Continuing my recent forays into the novels of Agatha Christie, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? is another one that I’ve really enjoyed and one of my favourites so far. This is one of Christie’s standalone novels (i.e. not Poirot, Marple or any other series).
Bobby Jones, son of the vicar of Marchbolt, is playing golf near the sea one day when he discovers that a man has fallen over the cliff. Left alone with the body while his friend goes to get help, Bobby is the only person who hears the man’s dying words: “Why didn’t they ask Evans?” As soon as Bobby informs the dead man’s family of his last words, a number of strange incidents start to occur, ending in Bobby’s beer being poisoned. After consulting with his friend Lady Frances Derwent (known as Frankie), they decide that someone must be trying to silence Bobby before he uncovers the truth behind the man’s death. As Frankie and Bobby attempt to find out what’s going on, they find themselves caught up in a mystery which leads them to a sanatorium run by the sinister Dr Nicholson.
The plot quickly becomes very far-fetched and ridiculous with lots of disguise-wearing, last-minute rescues and amazing coincidences. Frankie and Bobby constantly stumble upon clues and it seems that people give confidential information to them very freely – if it was really that easy to get people to tell you things, every crime would be solved in no time! Frankie and Bobby themselves even remark on the unreality of the situation and that they feel as if they’ve fallen into the pages of a novel.
Due to the number of red herrings and twists in the plot, the mystery is a more complex one than I thought it would be at first. If you could work out the significance of the phrase “why didn’t they ask Evans?” before it is revealed you must be a genius! I would never in a million years have guessed who Evans would turn out to be as it’s not something that can easily be deduced until you’ve been given all the pieces of the puzzle.
Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? is a fast-paced, light-hearted read with a very likeable pair of amateur detectives (particularly the courageous, quick-thinking Frankie). The melodrama and silliness are all part of the fun – this book never takes itself too seriously and despite topics of murder, drug use and kidnapping it never becomes too dark. Be prepared to suspend disbelief for a while, then sit back and be entertained.