The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

The Moving Finger


GoodreadsThe Moving Finger
Series: Miss Marple #4
Age Category: Adult
Source: Library
Published: 1942


After an accident, Jerry Burton retires to the village of Lymstock along with his sister Joanna to recover. The doctor’s orders, after all, say that he should go somewhere boring where nothing ever happens. But something does happen. Villagers are receiving anonymous letters, each one accusing the recipient of the most scandalous deeds. Then one recipient dies in an apparent suicide. Neighbor is set against neighbor as all wonder who the poisonous letter writer could be.

Star Divider


After reading The Body in the Library, I was pleased to find that Agatha Christie returns to the first person narration in The Moving Finger. This time, however, the story is told by one Jerry Burton, a young man who retires to the countryside in order to heal in a quiet place away from excitement. Jerry should prove a witty and keen narrator, being an outsider in a small town, but, somehow, his account lacks charm. Though he may look at the locals as oddities, he never really seems to get them. So, while the mystery proves enticing, the flavor of the narration ends up lacking.

It is strange to me that Jerry Burton, as the narrator, should feel so lifeless. He is a carefree young man with money and independence, who can simply choose to move to a new place for a few months and observe the local going-ons. He should be interesting! Instead, he is the least interesting character in the book. For awhile, I could not even remember his name.

Jerry’s accounts of the other characters add a bit of color to his story, though he does not seem particularly perceptive. He draws some amusing character sketches, and readers know which locals he dislikes and which he finds entertaining, and which he actually enjoys. On the whole, however, Jerry really has no idea how life in Lymstock works, and gets very little chance to learn since he is partly an invalid. But the charm of the Miss Marple stories is really all the people who make village life fascinating! I wanted more local color than Jerry was able to provide.

Miss Marple, one should note, cannot really save the story by adding her own keen observations because she only appears towards the very end. As usual, an acquaintance of hers enlists her to solve the mystery and save the day before the village can devour itself in an agony of venom and suspicion. Miss Marple comes through, of course, but it would be more fun to see more of her detective work.

The Moving Finger is a worthy addition to the Miss Marple stories, and a mystery that will no doubt puzzle many a reader. I enjoyed trying to solve the case, and found I could not. Still, I am not sure this one will be one of my favorites. I think a Miss Marple story ought to have a bit more Miss Marple!

4 stars

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