In this second Hercule Poirot story, Poirot is moaning that crime isn't what it used to be, criminals are no longer worthy of this investigative prowess. Luckily, that very same day a letter arrives requesting his help in France. Paul Renauld is in fear of his life and wishes to engage Poirot. It's not entirely clear how this short note somehow signifies a matter worthy of Poirot's grey cells when only five minutes before he'd moaning like an old woman, but then maybe I just don't have Poirot's ability to reason beyond the obvious simplicity of the note itself – or something like that.
Poirot and Capt. Hastings head over to France to investigate, only to find they are just a day too late. The previous night his wife was tied up, while Renauld was threatened and then taken outside and murdered. Murdered and buried in a shallow grave on the neighbouring, unfinished, golf course. The French police are already on the scene and luckily the local magistrate is a fan of Poirot and encourages him to run his own investigation alongside the official one. Once the official detective arrives however, so does the fun. Monsieur Giraud is from Paris and is proud of his modern detection methods, he has no time for Poirot and dismisses his assistance. Poirot of course sees this as a challenge to his, obvious, superiority and proceeds to get competitive.
As with any crime mystery of this nature, coincidence plays a biiig part. The note in the beginning, Hastings meeting Cinderella on the train, the Renaulds happening to move next door to the Daubreulls. And the biggest coincidence of them all, that the body of Renauld is found on a golf course while the book is called Murder on the Links
– obviously it has to be a coincidence, because there doesn't seem to be any valid reason to have named the book deliberately for such a tenuous reason. The golf course in question plays no other part whatsoever in the story. Weird.
The character of Poirot is developed very nicely since the first novel. His arrogance and vanity are exposed to us, but in a way that makes him seem much more charming than you suspect he would be in real life. The way he feeds clues to Hastings to try and lead him to the right conclusions is almost as you would expect somebody to patronise a favourite pet. Hastings however, comes off less well. He's portrayed as a walking adolescent, immediately falling in love with every young woman he sees – is it the girl on the train, is it the neighbour's daughter, is it the girl from the train, and so on. Hastings' only real moment of glory is when he defies Poirot to protect the girl he loves.
I struggled with my edition – it was an ebook I downloaded from the Internet. Unlike ebooks editions I've read previously from places like Project Gutenberg this turned out to be an ebook that somebody had thrown together from a reasonably hasty OCR job. Frequently words were just missing, replaced with "[missing]" or "[garbled]", and chapters 13 and 14 ran into each other with a note that "[some text missing from end of chapter 13 and beginning of chapter 14]". Strangely, it didn't make as much of a difference to the book as I'd feared, I don't think I missed any major clues and I guess the brain just fills in the missing words, however if I was doing it again I'd want to read an ebook that had gone from some level of editing.