Monday, June 15, 2015

Review of The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie (Collins, 1931)

It has snowed heavily in the village of Sittaford, located on the edge of Dartmoor, but that doesn’t deter from six people meeting in Sittaford House to socialise.  To pass the time they decide to hold a séance.  However, when the spirits spell out ‘Captain Trevelyan ... dead ... murder’, it leaves them perplexed.  Major Burnaby is so disturbed that he sets out into the darkening evening to tramp the six miles to Exhampton, six miles away, to check on the health of his long time friend.  When he arrives he finds the Captain dead, as foretold.  But who would have murdered him and why?  Inspector Narracott is given the job of investigating the case, but he’s soon joined by an amateur sleuth who has a lot more to lose.

The Sittaford Mystery is a classic Agatha Christie puzzle.  Isolated by a snow storm a small group of people hold a séance in which the death of Captain Trevelyan is announced.  At approximately the same time, the Captain meets his demise.  So barring the spirits being real, how could someone at the table know this?  As Inspector Narracott investigates it becomes clear the residents of Sittaford are not all quite who they seem, but none seem to have a motive to murder the Captain.  The pleasure in the story is the rum mix of characters - especially her amateur sleuth Emily Trefusis, most of whom Christie manages to move into the suspect’s frame, and the plotting wherein all the clues are present, but the reveal is still a surprise.  The story is told in a light breezy manner and is entertaining fare.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't remember this one. I wonder if the US title was different.

Anonymous said...

Published in the US as MURDER AT HAZLEMOOR, per Wikipedia. I would have read this decades ago when I read all of Christie, but I have absolutely zero memory of the plot or premise (which actually sounds rather interesting). As a young twerp, I was a big Poiret fan, but I find him hard to take these days (and never much cared for Miss Marple), so if I'm every going to do much Christie rereading this and her other one-shot/minor detectives sound more attractive to me than most. / Denny Lien