Friday, 12 April 2013

Review: The Moving Finger, Agatha Christie

The Moving Finger

Agatha Christie

Harper, 2002 (1943)

Narrator Jerry Burton, wounded pilot stumbling on two sticks, hopes to recuperate in quiet Lymstock with loyal fashionable London-loving sister Joanna -- until vicious letters spread suspicion, then death. Mrs Symmington is not the type to panic, but drinks cyanide, leaves a crumpled accusation of infidelity in the fireplace, and a torn scrap with "I can't go on". Her two boys are cared for by buxom blonde governess Elsie more than her lawyer husband. 

His childish step-daughter Megan intrigues Jerry, while shy awkward Dr Griffith asks Joanna to help deliver a newborn. Eccentric vicar's wife Mrs Calthrop invites sweet white-haired knitter Miss Jane Marple to assemble the clues that Jerry recognizes when he dozes.

The Moving Finger is billed as a Miss Marple story, but in actual fact the diminutive, unassuming crime solver only pops up in the last quarter of the book, and even then her appearance is brief. Instead the book is narrated by Jerry, a former pilot who has been badly injured and moves to the country to convalesce, alongside his sister Joanna. As you might expect, their planned retreat is anything but relaxing, as they find themselves living in a village full of scandal, its residents plagued by a swathe of poison pen letters.

When a woman dies - as a direct result of the anonymous letters - Jerry becomes keen to unravel the mystery, getting involved with the police investigation and attempting to fathom the clues on his own, talking to his new neighbours and analysing all the evidence. There are a fair amount of red herrings, but what always keeps me coming back to Christie is that they are so well done - just subtle enough that you think you might have got it this time, and outsmarted the author, only to find that she's already anticipated you and moved on to another clue and another piece of misdirection. I was convinced for most of The Moving Finger that I knew who the letter writer was, only to be surprised by the result.

The Moving Finger didn't feel like classic Christie to me - it was a solid mystery, and very enjoyable, but the mystery was less clever than others I have read, and the ending less satisfying. I haven't read a lot of Miss Marple, and tend to prefer Poirot, but when I picked this up I did so with a conscious effort to try Marple again, so it was disappointing to find she hardly featured.

The Moving Finger is well-plotted, well-paced and an enjoyable mystery with plenty of clues for the amateur detective to try and unravel - not one of her best, but a solid read all the same.

Overall rating: 6.5/10

Book source: Borrowed from the library.


  1. Great review, Kit. This is one of the AC novels I've not read, think I'll pick it up when I get a chance. I'm thinking of doing a classics week/fortnight in Autumn...something about Autumn always makes me snuggle up with an old movie or book.

    1. i say this and we're still on the look out for the rumoured spring season!lol.

  2. There's so little Marple in this that I didn't even remember she was in it. It's been a few years since I've read this but I don't remember much about it apart from the fact that it was not as good as most of her other books and I didn't really enjoy it. :(

  3. It's a shame this wasn't as good as you were expecting it to be, I suppose that's a risk with authors who are prolific, not all of their books will be of the same quality.


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