Agatha Christie 100 - The Sittaford Mystery

Interestingly, this is a detective novel featuring none of Christie's regular characters, unlike most other non-series novels, which are almost uniformly adventure thrillers.

In Sittaford, the villagers are having a gathering at mysterious and stylish Mrs. Willett's, and they decide to hold a séance - as you do - where the spirits spell out that a murder has been committed in the neighbouring town. Their friend Captain Trevelyan is supposed to have been killed. One of the guests, Major Burnaby, decides to investigate further, and lo and behold! it turns out to be true. Suspicions quickly fall on one of Trevelyan's nephews, whose fiancée decides to investigate the case more fully.

It's interesting that Christie didn't put Battle in this novel, I think he could easily have taken the place of Inspector Narracott, or even Mr. Duke. You might argue that Emily Trefusis is the actual detective in the novel, but it's not as if Battle didn't have help from young amateurs in his previous outings...

Overall, this is a fairly good story. I feel that Christie could have made more out of the wintery settings, but Sittaford and neighbouring town Exhampton are described skilfully. Emily Trefusis is a fun acquaintance, though I question some of her life choices. Her investigative ways are very similar to Miss Marple's.

The main problem with the novel is that it feels a bit disjointed. Emily isn't introduced until we've come a long way into the narrative, and in fact most of that early part is focused on Inspector Narracott's investigations.

I do feel like a parrot, but at least this is the final novel in this streak where Christie uses a certain type of misdirection to fool her readers - if they read these in order I wonder how fooled they would be?

This novel is worth a 55 out of a 100. A bit average for a Christie story, but on the whole a worthwhile experience that any mystery fan should enjoy.

1986 1987

While the English title for this book is again somewhat generic - the custom of naming a novel by jumbling up words like mystery/murder/puzzle and <insert name of country house/nobleman/place here> has never been a favourite of mine - the Swedish one is no less generic, just in a different way. Mördande seans simply means Murderous Séance. I still think it's better, though.

This was the second to last Christie novel to be translated into Swedish, which means there are very few editions available. The first one from 1986 looks suitably impressive with a country house surrounded by snow and the transparent skull in the ominous sky. A favourite of mine. (Again, there are some slight typographical differences between the hardcover and paperback editions using this cover - this is the paperback version, which is also the one I own.)

And here's a surprise, a book club edition which doesn't completely muck up the cover. In fact, the artist very much seems to have used the earlier cover as a basis to create his own impression, because all the elements from the 1986 cover are there. It is by far the best book club cover I've seen.


  1. Yes the 1986 version of Mordande Seans looks way more impressive owing to the backdrop and foreground floating imagery. I could never come to terms with, "do not judge a book by its cover". That is the most absurd statement, like forever! If a book doesn't want to be judged by its cover, then why does it have one?!? Books should come with the cover starting as first page, ha!

    1. Quite right, the cover is an important part of the reading experience, which is also why I decided to make that a large part of my re-read presentations.

      Glad you liked the 1986 cover, it really is quite great.

  2. I have heard a lot about Agatha Christie’s The Sittaford Mystery but never got down to actually procuring a copy to read it and that’s when I came across your review of the same dear Christian. Thank you for your very open criticism of the book.