23rd December 2020.
Every time I read one of Agatha Christie’s books, I’m impressed by her direct, easy-to-read style that draws you into the heart of the story from the first page. Language and values aside, her writing feels modern, with plenty of dialogue, the minimum amount of description, and succinct characterisation. In short, she transports you into her world with the minimum of effort.
The Moving Finger is no different. It starts with injured pilot Jerry Burton and his sister Joanne moving to the quiet village of Lymstock, where someone’s sending out poison pen letters. It isn’t long before Mrs Symington, wife of the local solicitor, takes her own life after receiving one of the letters.
With a wide cast of suspects, Jerry Burton tries to identify the letter writer. Then Rose, a maid in the Symington household, is brutally murdered, and the whole atmosphere changes as the police investigate.
The story builds slowly, using the different reactions of the recipients of the letters to build suspense and suspicion. Jerry Burton, who narrates the story, is a capable lead who’s soon out of his depth as he struggles to identify the person responsible. When Rose dies, it’s time to call in Jane Marple.
I’m not sure why Agatha Christie waited until the final quarter of the book to bring in Miss Marple, but her impact is immediate. She swings into action to connect all the clues, solve the murders and restore calm and justice to Lymstock in an exciting climax.
With a fine cast of suspects, red herrings, misunderstandings, and the author’s humour and social commentary, this is a classic whodunit that’s as clever as it is baffling and complex. An enjoyable and memorable read, the novel reveals why the author remains so popular.
It’s simply a treat from start to finish.
The placid village of Lymstock seems the perfect place for Jerry Burton to recuperate from his accident under the care of his sister, Joanna. But soon a series of vicious poison-pen letters destroys the village’s quiet charm, eventually causing one recipient to commit suicide. The vicar, the doctor, the servants—all are on the verge of accusing one another when help arrives from an unexpected quarter. The vicar’s house guest happens to be none other than Jane Marple.