While I enjoyed the story of a murder veiled in a series of anonymous letters going around a small English village, I still had some issues with this novel. They may seem small and insignificant, yet they affected my opinion of the book and perhaps will affect yours also…
The sleeve of the otherwise unassuming dust-jacket proclaims that “Christie felt that The Moving Finger was one of her best novels”. I made the mistake of reading that before starting the novel, and so my reading of the story was accompanied by a constant search for what it was that made this novel one of the best for the author herself. I have not read many of her works, but I have read some that in my reader’s opinion were better than this one (namely And Then There Were None and even The ABC Murders). That remark leaves me stumped still.
Next, the story is advertised as a Miss Marple mystery, yet the lady appears only in the latter half of the novel and only as a preaching-old-lady character who takes all the clues gathered by our narrator (more on him later) and spins them into a wonderful resumé of how it all went down. While disappointed about the initial lack of Miss Marple, by the end I found that her fleeting and frankly useless appearance actually made the novel worse. It would have been much better if Jerry Burton arrived at the conclusion himself. Afterall, he was so close.
Burton and his sister Joanna form the household which delivers the story to us, Jerry being the narrator. I loved his narration for its fast pace and accidental misdirection. I loved his descriptions and opinions of other characters … except one. Megan (his ultimate SPOILER love interest) is constantly compared to animals, dogs especially. The comparison worked the first couple of times, but when I realized that no other description of Megan existed I started feeling quite angry at Agatha Christie for allowing it to happen (did she accept such a view of young women or was that part of Jerry’s characterization?). I was angered further when as a wedding gift from Joanna Jerry receives a collar and lead — an inside joke implicitly intending them for Megan. The whole Jerry-Megan relationship was very wrong in my head.
All that aside, I enjoyed reading the novel and gave it a higher rating than my review implies. I did find the ending slightly disappointing simply because it seemed trite, however I concede that Christie has spun yet another clever and misleading mystery. Still, if you are looking for a recommendation I prefer The ABC Murders with Hercule Poirot or the standalone ATTWN.
If you’ve read this novel or other Christie novels please share your opinions! I heard The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a fantastic novel, and I’d like other recommendations. 🙂
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