Publication Date: June 1941
Length: 256 pages
I had heard of this book before and one friend said it was her favorite Christie book. So I was excited to finally read it. I liked the title too, as you don't normally think of "evil" in broad daylight.
Arlena Marshall is the kind of woman other women don't like. She is beautiful and flirtatious, always the center of attention in any room she walks into and generally vapid of real substance. When Hercule Poirot travels to Devon on holiday he encounters her along with several other vacationers at the seaside hotel they are staying in. When Arlena is later found strangled on a secluded beach, Poirot suspects jealousy as the motive. He begins investigating her suspicious death, along with the local inspector. There are many suspects to choose from.
Staying at the hotel and interacting with Arlena are her husband Kenneth and her step-daughter Linda, Rosamund Darnley, who used to have a relationship with Kenneth, Patrick Redfern and his wife Christine, Odell and Carrie Gardner, the Reverend Stephen Lane, Horace Blatt, Major Barry, and Emily Brewster. There are triangles to be explored: Linda loathes her step-mother , Rosamund has a past with Kenneth, and the others all have their opinions of Arlena which are anything but flattering. Her death, while shocking in its brutality, is not surprising to any of the guests gathered there.
As Hercule interviews them all and zeros in on his theory of the likely culprit, he finds everyone had a seemingly plausible alibi. From typing letters to recreational activities, all those present seem to have been unable to have followed Arlena and killed her. Patrick Redfern and Emily Brewster were the two who found her body and therefore the most likely to have been involved, although at the outset it doesn't appear they are guilty of anything other than trying to help. Strange happenings also bother Poirot, such as a bottle being thrown out of a window, narrowly missing Brewster, and the sound of someone running a bath around noon, an odd time to be sure. As he continues his investigation, Poirot realizes the little details are all linked and add up to a clever plan that is difficult to prove.
This book was fun to read. I enjoyed the mystery and the ending is really ingenious. I would never have figured it out. There are so many little red herrings along the way that I predicted the ending two or there times and was wrong on all of them. The guests' discussions about Arlena Marshall and her "type" of woman were something you'd still hear today in a circle of gossip, and the relationship of the Gardners was comical. Mrs. Gardner talks incessantly and when she asks her husband anything his reply is always, "Yes, dear." It becomes cute and endearing throughout the book. Poirot was great as usual and he really is my favorite out of all the detectives Christie created.
This was a great summer read for the Read Christie challenge. Looking forward to the next one!