Agatha Christie 100 - The Moving Finger

It's been a while since we had a look at a Miss Marple story, but in this incongruous re-read we've now reached the third novel featuring that worthy lady.

Airman Jerry Burton has been wounded and is dispatched with his stylish sister Joanna to small town Lymstock, which seems to be haunted by anonymous letters. One letter is received by Mrs. Symmington, and she promptly commits suicide. But just one week later, her housemaid disappears, only to be found murdered. Does this mean that the previous death was in fact murder too? While Jerry is more occupied with the late Mrs. Symmington's daughter Megan, the vicar's wife invites her old friend Miss Marple to take a closer look at the goings-on in Lymstock.

While this is a Miss Marple novel, she's only in the final quarter of the book - the rest is squarely focused on Jerry Burton and his household and his burgeoning interest in Megan Hunter. The mystery plot itself is thin enough for a short story, but fortunately, Christie is still in her winning streak here in the early 40s, and manages to get Lymstock and its characters to come to life, making the reader interested in reading on and finding out what will happen to them on the way.

Miss Marple doesn't really have to do much once she appears on the scene - she simply listens to Jerry telling the whole story from the beginning and notes some of the salient points, before pointing the finger to the villain of the piece.

It's a rather lovely novel, but don't come to this if you're looking for one of those complex Christie mystery puzzles. I'll rate this 72 out of 100, because I did like it a lot. I do have to wonder what happened with Mrs. Symmington's two young sons at the end.

1944 1951 1964
1973 1984 1988

So, here we have another Christie novel where the Swedish title differs completely from the English one. As I understand it, The Moving Finger is a reference to Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam. Since it's not as generic as many of the 20s titles we've seen, I like it a bit more. In Sweden, Rubaiyyat is almost unknown, and so the publishers invented their own title which refers more to the story itself. Mord per korrespondens can roughly be translated as Murder by Correspondence. Not the most exciting title, and I have a hard time deciding which one I like best. Perhaps the English one just pips it this time.

The first Swedish edition of this novel was published the same year as the first Swedish edition of The Body in the Library, making 1944 a thorough introduction of Miss Marple for the Swedish reading public. The cover of this first edition looks like it's trying to portrait Fantasio from the Spirou comics. I suppose that's intended to be Jerry, which is appropriate, I guess. The second cover, from 1951, is more stylised and has lost Jerry from the cover, but is otherwise fairly similar to the earlier one.

Zebraserien gives us a femme fatale reading a letter which is... well, not their best cover. It's the one I have, because it's the only mass-market paperback edition published in Sweden. In 1973, we get one of those covers that I always compare with the Fontana covers in Britain. In this case it's not very surprising, because it is actually taken from that edition. It might be the one I like best here. (The 1984 cover has the same image, as you can see, it's just designed a bit differently.)

Finally, if the 1988 edition had also been published as a paperback, then it would have been my go to version. It's not fantastic, though I suppose it gets its message across with the envelope with a skull stamp. But it's better than the Zebra one, that's for sure!

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