Agatha Christie. The Hollow; or, Murder After Hours. 1946. Mystery.
Everyone knows Agatha Christie wasn’t the sharpest tool in literature’s box when it came to crafting three-dimensional characters or making penetrating insights into society or the psyche, for all of Hercule Poirot’s fastidious quirkiness or Christie’s own snarky asides at modern youth and politics (in fact, she embodied Margaret Thatcher while that iron lady was still in braces). But Christie did excel at cranking out bestselling, intricately plotted mysteries, and with a handful of works she did manage to transcend her genre and create a classic. So it was with And Then There Were None; so it is again with The Hollow.
The Hollow is a poignant, character-driven drama that brilliantly masquerades as another Poirot mystery (a hackneyed depth it does plumb in its second, weaker half), but really it focuses on people, people who aren’t instruments of the plot but who make the plot their own instrument for self-revelation. Gerda Christow is the painfully self-conscious wife of an assertive and brilliant doctor, who is himself in love with a detached sculptor, Henrietta, whose feverish creative drive, like Ariadne Oliver’s in other novels, mirrors that of her creator. Equally intriguing is Lucy Angkatell, the scatter-brained but disconcertingly perceptive lady of the house, and by Edward, whose sorrowful soul wears a mask as cold and grey as a seashore in Yorkshire.
However, one image above all stuck with me: that of The Worshiper, Henrietta’s sculpture of a woman gazing up at her God. Her blank gaze frightens the characters, as it frightened me, for we rarely think what tragedies may ensue when those with absolute faith lose it utterly.