Although know for the traditional whodunit style of novel, Agatha Christie also wrote excellent fast moving thrillers, of which this novel is an excellent example. Although murders do occur they take second place, in my view, to the excitement of being involved in the chase with the two heroes’ of this book Bobby Jones and Lady Francis (Frankie) Derwent.
Bobby is at home, which is the town of Marchbolt, a Welsh seaside town. He is playing golf on the course that runs parallel with the coast with his friend Dr Thomas. He is due to play the organ later at his father’s parish church, as his father is the vicar of Marchbolt.
While playing their round of golf Bobby hears a distant cry. A few moments later they look over the side of a cliff where the see an injured man and they scramble down the cliff to help him. Dr Thomas fears the man does not have long lo live and goes to find help. While the Doctor is away Bobby notice s the injured man briefly open his eyes and in a clear voice say “Why didn't they ask Evans?
The man dies and Bobby decided to search the body to find out more about the man. He discovers a photograph of a woman with a haunting face in the dead man's pocket. Not long after Bobby is joined by a stranger, Roger Bassington-ffrench who offers to help. Bobby asks Bassington-ffrench to stay with the dead man so he can get back to his father and the organ.
Several days later Bobby boards a train at London Paddington bound for Sileham – which is close to Marchbolt. On board the train he bumps into his childhood friend Lady Frances. Frankie has heard about the accident at Marchbolt and tells Bobby that the dead man has been identified as an Alex Pritchard.
An inquest is held where the verdict death by misadventure is returned. The
Caymans - Pritchard's sister and brother-in-law visit Bobby at home and ask if Pritchard left any final message. Bobby says that he didn’t, quite innocently forgetting the man’s dying words. It’s only when back on the golf course with Frankie that he remembers them.
Bobby immediately writes to the Caymans to tell them this. However the Cayman’s very soon disappear without trace.
The week following Pritchard's death Bobby receives a surprise job offer from a company in Buenos Aires offering him an excellent salary. At a celebratory picnic, Bobby devours several sandwiches and a bottle of beer. He quickly falls into a deep sleep...
Bobby wakes in a nursing home. Although he has consumed eight grains of morphia – which should have killed him, he is still alive.
Frankie begins to suspect that Pritchard’s death wasn’t a simple accident and that he was helped over the cliff. She feels that Bobby’s poisoning is also connected with the murder.
Bobby reads about the death in a newspaper and is surprised to discover that the photograph he saw in Pritchard's pocket was not the one that was handed to the police. Frankie becomes even more determined to get the low-down on the mysterious Roger Bassington-ffrench. He was the last person with the body so only he could have switched the photograph.
Leaving Bobby in the nursing home, Frankie asks the police for further information about the case. She finds out that a dark blue Talbot saloon car was seen in Marchbolt on the day of the accident and the owner was a visitor to the area. Frankie manages to get Bassington-ffrench's address. She then stages a car crash outside Merroway Court, Bassington-ffrenchs home, thereby gaining entry to his property and access to his family. Bassington-ffrench seems to be a very active and well liked person.
Frankie is welcomed into the Bassington-ffrench home without question. She
quickly befriends Roger, his sister-in-law Sylvia, brother Henry and young nephew
Tommy. Frankie learns that Henry is a morphine addict. This addiction to morphine perhaps explains why Henry the old brother is sometimes very reclusive. It may also explain his violent mood swings.
A local resident, Dr Nicholson runs a clinic for addicts. The Nicholson’s are very sinister and suspicious characters. Dr Nicholson is a Canadian doctor who is a very dominating character, both highly opinionated and inquisitive. He also drives a dark blue Talbot saloon. He has a beautiful wife, Moira, who is of a very nervous disposition and appears to be terrified of her husband.
Frankie and Sylvia spend time together talking. Sylvia an American heiress is devoted to Henry. Frankie casually mentions the accident at Marchbolt in conversation and shows a newspaper clipping to Sylvia. Sylvia identifies the deceased man not as Alex Pritchard, but as Alan Carstairs who is a friend of the family.
Frankie sends for Bobby who arrives at Merrowav Court disguised as her chauffeur.
Bobby takes a room at a local hotel. He decides that more needs to be known about Dr Nicholson. Bobby waits until nightfall and then sneaks into the grounds of Nicholson’s clinic. As he is finding his way around in the darkness he stumbles across the woman from the photograph in Carstairs / Pritchard’s pocket. Who can this woman be and what connection does she have with the case?
Very soon Frankie and Bobby find themselves embroiled in a deep mystery. Bobby enlists the help of an old friend Badger Beadon. Badger is always up for adventure, especially if he can turn it into a profit. Although he may come across as a bit of a fool, Badger shows himself to be surprisingly resourceful.
As the three discover more, the tables are turned and Bobby, Frankie and Badger become the target for the killer. They find themselves in a race to save their lives. A race that takes them all the way home again. If only they can answer the question “Why didn’t they ask Evans” ?