The Moving Finger

Rating: ****

Jerry Burton, a pilot, and his sister Joanna move to the small village of Lymstock. The visit, which is to last some months, is undertaken for Jerry’s health. Recovering from a severe back injury, a result of his plane crash, he is advised by his doctor to take a break from stress and enjoy the relaxations of a small gossiping community. But Lymstock is hardly the place for a recovery when a few days after their move, the siblings receive a malicious anonymous letter; the letters have been going around the village for some time.

I loved the ironic humor with which Jerry and Joanna carried out their conversations. The inhabitants of Lymstock are gentle, simple people, and the humor with which Jerry and Joanna receive their comments made me laugh!

It’s the letters, sir. Wicked letters – indecent, too, using such words and all. Worse than I’ve ever seen in the Bible, even.’ says Mrs. Baker

Passing over an interesting side-line here, I said desperately…….

The ironic comedy ends the moment that the first anonymous letter hits home – a suicide occurs and all of a sudden the letters have taken on a more serious aspect. The first half of the book is occupied with finding out the identity of the letter-writer and in that search we become acquainted with an interesting assortment of characters. I especially liked Megan Hunter, Mrs. Symmington’s unwanted daughter, who had trouble fitting in and finding herself. She seems an awkward, overgrown child and the make-over scene is something to look forward too!

When the murder does come, it doesn’t hold center stage interest for me. Not because it wasn’t well written, but because I was more interested in the developing relations of Jerry and Joanna with the people in the village and how they settled in with life in a small village. I was also surprised to find Miss Marple coming in at the end to solve the crime. I had practically forgotten that she was in this novel because of the small role she plays. I would have liked it better if Jerry Burton had been the one to solve it (which he comes close to doing).

Mrs. Dane Calthrop also appears in this novel. I don’t know why, but her character always intrigues me. See my Agatha Christie page to read more on her and her husband.

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Ordeal By Innocence

Rating: *****

“It’s not the guilty who matter. It’s the innocent.” So says Hester Argyle when Dr. Arthur Clagary brings her family shocking news: the news that their brother Jack Argyle was innocent of the crime of killing his mother. The crime for which he was convicted and died while serving his prison sentence.

Dr. Clagary is confused by the dismay with which the Argyles receive this good news. Why aren’t they happy that their brother was not a murderer? It soon dawns upon him that Jack as the murderer was the easy solution – the delinquent, the misfit, excuses could be made for his conduct. But with this happy illusion gone, the Argyle family is confronted with the fact that one of their own committed the crime. They have been living among a murderer and never known it. Now the innocent must suffer under the shadow of guilt. Whether the murderer will ever be found after so much time is doubtful. The innocent will never be cleared and will be suspected along with the truly guilty person.

Dr. Arthur Calgary feels responsible. He has destroyed the peace in their lives and shattered the security of the innocent. Now he feels that he must uncover the true identity of the murderer and free the other inmates of Sunny Point. And along the way, you’ll discover who he solves the crime for! He is ‘The Young Man in Love With One of the Woman Suspects’ although he is more middle aged…

Some thoughts
So I know the cover is horrible, but don’t don’t judge the book by its cover. This novel is one of the best. It deals with the concept of innocence – protecting those not guilty over everything else.

Christie’s mystery novels featuring no specific detective, no youthful pair in them are the most different, most intriguing and most psychological. They have a dark and dreary atmosphere to them. The books are a bit odd, more personal and more intricate than the others. Imagine walking from a sunshiny, normal world, into an eerie, shadowy one where things live in the dark. You don’t know what might happen, what type of people you may run into, and what the mystery is. It’s just queer and so fascinating to read.

I loved the psychological representation of Rachel Argyle, the mother, in this novel. Christie usually portrays crime as hereditary (which I disagree with) but in this novel she has also shown the psychological gap as a result of blood; how the adoptive mother, Rachel has difficulty in connecting with her adopted children. She can’t get past the barrier of blood. Although this isn’t strictly true, it was so in Rachel’s case because she herself was blind to anything but her own psychology. I’ve seen adoptive mothers find peace with adopted children and even understanding despite the blood barrier, but Rachel was unable to understand her children although she never knew it.

The Sittaford Mystery

Rating: **

A group of people in a remote village get together one wintry evening. Nothing could be more natural than neighbors getting together for some tea; nothing could be more unnatural than the company. Sittaford House in the village of Sittaford is occupied by tenant Mrs. Willett and her daughter Miss Willet. Inviting the residents of the small village to tea and entertainment one evening, things take an unexpected turn.

Major Burnaby, Mr. Rycroft, Ronnie Garfield, Mr. Duke and the Willets sit down to a game of table-turning. The perfectly harmless game involves calling spirits to interact with the people sitting around a table. With the start of the rocking the seven people are alarmed at a serious message sent to them by one of the ‘spirits’: Captain Trevelyan – the owner of Sittaford House – has been murdered.

The shock that follows only increases when Major Burnaby – Captain Trevelyan’s closest friend – tells of his intention to go and check up on his friend. The only problem is the heavy snowfall making roads impassable and the two hours it would take to get to his residence! Nevertheless, his unease is to the extent that he resolves to go, only to discover the truth of the message.

The motives behind the murder are investigated by Inspector Narracott. Money seems the strongest motive with four relatives inheriting equal shares of the Captain’s money. Very early in the investigation, James Pearson, the victims nephew and one of the beneficiaries, is arrested on suspicion. It’s not long before his impressive and confident fiancee, Emily Trefusis sets out to prove his innocence. She ropes in a young and attractive journalist Charles Enderby to aid her in her investigation – not a very difficult task for a woman like Emily to make him fall in line with her plans. Together they set out to investigate the truth behind the mystery. Pretending to be cousins, they journey to Sittaford to become acquainted with Captain Trevelyan’s neighbors hoping to discover a clue.

The table-turning seems to be the important factor. Was it really a supernatural phenomena? or did someone with previous knowledge unconsciously reveal the truth? The key to the murder lies in the answers to these questions – something Inspector Narracott quickly realizes. But it is Emily who discovers the final clue – something much more prosaic: a pair of shoes.

Some thoughts
I didn’t really enjoy this novel. I found the identity of the murderer unsatisfactory and although Agatha Christie always makes sense (rarely are there loopholes in her plot) I couldn’t quite agree with her. The motive, although there, seemed to rely on one small clue to the murderer’s personality – something anyone would have missed and requires no great insight on the part of the reader. The clue to the mystery, for the most part, remains hidden from our eyes.

I labeled the character who investigate this mystery as ‘the young man in love with one of the women suspects’ because – well, you’ll see. Maybe it could also have been ‘the dominating woman who loves the main suspect!’