12 November 2011

Review: THE MOVING FINGER, Agatha Christie

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 327 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0062073621
  • Publisher: Harper; Masterpiece ed edition (October 14, 2010)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0046H95SG
  • Source: I bought it
  • (aka THE CASE OF THE MOVING FINGER)
Publisher's Blurb (from Christie.com)

Lymstock is much like any other English village. Those that live there enjoy the peace of rural life until a series of poison pen letters destroy the safety they took for granted. When one villager commits suicide and another is murdered, the village is plunged into suspicion and terror. Once a village of trust, now all inhabitants are full of accusations. Who could be writing the letters and why? Perhaps Miss Marple might be of help...

Christie considered The Moving Finger to be one of her best novels. ‘It is a great test,’ she added, ‘to re-read what one has written some seventeen or eighteen years later. One’s view changes. Some do not stand the test of time, others do.’

We see events unfold from the view of Jerry Burton who is recuperating whilst recovering from an accident. Christie has been praised by critics for her believable male narrators and arguably Jerry is one of the best.

My take

THE MOVING FINGER was written in 1942 and considered by Agatha Christie to be in her top 10 novels.

The narrator is Jerry Burton, and while for some of the narration we feel as if the events are occurring simultaneously with the narration, much of the style is retrospective.
This allows Christie to create "hanging endings" to chapters or parts of chapters. This is really the first time I have noticed her attempts at this style.
Here is the end of Chapter 3.
    'We have come down here,' I said sternly, 'for peace and quiet, and I mean to see we get it.' 
    But peace and quiet were the last things we were to have.
and a little later on, another example.
    She paused lost in thought, her eyes screwed up. Then she said slowly, as one who solves a problem, 'Blind hatred... yes, blind hatred. But even a blind man may stab to the heart by pure chance... And what would happen then, Mr Burton?' 
    We were to know that before another day had passed.
The other thing that is interesting about THE MOVING FINGER is that Miss Marple almost plays only a cameo role. The main sleuths are Jerry and his sister Joanna. Miss Marple is invited to stay by the vicar's wife quite late in the novel (at 75% according to Kindle's numbering). Up until that point Jerry had been counting the vicar's wife among his suspects, because she is rather odd, and he isn't even really sure about Miss Marple when she arrives. She seems to him to take an inordinate, almost unseemly, interest in the murder.
    The Dane Calthrops had a guest staying with them, an amiable elderly lady who was knitting something with white fleecy wool. We had very good hot scones for tea, the vicar came in, and beamed placidly on us whilst he pursued his gentle erudite conversation. It was very pleasant.
    I don’t mean that we got away from the topic of the murder, because we didn’t. Miss Marple, the guest, was naturally thrilled by the subject. As she said apologetically: ‘We have so little to talk about in the country!’ 
    She had made up her mind that the dead girl must have been just like her Edith.
In the long run it is of course Miss Marple who solves the crime, but she is gracious in saying that it was Jerry who made the various observations that led her to the right conclusions.

The climax of the novel is a very interesting one as it uses a honey trap but those who set it up, Miss Marple and the police, don't tell Jerry what they are doing, and he independently becomes convinced that the woman he wants to marry is in great danger.

A very satisfying read. My rating: 4.4

3 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - Thanks - an excellent review. It's interesting isn't it that in this one and a few others, the "major sleuth" doesn't make an appearance until quite late in the story. This is a good example of that. And for instance, I've always felt that Poirot takes less of a "starring" role in The Hollow, although of course, he does solve the case. You've given me something to think about here - thanks.

Janet Rudolph said...

Loved The Moving Finger. Maybe it's time for a reread! Thanks for your great review.. the hanging chapter endings :-)

bibliolathas said...

Really thoughtful review of one of my favourite Christies. I too want to re-read this one now!

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