1941 spoke of the several "surprising discoveries" in the book's solution and said, "All of these the reader may best be left to encounter for himself in the assurance that the quest will prove as piquant as any this skilful writer has offered."
E.R. Punshon in The Guardian of August 26, 1941 briefly summed up the plot in a eulogistic piece which began, "Is it going too far to call Mrs. Agatha Christie one of the most remarkable writers of the day?" 
Robert Barnard: "The classic Christie marital triangle plot set in West Country seaside resort, with particular play on the alikeness of sunbathing bodies, and dead ones. Possibly overingenious and slightly uncharacterised."
References to other worksModifier
The plot has some similarities to the Christie short story Triangle at Rhodes, which was first published in the US in This Week magazine in February 1936 and in the UK in issue 545 of the Strand Magazine in May 1936 and included in the collection Murder in the Mews (US title: Dead Man's Mirror) one year later.
In Triangle at Rhodes, Poirot again witnesses an apparent liaison between two married people. Again everyone believes that the responsible party is a beautiful and magnetic woman, Valentine Chantry, who is murdered. In Triangle at Rhodes the murder is by poison and it is thought that she and her lover have attempted to murder her husband and that the plot has gone wrong, but Poirot reveals that the murder was committed by her husband in cahoots with her apparent lover’s wife, Mrs. Gold.
In both stories, the key twist is that the appearance of the seductress’s power deflects attention from the reality of the situation. In Triangle at Rhodes, Mrs. Gold says of Valentine Chantry “in spite of her money and her good looks and all […] she’s not the sort of woman men really stick to. She’s the sort of woman, I think, that men would get tired of very easily.” In Evil under the Sun, Poirot says of Arlena Marshall “She was the type of woman whom men care for easily and of whom they easily tire.”
The character of Colonel Weston had originally appeared in Peril at End House and makes reference to that case upon his first appearance, in Chapter 5.
Minor character Mrs. Gardener is herself an admirer of Poirot's exploits and refers to the case of Death on the Nile in Chapter 1 of this novel.
Film, Radio, TV or theatrical adaptationsModifier
John Moffat starred as Poirot in a 1999 BBC Radio 4 adaptation directed by Enyd Williams with a cast that included Iain Glen as Patrick Redfern, Fiona Fullerton as Arlena Marshall, Robin Ellis as Captain Marshall, Wendy Craig as Mrs. Gardener, George Baker as Colonel Weston and Joan Littlewood as Ms. Brewster.
Evil Under the Sun was the second film to be made with Peter Ustinov in the role of Poirot after his debut in the part in the 1978 film Death on the Nile. The setting was moved to a secluded resort frequented by the rich and famous in the Adriatic Sea whilst the action was, in fact, filmed in Majorca, Spain. There were a few changes from the book, such as the characters. Emily Brewster becomes Rex Brewster, author of Arlena's yet to be published tell all biography. The Gardeners are film producers, Rev Lane and Major Barry do not appear.
Agatha Christie's PoirotModifier
The novel was adapted as an episode in the series Agatha Christie's Poirot in 2001 starring David Suchet.
Some liberties were taken in the adaptation. In the episode Kenneth Marshall's 16 year old daughter Linda was changed into his 17 year old son Lionel. Instead of practicing magic, Lionel was reading a book about poisoning and did not attempt suicide. The Gardener couple were omitted completely.
As with many of the early Poirot adaptations, the characters of Hastings, Inspector Japp and Miss Lemon had a bigger role in the episode than their roles in the book, with Hastings joining Poirot in the resort, Japp investigating the murder (a role performed by Colonel Weston in the book) and Lemon investigating Alice Corrigan's murder.
On October 17, 2007, The Adventure Company released a PC adaptation of the book. The game starred Kevin Delaney as the voice of Hercule Poirot. This version includes the character of Captain Hastings as the player-character; as a game, Poirot re-creates the story, but allowing Hastings to step into Poirot's shoes and solve the mystery as he would.
- 1941, Collins Crime Club (London), June 1941, Hardback, 256 pp
- 1941, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), October 1941, Hardback, 260 pp
- 1945, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback, 183 pp (Pocket number 285)
- 1957, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 189 pp
- 1963, Pan Books, Paperback, 217 pp
- 1971, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 362 pp
- 2008, Poirot Facsimile Edition (Facsimile of 1941 UK First Edition), HarperCollins, April 1, 2008, Hardback, ISBN 0-00-727455-6
The book was first serialised in the US in Collier's Weekly in eleven parts from December 14, 1940 (Volume 106, Number 24) to February 22, 1941 (Volume 107, Number 8) with illustrations by Mario Cooper.
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