The village of Sittaford sits on the edge of Dartmoor, and after four days of snow, is virtually cut off from the outside world. Despite this a small group of neighbors gather at Sittaford House for tea, a chat, and some table turning. The game starts off well as the table rocks and spirits rap out dull little messages. It soon takes an unpleasant turn as the spirit spells a message for Major Burnaby indicating that his friend Captain Trevelyan, is dead—murdered. Much concerned, Major Burnaby walks the six miles between Sittaford and Trevelyan’s residence in Exhampton to check on his friend. But his arrival is too late, Trevelyan is dead, and and has been since approximately five-twenty-five—the same time that the spirit rapped out his name.
This is one of Christie’s standalone mysteries. And she gives us not one, but three sleuths. Only one of them is official, that being Inspector Narracott, who is given the job of investigating the case. But he soon has some competition from two amateurs. Charles Enderby is a newspaperman who just happens to be on the spot, and knows a scoop when he sees one. And last, there is Emily Trefusis, who is no mere plucky heroine. Emily turns sleuth to prove the innocence of her fiancé James Pearson, the Captain’s rather insipid and none too bright nephew. Emily is intelligent, determined, and through subtle manipulation, praise and occasional tears, able to get any man to do what she wants. She’s also very charming and funny. I found her infinitely more likable than say—Anne Beddingfield, Christie’s heroine in The Man in the Brown Suit.
Christie took me in with this one. I never suspected the true murderer in the least. I could kick myself, because the clues are right there in front of me! But that’s one of Christie’s strengths—red herrings, in this case several subplots, laid out to keep the reader diverted from the truth for as long as possible. Everyone it seems has something to hide, but what, if anything, has it to do with Captain Trevelyan’s murder?
A diverting mystery, not one of Christie’s best, but a very pleasurable read.
My Judgment – 4/5
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2013 Scattergories – #27 Psychic Phenomena