Amongst the English authors, I like Agatha Christie the most. The knack of delving deep into the psyche of her characters and linking their outer behaviours to their inner dynamics on one hand and the finesse to unravel a mystery on a layer-by-layer basis just like peeling off the skins of an onion on the other, puts Ms. Christie in a league of her own. With due respect to all the mystery writers of the world, I firmly assert that none can match the skills of Ms. Christie as far as penning whodunits is concerned. Today I am reviewing a novel of hers which is not a series novel, i.e., not written with her stock characters (though in a TV series made on this novel in 2009, the character of Ms. Christie’s immortal brain-child, Miss Marple was added). This novel is – Why Didn’t They Ask Evans ?The title of the novel is as such because the last words of a dying person (the mystery of whose death forms the crux of the novel) heard by the young hero of this novel are – ‘Why didn’t they ask Evans ?’ And the background as well as the epitome of this dying statement becomes known to the reader of this novel in the ending pages only.The story starts with a game of Golf being played by the youngster hero – Bobby Jones with his companion – Dr. Thomas somewhere in the town of Marchbolt (England). When the ball goes over a cliff-edge and Bobby goes to locate and bring it back, he finds a man fallen from the cliff. Dr. Thomas first examines the person who appears as dead but is actually unconscious and then goes for bringing help for that injured and unconscious person whereas Bobby stays back to take care of him. Suddenly, that man gets conscious only to utter the last words those form the title of this novel and dies immediately. Bobby checks his pockets and finds a photograph of a beautiful young lady in one of them. He puts the photograph back after seeing when one stranger arrives there, introducing himself as Roger Bassington-ffrench. He offers to Bobby for himself as staying behind with the dead body so that Bobby could leave. Getting late for playing organ at his father’s church, Bobby accepts the offer of Roger Bassington-ffrench and rushes for his destination.
Later, Bobby is surprised to find that the photo found by the cops from the pocket of the deceased is not the same as seen by him. Even more personal surprises are there in store for him. Firstly, he gets a lucrative job offer from a faraway place (which he doesn’t accept) and secondly, someone poisons the drink he is consuming. He starts working at the garage of his friend – Badger but the mysteries of the changed photograph, the strange last words of the dying person and the attempt on his own life keep on disturbing his mind. He discusses all these things with his female friend – Lady Frances Derwent fondly called as Frankie. Both Bobby and Frankie conclude that the only clue to reach the root of the mystery is Mr. Roger Bassington-ffrench who is the likely person to have replaced the original photograph with the one which was found later in the pocket of the deceased. His address is traced by them to a house titled as Merroway Court in Hampshire where he lives with his brother and sister-in-law. Frankie stages a fake accident and under the excuse to recover from her injuries, infiltrates the household. Bobby also reaches there posturing as her driver. Their quest for truth goes on and Bobby happens to come across the girl whose photo he had seen in the pocket of the deceased person. After many twists and turns coupled with thrills, Bobby and Frankie not only unravel the complete mystery and catch the culprits but also discover the love in their hearts for each other.Also published under the title of ‘The Boomerang Clue’, this novel is relatively long and suits more for a TV serial than a feature film. Unlike many other Agatha Christie novels which have to be finished in one go to enjoy the suspense properly, this novel is one of its kind to be read and enjoyed leisurely without any hurry to finish it. I read it at a slow speed and completed it in a number of days. The personalities and activities of the very young hero and heroine charmed me like anything and after reading it, I feel that this novel is just like a cup of nicely brewed coffee or a well-made cocktail which is to be enjoyed sip-by-sip. The quest for truth appeared more fascinating to me then the knowledge of truth. I found the journey headed for the solution of the mystery as more lovable and enchanting than the destination of the same.The mystery-queen has first folded the mystery on a layer-by-layer basis and thereafter unfolded it the same way, just like peeling off the skins of an onion. And that has made the reading as exceedingly pleasant despite the length of the novel which appears to me on the higher side. The characters are introduced gradually but every character is able to leave his / her mark. The suspense deepens at a slow pace and the engrossing capability of the stuff is felt quite gradually. However the reader cannot afford to have an incomplete reading of this novel. The destination, i.e., the revelation of the suspense, is to be reached but by enjoying every step of the travel towards it. And the reader is stunned when the real culprit is unmasked in the ending pages.Agatha Christie used to pen romantic novels too by the name of Mary Westmacott. This novel is an illustration as to how apt she was in writing romantic stuff too alongside writing the suspense-filled stuff. The romance and untold love of the very young detective twosome is quite subtle, yet heart-conquering.The title itself is full of suspense. If you want to know what was to be ‘asked’, who was ‘Evans’ and who were ‘they,’ then please go through this novel and have a nice reading time. It is one of the underrated novels of Madame Christie but after reading it, no reader can complain. First published in 1934, this novel still renders a fresh feeling like a gust of breeze. It may prove to be reminiscent of own first crush or days of friendship with someone special for many of us. I wholeheartedly recommend this novel to both the mystery-fans and the readers of romantic stuff. Join the company of very young Bobby and Frankie and enjoy their quest for the truth hidden behind the assertion in the title of the novel.
© Copyrights reserved