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The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

The Moving Finger

by Agatha Christie

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Miss Marple (3), Miss Marple: Chronological (11)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,752683,154 (3.72)148
  1. 70
    The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie (Porua)
    Porua: The narrator of The Moving Finger, Jerry Barton, reminds me of the narrator of another Agatha Christie book. Mark Easterbrook from The Pale Horse. In both of these stories the urban hero goes to a small town and gets entangled in a spine chilling mystery. Another thing that these two books have in common is an unconventional old lady named Mrs. Dane Calthrop, one of the more unique creations of Christie.… (more)

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English (60)  Danish (2)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  German (2)  All languages (68)
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
Really good story, but adding Miss Marple seems like an afterthought as she only appears near the end to solve the crime. The narrator character is doing all the investigating and putting the clues together and seems like he should be the one to solve it. ( )
  SF_fan_mae | Nov 12, 2018 |
Poison pen letters devastate idyllic Lymstock, but they’re only the beginning…

"The Moving Finger" has some issues - Maurice Disher’s contemporary Times review points out some flaws with the narrator’s voice – but it’s perhaps Christie’s best examination of the sinister undercurrent in these tiny hamlets. The brutal poison pen letters with their filthy insinuations, the blackmail and murder, are at their peak here, with the duality perfectly conveyed through the arrival of our narrator and his sister – a London society couple – who struggle to interpret the difference between the sincere and malicious actions of their new neighbours, in a world with different social mores, hiding all sorts of dirty deeds.

There’s a case to be made for Jane Marple as a fascinating detective – where her observational skills and taste for gossip can one-up the local constabulary – but much of the time she is a secondary figure in her own novels. The general technique of solving a Marple mystery – noticing the background inconsistencies in seemingly implacable facades of village elders – often means the mystery consists of a close reading of some blathering elderly folk. When it works, it works, but too often the Marple books come across as glacially paced. "The Moving Finger", though, is an example of all these elements working, and how.

Later in life, Agatha Christie came to feel very comfortable with Miss Jane Marple (that’s the other factor in the relative decline of quality: Marple books were primarily written after WWII, and thus in Christie’s more patchy era). The best Marple books are those in which – shock horror! – Marple herself does some investigating, and the clues prepared for us are logical… if only we could read them. What makes Poirot stand out as a detective in crime fiction is that – in retrospect – we kick ourselves for not having been able to see what should have been blindingly obvious. Marple is in fine form here: her status as a hawk-eyed gossip makes her a wonderful amateur detective when used well, and this time the clues and facts – gathered by the narrator, the police and our spinster – all make sense. With a comparatively strong narrator, and a nice array of characters, the novel focuses on all the potential suspects while also maintaining atmosphere. Unlike "The Hollow", Marple’s late entry doesn’t damage things: if anything, it allows us to gather clues and then watch Marple figure things out in a far more breezy fashion than usual.

"The Moving Finger" is a clear classic. There are only two flaws: the “ugly duckling” sequence is an unnecessary strain of melodrama (which also led to an embarrassing low point in the Joan Hickson adaptation ), and there is a curiously maligned gay dude. (Christie wrote a few touching lesbians in her time, but gay men seem to have failed her litmus test.) However, these are minor issues for a novel written when my grandparents were children. Great stuff.

Marple ranking: 2nd out of 14 ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 30, 2018 |
Jerry is sent to the countryside on doctor's orders after a flight accident. He arrives there with his sister for the rest and relaxation, but they quickly find a drama unfolding in the town. Someone is anonymously sending letters to people throughout the village accusing them of uncouth acts (e.g., cheating on a spouse). Things quickly escalate and soon the town is investigating murder.

This has to be my least favorite of the Miss Marple series by Christie. For starters, I kept doubting myself as to whether I had gotten the wrong book, as Miss Marple doesn't show up until two-thirds of the way into the book! Even then, she is so few scenes, it's easy to forget about her. (Although, of course, she does end up unmasking the killer.) So much of the book is caught up in mundane descriptions of village life (e.g, how the town is laid out) before the action begins. I really did not care for any of the characters, least of all our narrator Jerry. In fact, Jerry skeeved me out quite a bit with his sudden romantic interest in Megan; although Megan is 20 years old, she is frequently referred to by everyone in town including Jerry himself as a "child." Jerry's own sister says he is only interested in Megan because he wants a "dog" to "lead about on its leash." In fact, the book seems to have rather negative views about women in general, with mentions of how hysterical, jealous, etc. women can be.

The mystery itself was really not all that intriguing and its denouement was rather anticlimatic. Christie did manage to present a person I hadn't suspected as the murderer, but the rather mundane husband-kills-wife-so-he-can-be-with-another-woman reveal is much more tame than the scenario I was playing out in my head. Oh well. I suppose not every mystery can be a winner. After this doozy following on the heels of a previous 'eh' Miss Marple mystery, I'm not sure if I'm going to continue on with the series. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Oct 12, 2018 |
I’ve been working through all of Christie’s Miss Marple novels, going out of order until I had them all purchased. I’ve read five now, and this was the first one to disappoint someqhat. Miss Marple may as well have not even appeared and there is very little mystery until more than half way through.

Jerry Burton and his sister, Joanna, travel to Lymstock so that he can rest and recover after a bad accident. The sleepy little town is unnerved by anonymous letters being delivered to residents accusing them of various unsavory things. The letters turn deadly, however, when Mrs. Symmington commits suicide after receiving one. The police are called in to find the writer, helped by Jerry who has been getting to know all the residents, especially the young and naïve Megan - daughter of Mrs. Symmington.

My problem was that the entire first half of the book was really nothing more than gossip, with the occasional reference to the letters. Jerry, with or without Joanna, visits every resident, multiple times, to chat and/or have tea. I was hoping for Peyton Place-like shenanigans, but it was just boring. Even when a person turns up outright murdered, I just didn't care (nor did most of the residents). Miss Marple doesn’t even enter the story until more than two thirds of the way through, and the way she “solves” the case is completely unsatisfying. She doesn’t “observe” and collect clues, or interview people, like in other mysteries. She has a conversation with Jerry, who tells her everything that has occurred, and she just knows who the writer is.

The ending, and ultimate culprit, was a surprise (probably because we never really learn anything to point to any particular suspect), which is why I gave it 3 stars. Disappointing, but not enough to put me off reading more. ( )
  jshillingford | Sep 13, 2018 |
This is the fourth book in the Miss Marple series – although I think it is a bit of a stretch to call it a Miss Marple mystery, as Marple herself only appears towards the end of the story and utters a few words of wisdom. However, the book itself is still an interesting and intriguing read.

Jerry and his sister Joanna arrive in the village of Lymstock for a visit while Jerry recovers from an undisclosed accident. Fairly soon they, along with several other villagers, receive an unpleasant anonymous letter. When Mrs Symmington, the recipient of another such letter, commits suicide, the whole village starts to suspect one another…

As always with Agatha Christie, I enjoyed the book and was pleasantly surprised by the ending – I won’t give away any spoilers, but I thought I had sussed the mystery only to be surprised when the truth was revealed. This is what I love about Agatha Christie books – she is always able to surprise me, but she is fair in the way she does it. Not for her is there a sudden antagonist who has not appeared before in the book. Not for her is there a unforeseeable twist – the reader is given ample opportunity to work it out if they only look hard enough, but she is such a clever writer that she usually ends up outwitting her audience.

In any event, and as mentioned before, this is almost a stand-alone mystery – the appearance of Miss Marple is so brief that she is in fact an unnecessary addition to the plot (this is probably why I prefer Poirot, who is such a central character in the novels), but it is no less enjoyable for all that. There are some entirely unbelievable parts – for example, the police officer investigating the crime is more than happy to share his findings with Jerry, despite Jerry being nothing more than a visitor to the village – but for the sake of moving the story along, I am happy to ignore such things.

If you are a fan of Agatha Christie, this one will not disappoint. ( )
1 vote Ruth72 | Aug 19, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Christie, Agathaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Giacchetti, LoredanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hickson, JoanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Houm, LiseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Savonuzzi, ClaudioForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Siikarla, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my Friends
Sydney and Mary Smith
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I have often recalled the morning when the first of the anonymous letters came.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
The placid village of Lymstock seemed the perfect place for Jerry Burton to recuperate from his accident under the care of his sister, Joanna. Then the poison pen letter arrive,d viciously alleging illicit sexual activity between Jerry and Joanna. Even more shocking, obscene mail had been turning up all over the village. When a suicide results, the town is thrown into shock. The vicar, the doctor, the servants are all on the verge of accusing one another, when help arrives from an unexpected quarter. The vicar's houseguest is none other than the spinster detective. Miss Jane Marple.

"But tell me, dear," Miss Marple said to Mrs. Dane Calthrop, "What do the village people - I mean the townspeople - say? Who do they think is responsible for hte deaths?"
"Mrs. Cleat still, I suppose," Said Joanna.
"Oh, no," said Mrs Dane Calthrop. "Not now."
Miss Marple asked who Mrs Cleat was. Joanna said she was the village witch.
Miss Marple finally said:
"Oh! But the girl was killed with a skewer, so I hear. Well, naturally that takes all suspicion away form Mrs Cleat. Because, you see, she could ill-wish her, so that the girl would waste away and die of natural causes."
"Strange how those old belief's linger ..." Said the Vicar.
"It isn't superstition we've got to deal with here, but facts ..."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451201167, Mass Market Paperback)

When small-town gossip spreads as fast-and lethal-as venom, someone's bound to end up dead. And of course, they do. Calling Miss Marple...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:18 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Lymstock was a town with more that its share of shameful secrets -- a town where even a sudden outbreak of anonymous hate mail caused only a minor stir. But all of that changed when one of the recipients, Mrs. Symmington, committed suicide. Her final note said 'I can't go on'. Only Miss Marple questioned the coroner's verdict of suicide. Was this the work of a poison-pen? Or of a poisoner?… (more)

» see all 19 descriptions

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