I must already have read The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie and forgotten about it, because for once I guessed who the murderer was before the end of the story. I’m hopeless at guessing who the murderer is usually, so this is the only explanation I can come up with.
The Sittaford Mystery starts with a group of neighbours gathering at Sittaford House, a country house which has recently been let to Mrs Willet and her daughter by Captain Trevelyan. None of the locals can understand why the Willets want to stay in their tiny village on the edge of the moor during winter, but Captain Trevelyan was more than happy to move into the nearby town of Exhampton, while pocketing the Willet’s rent money.
During the afternoon at Sittaford House, the group have tea and then, to amuse themselves, decide to try ‘table-turning’. I believe table-turning was a popular pastime during the 1920’s and 30’s when this book was written, when otherwise sensible people tried to communicate with ghosts. During table-turning, the participants put their hands on top of a table, and say the letters of the alphabet while ghosts answer questions or communicate by tipping the table to spell out words. Hmmm.
Anyway, in The Sittaford Mystery, the table spells out that Captain Trevelyan is dead, so one of the party, Major Burnaby, tramps off six miles through the snow to Exhampton to check on his friend. Sure enough, he finds the Captain dead.
Suspicion is thrown on just about everyone, until Jim Pearson, a young nephew of Captain Trevelyan, is arrested. Jim’s fiancé, the very likeable Emily Trefusis, begins her own investigations, enlisting most of the male characters in the book for her purposes. Emily is a terrific heroine, quick-witted and attractive. She manages the male characters very cleverly.
As always, Agatha Christie tells a very good story. Her characters become real in just a few words and all of them appear to have a reason why they would want Captain Trevelyan dead. I always forget how funny Agatha Christie’s characters are, but this book happily reminded me. The table-turning idea is out-dated, but it served the purpose in this book very well.
Despite guessing the murderer, there was a mystery in this book which I didn’t solve until the author told me and there was another twist at the end which surprised me. I enjoyed The Sittaford Mystery.