I’m still continuing with my plan to try and read at least one Agatha Christie novel per month. My original hope was to have as many finished as possible before October this year. I’d secretly wanted to read them all before them because 71 books in 12 months seemed more than doable. Of course, my inability to stop buying books and increasing my TBR really put those plans to bed. But that won’t stop me going back to the books I love. I don’t reread enough anyway and Agatha always makes me feel better about the world. That could be considered weird considering her books are so full of awful people but her books are like a warm hug. Reading them is a really great counterbalance for the crappy few months we’ve been having.
Even though it barely counts as a Miss Marple The Moving Finger definitely has quite an irresistible premise. It’s certainly quite a fitting one for the age of social media. Before strangers were able to make wild allegations against you without much fear of reprisals, there was the poison pen letter. Yes, it took longer to hit the target but it was the same anonymous rush for the person who sent it. It’s not a wonderful hobby but it is the perfect way to start a murder mystery. With all of those venomous letters flying about, it would only be a matter of time before the bodies started piling up. Who could have guessed that life in a sleepy little village could end up being so dangerous?
Certainly not Jerry Burton and his sister Joanna. The pair move to Lymstock to allow Jerry to recuperate following a plane crash. At first, it seems like the perfect place to be. Free of distractions and drama. Then the first letter arrives and Jerry quickly learns that a mysterious figure has been tormenting the village for months. Letters arrive and reveal outlandish and vicious accusations about all of the residents. Eventually, the letters cause one villager to commit suicide and everyone begins speculating on the identity of the guilty writer. Can Jerry figure out who it is or will he need a little help from a certain little old lady?
Although, if you’re a Marple fan, don’t get too excited. She barely registers in this novel and I think that’s probably a good thing. Seeing this play out through the eyes of Jerry means that you’re in the midst of the drama. He’s not quite the outsider that Jane would have been but he’s also not enough of a resident to have any obvious bias. He’s also not as good of a sleuth as she is and watching him blunder through the investigation is a great change of pace. Although, he isn’t exactly the greatest of men. His treatment of young Megan isn’t always easy to take so you might have to keep reminding yourself that it was a different time. There were different expectations for men or something. Despite these slightly questionable flaws, Jerry is a pretty good narrator and his sister is a lot of fun.
In terms of the mystery, it’s not exactly unsolvable but there are certainly more obvious endings than this. It’s an odd sort of crime thriller in that it really takes its time to get where it’s going. Christie novels don’t normally race to a conclusion but there is, at least, quite a bit going on. Here, the pace slows down and the mystery is able to play itself out. There isn’t even much of an investigation to witness. Instead, it’s merely village gossip that helps Jerry put the pieces together. This is one of my favourite Christie novels because it has a different feel to it. It captures the feel of village life and the real reaction to something like this. But I’ve never needed a lot of plot to be happy.
I much prefer character and, I have to say, there are some fantastic characters here. Every single one of the villagers has a distinct and memorable personality. They all feel like the kind of people you’d meet in a sleepy British village. I love them all in their own way but I wish there was more of the Vicar. He doesn’t do much but will occasionally pop up with a bit of Latin when he gets the chance. As I say every time I review a Christie, she knows how to write people and she really manages to capture the different facets of humanity here. The good people are not over-the-top and the evil people aren’t cartoonish. She understands what motivates people and what pushes them to commit a crime. That’s why so many of her novels are difficult to solve but seem so plausible.