Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Book Review of The Moving Finger: A Miss Marple Mystery by Agatha Christie

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
“Such a peaceful smiling happy countryside – and down underneath, something evil…”
-- The Moving Finger, p. 28

After a wartime plane crash, Jerry Burton’s doctor advises him to find a nice, quiet country village and “live the life of a vegetable” to speed along the recuperation process. Jerry and his sister Joanna settle in Lymstock, an idyllic country town that is three miles from a main road. It is a place where, as an astonished Joanna observes, “People really call – with cards!”

Jerry’s peaceful, vegetative life in Lymstock is, however, soon shattered. A few days after their arrival, Jerry receives a malicious anonymous letter. The letter alleges that the Burtons are not brother and sister, but an unmarried couple living in sin. Jerry and Joanna are initially quite amused by the novelty of receiving such a letter, but they soon view the letter as a sign of something much more sinister.

All of Lymstock, it seems, has been receiving these letters. When a woman apparently commits suicide after receiving a letter, the search for the writer intensifies. After another character is murdered, presumably by the anonymous writer, a palpable fear settles over the community. Neighbor suspects neighbor and the whole of Lymstock wonders who amongst them could be capable of such despicable acts.

The indomitable Miss Marple makes her first appearance in the last quarter of the novel. For a less skillful writer than Dame Christie, the lack of the primary character could have made this story very tedious for the reader, but Christie’s characters are so well-drawn and compelling that the reader does not notice the loss. The primary sleuthing has been done by Jerry and a few of the other residents of Lymstock, but only Miss Marple is able to connect the myriad of clues and bring the killer to justice.

The Moving Finger
was originally published in the United States in 1942. For a novel that is over sixty years old, it has aged incredibly well. Agatha Christie’s extraordinary understanding of human nature gives her characters and her stories a timeless quality.

One of my favorite Christie novels, The Moving Finger is a compelling read that will keep you guessing until the end.

Rating: 9/10.

Buy The Moving Finger:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

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