When Jerry Burton and his sister Joanna arrive in the sleepy village of Lymstock they initially find it charming, and the inhabitants quaint and friendly. Charming, quaint and friendly that is, until Jerry receives an anonymous letter implying they are not siblings at all, and worst. They soon learn that most people in the village have received a poison pen letter, and while some believe, “no smoke without fire,” the letters are, for the most part, ignored. But then the pen comes too close to the mark when Mrs. Symmington is found dead after receiving one. “Suicide while of unsound mind” is the finding at the inquest. But some are not convinced, and decide to call in an expert “who knows a great deal about wickedness!”
Calling this a Miss Marple book seems a bit of a misnomer, since she doesn’t appear in the first 144 pages of my 201 page Black Dog & Leventhal edition that is. Christie’s detective of choice is Jerry Burton, yet he does very little sleuthing. Instead, Christie uses him as a vehicle through which the village, its inhabitants, and events are viewed, filtered, and dissected.
The pacing is a bit slow. There is an interesting commentary throughout regarding the nature of the letter writer and their motives—whether they are evil or misguided, and if they deserve to be arrested or pitied. But, rather than the murders, which feel almost like subplots, the focus is the puzzle of the anonymous letters and the identity of the writer. Everything hinges on that. As I implied earlier, there’s not a great deal of detecting that goes on. Much of the story is given over to Burton’s interactions with the characters, and his thoughts about them. Events only begin to move with the appearance to Miss Marple, who sees all of the events in their true sense, and is the driving force behind finally uncovering the murderer.
Now based on the above you may think I didn’t really like The Moving Finger. Not true! While it will never be a favorite Christie, I’ve read it at least three times over the years and always enjoyed it.
My Judgment – 3.75/5
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2013 – Scattergories: #28 Book to Movie
Calendar of Crime – July #6 Original publication month