The Sittaford Mystery was published in the United States as The Murder at Hazelmoor. As I got into this book I realized that the two titles are very true of this story. There is both a murder to be solved at Hazelmoor and a mystery begging to be solved at Sittaford. Let me explain.
Sittaford House was a great country home built and owned by Captain Trevelyn. He was persuaded to rent his house to a Mrs. Willett and her daughter for the winter. Captain Trevelyn didn’t like women so he moved to a cottage, called Hazelmoor, about six miles away.
Mrs. Willett was quite the social person so one cold and snowy afternoon she invited her neighbors over to Sittaford House. Just to do something different and fun they got out a table, shut out the lights, and had a seance. During the seance one of the messages was that Captain Trevelyn was dead, actually murdered. Although Trevelyn’s friend, Major Burnaby, didn’t believe in the seance stuff, the message bothered him enough that he set out for Hazelmoor even though more snow was on the way. When he arrived at Hazelmoor he found that it was true – Captain Trevelyn had been murdered.
Inspector Narracott was called in to handle the murder investigation. As he gathered all the facts he, too, was curious about the mystery at Sittaford: Why did the Willetts want to be at Sittaford in the middle of winter and is there any connectiuon between them and Captain Trevelyn’s death?
I liked the character of Inspector Narracott. He was smart, saw the little details, had a good feel for people, and had loads of common sense. I think this may be the only time he appeared in one of Agatha Christie’s novels. The Inspector logically and systematically combed through all the suspects and finally arrested Jim Pearson, one of Captain Trevelyn’s nephews. However, that didn’t stop the Inspector. He kept looking for more information.
Half way through the story a new “detective” emerged. This was Emily Trefusis. She was another very likable character. She was Pearson’s fiance who knows Jim was too weak to commit murder. Emily made a great detective as she was the type of person who can get everyone to talk. She also had great common sense and was extremely curious.
This was the type of book where you need a playlist. Within the first chapter I started a list of the various characters and by the time I was done I had sixteen. That doesn’t include the maids, the nurse, the hotel owner, and all the other people who were interested in solving one or both of the two mysteries. Agatha Christie had the ability to make each character sees like various people I’ve met. She certainly did it in all the people in The Sittaford Mystery. I can highly recommend The Sittaford Mystery/Murder at Hazelmoor..
There is one more minor mystery in this book. It had me digging in the reference books. Agatha Christie dedicated The Sittaford Mystery like this:
with whom I discussed the plot of this book, to the alarm of those around us.”
I had a hunch the M.E.M. might refer to Agatha Christie’s second husband Max Mallowan and, in fact, it did. The two met while they were both in Bagdad. Mallowan accompanied Christie back to England aboard the Orient Express and, while on the train, Christie discussed the plot of the novel with Mallowan. I can just imagine what the rest of the passengers were thinking when they heard some of the details of this story.