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The Moving Finger


by Agatha Christie

published 1942

Even though it’s been a while since I’ve read them, I have this vague feeling that I really didn’t like the Miss Marple books as well as some of Christie’s others.  And I’m not sure whether or not it’s Miss Marple herself, or the fact that more books with her as the main character were written later in Christie’s career – I find myself trending towards her 1920’s and 30’s books myself.

At any rate, The Moving Finger was not one of my favorites, mainly because Miss Marple isn’t really a part of the story.  The story is about a young man named Jerry, who is recovering from a long illness by leasing a house in a small village.  With his sister to keep house for him, Jerry settles in for what he assumes will be a quiet life.  However, it isn’t long before he and his sister receive an anonymous “poison pen” letter.  Jerry finds out that several – that is to say, most – villagers have been receiving these letters.  While uncomfortable, the letters don’t seem dangerous – until a woman commits suicide after receiving one.

This is not a bad story, but it’s not a great one, either.  The characters are a bit flat, and both Jerry and Joanna’s love stories feel a bit contrived (and a bit out of place as they don’t move the story forward much).  Miss Marple pops in at the end, magically knows all the answers, and wraps everything up.  I much prefer going along with the person who knows the answers in the end.  Because Miss Marple wasn’t really a part of the story (it isn’t even her village!), it felt odd to have her be the person who pulls it all together.  In my opinion, this story would have worked better without her – as a stand alone with Jerry as the amateur detective, perhaps.

Still, a fine if not stunning addition to the Marple tales.

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