In the small village of Lymstock someone is writing very nasty poisoned pen letters. Nearly everyone has received one. As you can imagine, the whole village is gossiping about it. The person who gets the letter says there is no truth in the letter, but everyone says “where there is smoke, there is fire.” Naturally, its stirred up a hornet’s nest and they all want it stopped.
Jerry Burton and his sister Joanna have come to stay in Lymstock while Jerry recovers from a bad leg injury. The villagers begin friendly calls upon them and they soon feel they are part of village life. But, they too soon receive one of the poisoned pens. Jerry is such a curious and amicable guy that he has soon gathered together all the pertinent information. When the police become involved, they are grateful for all the details.
Then, tragically, a suicide occurs, supposedly because of the inflammatory information in a poisoned pen letter. When, a week later, a maid in the same house is discovered to have been murdered, everyone is terrified. Jerry continues to gather and share information with the police, and they welcome his help.
The vicar’s wife, however, takes things a step further. She calls in an expert, an old friend of hers, Miss Jane Marple. When asked why, the vicar’s wife says,
“That woman knows more about the different kinds of human wickedness than anyone I have ever known.”
Together with Jerry’s sleuthing and Miss Marple’s wicked-people skills, they soon solve the mystery and stop the poisoned pen or “moving finger.”
This was a very different Agatha Christie. Jerry as the narrator made the whole novel light and fun. Yes, there was serious crime involved, but there was also humor and romance, although they were both presented with a light hand. Miss Marple doesn’t show up until the last third of the book. Getting a look at what I take to be normal village life in the midst of a crisis was also quite enjoyable. I think Ms. Christie had a good time writing this story. It showed. I had a good time reading it and I’m glad the author let herself try something different.
The Moving Finger was first published by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1942. The book cover above was the original book jacket. The photo came from Wikipedia.