11 September 2021

Review: THE MOVING FINGER, Agatha Christie

  • This edition from Amazon on Kindle
  • Miss Marple #4
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0046H95SG
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins; Masterpiece Ed edition (October 14, 2010)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ October 14, 2010
  • Originally published in 1942
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 243 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

The quiet village of Lymstock seemed like the perfect place for Jerry Burton to recover from his accident. But shortly after his arrival he receives a letter accusing him of the unthinkable.

He’s not the only one. Across the village people are receiving letters accusing them of terrible acts. It seems like just a cruel prank until one recipient is found dead, with a letter next to her reading ‘I can’t go on’.

The inquest rules that her death was a suicide and the case seems clear cut. Until another body appears…

My Take

I'm reading this again for a group discussion, and at the same time I'm looking for new insights, things I haven't taken notice of before. 

Here are a few things to consider

  • In this novel Agatha Christie reverts to the use of a narrator, and we need to ask ourselves how reliable he is. Does the fact that the narrator is male skew the perspective for the reader? Do other things cloud his judgement?
  • The novel is well underway (over 60% according to Kindle) by the time Miss Marple is called in by the Vicar's wife, after two murders have already taken place:

    I’m going to call in an expert. .... I don’t mean someone who knows about anonymous letters or even about murder. I mean someone who knows people.

    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.

  • Miss Marple lays a trap for the murderer just as she did in THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY
    • Miss Marple attributes her understanding of what has happened to her life-long observation of village life.

      One sees a good deal of human nature living in a village all the year round,’ said Miss Marple placidly. Then, seeming to feel it was expected of her, she laid down her crochet, and delivered a gentle old-maidish dissertation on murder. ‘The great thing is in these cases to keep an absolutely open mind. Most crimes, you see, are so absurdly simple. This one was. Quite sane and straightforward—and quite understandable—in an unpleasant way, of course.’

      “No smoke without fire.” It irritated you, but you proceeded quite correctly to label it for what it was—a smoke screen. Misdirection, you see—everybody looking at the wrong thing—

  • And of course Miss Marple engages in a little misdirection herself. When Jerry Burton and the police think the murderer has been found, the wrong person is accused.
  • And then finally there is a bit of romance, just as there was in MURDER AT THE VICARAGE, and THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY.
  • And the motive for the murders? well, that would be telling.

My Rating: 4.5

See what other Agatha Christie novels I've read

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