The Moving Finger - Agatha Christie

I read this one for Terror in a Small Town. It would also work for: Amateur Sleuth, Country House Mystery, Murder Most Foul and, also, Cozy Mystery.


Someone is terrorizing the village of Lymstock with poison pen letters, and everyone has received one! The letters are threatening, and accuse the inhabitants of things that they have most definitely not done.


Ostensibly a Miss Marple mystery, Miss Marple doesn't appear until approximately the last quarter of the book. This particular book is told from the perspective of Jerry Burton, a young pilot recovering from an injury he sustained in a plane crash. Jerry and his sister Joanna move there for his recuperation, having been told by his doctor that he needs to get out of town for peace and quiet. It's a first person narration.


I'm simultaneously listening to the Stephen Fry narration of the Sherlock Holmes canon, and something occurred to me while I was reading this particular book and listening to "A Case of Identity," which is one of the stories contained in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (an irritating story, by the way). Readers of Agatha Christie often identify Hercule Poirot (and his sidekick, Hastings) as a Sherlock Holmes analogue, with his focus on details and his cogitation skills (not to mention the fact that Hastings is none-to-bright, similar to Watson).


But Miss Marple is also a Holmes analogue - she just exemplifies his OTHER detecting skill, which is his vast, encyclopedic knowledge of other crimes and his ability to correlate those old crimes to what is happening in the case he has been asked to investigate. It's almost as though Christie split Holmes into separate personalities, and then created a detective for each of them.


Anyway, the absence of Miss Marple from most of the narrative means that we, the readers, are left without her observation on the personalities/quirks of the Lymstock inhabitants and we muddle along as best we can, largely getting hold of the wrong end of the stick.


Jerry isn't entirely likeable, with a rather strong sense of male entitlement that, at times, made me want to smack him. Joanna is seen only from his perspective, and I didn't get the sense that he really understood his sister very well, seeing her primarily as a foil for himself. Megan is probably the most interesting character of the book, a largely unwanted, Cinderella-esque figure (with Jerry playing the part of the fairy godmother) whose father has remarried and who has been frozen out of family life in the most subtle, English way possible, with everyone agreeing that she is a troubled girl.


She isn't a troubled girl. She's a lonely girl, because, it seems, the entire town has aligned with her father.


Anyway, I still prefer Poirot. But I enjoyed this one!