Why Didn't They Ask Evans?

Rating: ***

Bobby Jones is the son of a vicar and his life is at the moment going nowhere. His father disapproves of him and he disapproves of his father. Clearly things are not working. One day, out golfing with a friend, he comes upon a man who has tumbled from a cliff. The stranger is beyond saving, but Bobby volunteers to stay with him until help arrives. That is when the man opens his eyes, says the mysterious words in the title, and dies. Bobby also finds a picture of a woman sticking out of his pocket. Later, remembering an engagement he must keep, he is relieved when another young man who introduces himself as Bassington-ffrench appears and offers to stay with the body.

We are then introduced to Frances Derwent, known as Frankie to Bobby. The daughter of a Lord, she and Bobby don't occupy the same social sphere, but played together as children and have remained somewhat friendly. Meanwhile, the body is identified as an Alex Pritchard by the woman in the photograph which turns out to be one of his sister. Pretty soon, weird things begin to happen: Bobby is first offered a job in South America and after his refusal he is almost killed by being given 8 grains of morphia. It is Frankie who makes the connection; it was only after telling the sister Alex Pritchard's last words that these things began to happen. Obviously, someone wants Bobby out of the way. But why? what do the words mean? what is the mystery behind the dead man? was he murdered? are the people who identified his body really his relatives?

Convalescing in the hospital, Bobby sees a copy of the sister's photograph in the newspaper and discovers a vital clue to the mystery: it is not the photograph he saw. Someone has obviously switched out the photograph with one of the supposed sister. But who? Frankie and Bobby remember the young man who stayed with the body - Bassington-ffrench. Armed with one small clue, the couple plan a dangerous and risky adventure following the photo swapper to his own home.

Some thoughts
Trust me, once you've read Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, you'll be going, "ohhhhh, that's who Evans was." And it makes sense that that's who Evans was! Nevertheless I found a lot of loopholes in the plot. Bobby and Frankie, the detectives of the piece, are amateurs and you can't expect them to be brilliant - but how they manage to solve the crime after so many mistakes is beyond me. Don't get me wrong, they're hugely likeable characters, but they don't know squat about detective work. They don't stick to the facts, are influenced by everyone they meet into revealing all their secrets, and biggest of all - they don't really follow the evidence! Poirot's first rule of detection - each and every fact must fit in with the theory, or else discard the theory! But Frankie and Bobby discard facts right and left, distort them or leave them out altogether to fit in with each new 'feeling'. As it is, they manage to solve the crime by sheer accident or extraordinary coincidences! As I said, not good detectives but really entertaining people.

Don't forget to check out my Agatha Christie page!

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