Cast of characters
The Sandy Cove Hotel is on an island. It is a Health resort, accessible only by boat or with the charabanc, which is some kind of bus, placed on huge wheels so it can cross the sea over the causeway, to the island. Poirot, who came with Hastings, is ill at ease there, fussy as he island looks once again ridiculous with his polished shoes on a sand beach. Hastings is a rather uninteresting character: he is passive and just follows Poirot like a shadow. His only role is to make Poirot look better.
On the charabanc, Poirot meets Patrick and Christine Redfern. Patrick is a good looking young man, looking happy and Jocular (happy, friedly, sociable, in French: jovial) He immediately addresses Poirot in a very unformal way. On the other hand, his wife looks timid and rather dull, wit her fair skin, but she also looks rather happy. She is rather pretty and in the TV adaptation, does not have the “pretty in a negative way” aspect described in the book.
When arriving at the hotel, Patrick and Christine redfern argue: She accuses him of having followed Arlena Stuart to the island. She thinks he loves her. She argues, that it was his idea to go to that specific hotel, and assumes he knew Arlena would be there too. She is obviously jealous of the magnificent Arlena, who attracks all men’s eyes.
Arlena on the other hand is very proud of being attractive and doesn’t care about other people. She is shameless, and does not hesitate to brag about her success, her affairs and even exaggerates them to look even more like a femme fatale. She is very selfish, inconsiderate, offensive, and obnoxious. Arlena came with her husband Kenneth, and Lionel. Lionel is the son of Kenneth Marshal, that he had from a former marriage. He is a teenager who obviously hates his step mother, and wishes his father had never married her.
The hotel manager Miss Castle has a strict tone. She is also a comical character, because she is a caricature of the woman boss, who behaves with a military style. She’s sophisticated, but strict, headmistress like and authoritarian. She is going to ensure Poirot’s Healthy stay at the hotel by providing sports, swimming, sea, sun, and a strict diet. Not to mention the detective isn’t happy about that at all.
In his room, the sharp eyed Poirot starts to be observant, when he noticed a boat with red sails from his balcony. He also notices Kenneth Marshall spying on Arlena and Patrick Redfern, who might be lovers. Kenneth looks suspicious and probably jealous too. Through Poirot’s eyes, the viewer is starting to see clues, details that he might find suspicious. The viewer is active and starts thinking, expecting the worst to happen, and trying to find any clues letting him guess what will happen next.
At lunch, Poirot is served nettle water, in a comic effect. The dinner is a pretext to introduce new characters in a natural way. Amon them, Miss Rosamund Darnley is introduced to Poirot. She is a very famous stylist, a designing clothes and dress maker for the most reknown. She was a childhood sweetheart to Kenneth Marshall, but they’re friends now. She came to the hotel because she wanted to catch up on him. She’s very good at gossiping. In this occasion, she tells a great deal about Arlena’s whereabouts. There was a scandal involving her recently. An elderly man, who was unattached, and very very rich, followed Arlena like a puppy. He was one of her admirers, but probably not a lover. Either way, he died suddenly and she inherited his entire fortune.
A bit later, Poirot and Hastings encounter Emily Brewster on the cliffs. She is found of mystery and excited about the idea Poirot might be there for work. She mentions that this island would be a perfect place for murder: people are away from home, all have a good reason to be there. She also mentions that Arlena might be the victim. When Hastings innocently explains such a nice place could not be a crime scene, the fatidic sentence is aid: there is evil everywhere under the sun. Amily explains that if anyone wanted t commit a murder, this would be the perfect lace. But she’s disappointed when she learns nothing gruesome has happened there. Se might think it’s interesting gossip, but it makes her look suspect. The fascination with homicidal maniacs is nothing unusual at that time, it was on the contrary rather representative of her time period.
The sentence Poirot says: you forget, mon ami, there is evil everywhere under the sun”, is spoken with a context in which we can see Patrick and Arlena playing in the water together. In the context of Agatha Christie’s work, it is emphasizing the fact that murderers are part of the society layer it takes place in. The murderer and the victim are always from the same social background, it is never the maid or the cook that did the crime for example. (AC travelled to the middle east a lot, and a lot of her novels take place there. )
Stephen Lane joins the conversation at this point. We recognise the vicar from scene one, even though he looks in a worse shape than ever. The jesabel hater reveals a bit more about his condition: he is at the hotel for his health, but he is evasive regarding what his problem is: it is a long story. He mentions he was of the church, meaning he does not work anymore. He looks upset, maybe too upset to talk about it, seems not open. He sees the evil under the sun, in the person of Arlena Stuart, as a Jesabel, a wicked temptress.
Poirot crosses Major Barry a bit later. He only speaks a few words, and those are threatening: if Poirot came for relaxing, he is at the wrong place, and should better goas the place isn’t safe. Saying that next to the steep ladder going down to Pixie Cove, he seems to imply an accident could happen easily if he sticks his nose in other people’s business on the island. Overall, Major Barry sounds unfriendly, cold and very serious. At this point, all clues point at Arlena stuart as the victim of evil.
At the steam cabinet, Poirot and Horace Blatt meet. Both are overweight and their imprisonment and red faces in those steam machines make them both ridiculous and do for a comic scene. Horace Blatt appears tob e the owner of the boat with the red sails, that Poirot spotted earlier. He says he uses it for business, but does not give any specific information about what kind of business, saying a bit of this, a bit of that. His way of eluding the question and not answering looks suspicious: he must be hiding something, or his business is not very legal. Blatt also makes a joke saying he thought Poirot was dead, wich is a reference to another of Agatha Christie’s novels.
In the evening, Poirot overhears a conversation between Rosamund Darnley and Kenneth Marshall, from the balcony of his room. She tries to convince him to split up with Arlena. She wants to save Kenneth from unhappiness. He can’t even imagine the concept of divorcing, and when Rosamund asks if he is faithfull to the saying “till death do us apart” (usually used at weddings), he seems to completely agree with that idea. As a conclusion, Rosamund replies with an “I see” before leaving, that sounds more like “Okay, then I know what to do, no big deal”. At this point, the plot is set in motion: all character are introduced, the game can begin.
The main characters presented here are quite faithful to the book. Some characters are absent however, like the caricatured American couple, the gardeners. Lionel Marshal was in the book a daughter called Linda, and the personality of some others is altered. For example, Major Barry was an old retired military who bored and bothered everyone with his long and annoying stories. He was quite sociable, whereas in the TV adaptation, he is unfriendly and completely asocial.