Smugglers’ Island

I’m nearing the end of a seaside holiday in Devon, reading, lazing, reading, sightseeing and reading.

Now I thought that I’d share a few images with you, specifically of the resort where Agatha Christie set her 1941 novel Evil Under the Sun which, not uncoincidentally, I’ve been chugging through while soaking up the local ambience.

Burgh Island, facing Bigbury-on-Sea, is thinly disguised as Smugglers’ Island, Leathercombe Bay, while the Burgh Island Hotel stars as The Jolly Roger Hotel.

Here is where Hercule Poirot and an assortment of guests are vacationing towards the end of August in the late 1930s. Strange to relate, murder seems to follow the Belgian like a faithful hound.

This is the map that accompanies the novel. As with Burgh Island the hotel is prominent near the southeastern shore of the island, but the artificial causeway shown here is, in reality, a stretch of sand uncovered roughly twice every 24 hours by the receding tide.

Burgh Island 1886: no hotel then, of course

The hotel is hard to miss, especially at night when it’s all lit up.

Closer to the island the Art Deco nature of the hotel becomes evident.

Burgh Island Hotel
The Beach House, built in the 1930s as a writer‘s retreat for Agatha Christie
Burgh Island sea tractor 1930s
Burgh Island sea tractor 2019

As most of the action takes place on the island, I shall leave further discussion and images till a review.

After Evil Under the Sun there will of course be And Then There Were None (1939) for me to read, another novel which is set on an island off the coast of Devon…

28 thoughts on “Smugglers’ Island

    1. Thanks, Silvia. 🙂 I read a couple or so Christie novels when I was a lot younger but only seem to have doubled that number in the last week, so there will definitely be more to report!

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        1. I’ve scheduled a review of Evil Under the Sun and preparing one for And Then There Were None, sadly neither on my 20 Books of Summer list but there we go, needs must! Glad you you enjoyed my little bit of doggerel on Zenrinji, something frivolous as suits the days of leisure under the sun…

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  1. What a fantastic place. My mum was a mad-keen AC fan – she read them all – including and then there were none, which was originally released over here with a title that was truly offensive even way back then (and, therefore, not used in the US I believe). I haven’t read anything by Christie since my mum died. They are such a quick and easy read, perhaps I should try them.

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    1. Cheers, Colin. I think most mums of an earlier generation must have read Christie, I’m pretty sure my mother must have though I gravitated to Isaac Asimov’s Black Widowers collections. Anyway, I’m glad this title (and of course the text, especially the name of the island) were changed in the UK, though it was slow and happened in fits and starts.

      They are an easy read, though I have to confess that, like a detective or reporter, I took notes as I read it — and not just for review purposes because it’s the only way I could keep a handle on the comings and going of the various characters. I can’t say that I’ll say anything startling or new in my review, just give my reactions and a bit of local colour.

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  2. Wow, I hadn’t realized that Evil Under the Sun was set in a real place. That’s the first Christie novel I ever read, and I got it from the English section of the library where I was living in Denmark for a year. As a result, Evil Under the Sun always makes me feel confused by transfer — I didn’t understand the language yet, there was culture shock, and I was reading a book set in a place I didn’t know anything about. I always imagined it in an almost tropical setting — there’s so much about sun and heat and sunbathing, and I come from a place where ‘heat’ means 100+ degrees, not 80. It is a real surprise to me to see a sweet little green island off the coast of Devon!

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    1. Hah! I absolutely recognise that sense of discombobulation, Jean, when you realise what you imagined was something almost completely different from what was intended!

      Yes, us Brits are quite happy with cooler temperatures—it’s been around 22° Celsius this week with a slight breeze, around 72° Fahrenheit, and that’s comfortable enough for us, rather than the record 45°C / 113°F that France was having a week or two back! And having a good wander around the real island in the early evening meant the only travelling I had to do in my imagination was back some eighty years to when Christie wrote this Poirot novel.

      Anyway, my review will be for after I discuss the last part of my Robertson Davies trilogy, with And Then There Were None not too far behind… Hope things are not too unbearably hot for you at this time of year and that you’re getting a fair bit of reading done.

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  3. Oh my – I simply have to visit! I was expecting (from the clues you’ve dropped earlier) an account of a visit to Christie’s Devon home, Greenway. Another trip I fully intended to make this summer but it’s looking less and likely now. Now I’m thinking that may be a blessing. I’m envisioning a Christie-themed break instead! Alongside the books of course! Looking forward to more, Chris, and glad you’re enjoying your trip. The weather is being kind to you 🙂

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    1. We thought we might visit Greenway (we’re National Trust members) but as it happens we haven’t torn ourselves away from Bigbury-on-Sea all week, it’s been glorious and there’s no fun in negotiating narrow Devon lanes with these temperatures. You must have had them in Cornwall too! But yes, do enjoy a Christie-themed week—and grab a cream tea at the Burgh Island Hotel; £20.00 for two but worth it for a nose around the Art Deco interiors downstairs! I’ll be posting photos on my review of Evil Under the Sun

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  4. Lovely photos, Chris. I’ll happily watch mysteries, especially the Poirot series, but I never got into reading them. Perhaps your reviews will convince me to give AC another try.

    It’s a shame the movie of Evil Under the Sun was filmed in Majorca. I suppose Devon wasn’t exotic enough.

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    1. The long-running TV series with David Suchet as Poiret used Burgh Island as its set for ‘Evil Under the Sun’, but I saw that years ago and barely remember anything apart from the opening, and that began with a ride in a sea tractor (even though one didn’t feature in the novel the sea tractor service existed from 1930, the one we travelled in was only built in 1969).

      If you enjoyed the photos, Lizzie, there’ll be more accompanying the review! As for more Agatha Christie, maybe not for the moment, though a And Then There Were None review is in preparation…

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    1. A part-time island, I love that description! Such a joy to see this every morning and be soporificised (is that a word?) by the tide going in and out, in and out. Lucky with the weather too, though if it had rained every day I might even have got through a couple more books instead of the four I did…

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          1. I might be a bit presumptious here, but nevertheless I feel it is within my power to grant you the title of a Devourer of Books 😀 Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? 🙂

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  5. Pingback: Winding Up the Week #78 – Book Jotter

  6. Oooooo, Poirot! I’ve not read Evil Under the Sun in an age. Maybe I’ll try to squeeze it into my spooky reads–or save it for Christmas. Poirot’s for every season 😉 And that causeway was used for a Hammer film a few years back…The Black Mother? Night Mother? I’m mixing titles up. But I think that causeway is such a fascinating touch for a setting…that there IS an escape route, but it only when nature grants it…

    Sidenote: I thought Evil Under the Sun was Kenneth Branagh’s next Poirot film, but that’s to be Death on the Nile. We’ll see how that goes…

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    1. There was a 1951 Hammer film called The Black Widow but I can’t see any reference to a causeway from the plot summary. Do you mean The Woman in Black starring Daniel Radcliffe? That had a fictional Nine Lives Causeway but was filmed on Osea Island, Essex, the other end of the country from Burgh Island in Devon. But, as you say, Jean, a Poirot book is good for any time of year. 🙂 And a tidal causeway is always a clever plot device — or at least a sneaky MacGuffin!

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      1. OH! Yes, that Radcliffe movie was the one I was thinking of, distinctly remembering it was supposed to be Hammer’s comeback (but was it, though? mediocre film. Not great, but not bad. The setting seriously stole the show) And Poirot’s perfect any time of year! Hmmm, wonder if I can squeeze in “Hallowe’en Party” before Halloween…

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