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by Agatha Christie
HarperCollins, July 2004
Audiobook pages
ISBN: 0007191030

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Agatha Christie is best known for her Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple series. But she wrote several other books featuring lesser known protagonists who rate right up there with Poirot and Marple. WHY DIDN'T THEY ASK EVANS? stars two such characters.

Bobby Jones is the fourth son of an English vicar and a young man recently released from the British Armed Services. At home in Marchbolt, Wales, Jones is at loose ends while trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. One day while playing golf with the local doctor, Jones stumbles upon the body of a man who's apparently fallen off a cliff. Close to death, the man mumbles: "Why didn't they ask Evans?" before breathing his last.

The body is later identified as the brother of Mrs Amelia Cayman of London, and the coroner declares the death to have occurred by accident. After the inquest, Bobby is questioned by Amelia's husband, Leo, but he fails to tell Cayman of the dying man's last words. A week later, Bobby receives a letter from someone he doesn't know offering him a job in South America. He turns down the job, having decided to help out his old friend Badger Beaden at Beaden's London garage. Before he can go to London, though, Bobby is poisoned with morphia (morphine) and almost dies.

Lady Frances Derwent is an earl's daughter and Bobby's childhood friend. Frankie, as she's called, allies herself with Bobby in an attempt to figure out who poisoned him. Believing the attempt may be related to the death of the man on the cliff, the pair decides to investigate Roger Bassington-ffrench, a man who'd appeared on the path near the cliff soon after the accident occurred. Roger had stayed with the body, waiting for help to arrive, so that Bobby could get home to play the organ for his father's church service.

With the help of a doctor friend, Frankie rigs a car accident near the manor home of Henry and Sylvia Bassington-ffrench, Roger's relatives with whom he's staying. Frankie is taken to the manor house where she soon becomes friendly with Sylvia. Asked to stay after her recovery from the accident, Frankie summons Bobby to appear at the house as her chauffeur. Disguised in his chauffeur costume and a moustache, Bobby learns what he can from the staff and the tradesmen in town while Frankie investigates her hosts.

It soon becomes apparent that Henry Bassington-ffrench is addicted to drugs. Frankie and Bobby suspect he's being supplied by Dr Nicholson, a married man who seems attracted to Sylvia and who runs a drug addiction recovery program from his walled estate outside of town. Bobby suspects that Nicholson's wife Moira is another of the doctor's victims and he pledges to save her.

Another death complicates the case for Bobby and Frankie. They soon find themselves up to their ears in trouble when Frankie follows the directions in a note ostensibly sent to her by Bobby. All looks lost until the pair is saved by a most unlikely person.

Christie presents readers with a light-hearted pair of amateur detectives in Bobby Jones and Frankie Derwent. Frankie typifies the attitude of Britain's young upper-crust society during the early days of World War I, viewing the hunt for the killer as a rather glamorous game much like the war itself. She uses her position as an earl's daughter to gain information that a lower class person, like Bobby, could never get, and she does so with little regard for propriety.

Bobby, who's actually rather smitten by Frankie, resents having lost his Navy commission due to poor eyesight. Like Frankie, he's taken by the idea of catching a killer, not really comprehending the danger of the game until late in the story. His relationship with Frankie develops over the course of the story, as does his understanding of his father, who he originally views as dull and over-the-hill in his thinking. Despite their naivete, these two young people are likable and grow on the reader with every passing chapter.

Christie, as usual, performs her magic with storytelling by giving the reader plenty of clues interspersed with red herrings. Emilia Fox does her part by bringing all the characters to life via an inspired reading. Recommended for Christie fans.

Reviewed by Mary V. Welk, December 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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