2020-07-16

Agatha Christie 100 - By the Pricking of My Thumbs

Christie returns to Tommy & Tuppence in her final decade of writing, after a break of over 25 years.


Tommy's aunt Ada is in a resting home and he and Tuppence decide to visit her there. While there, Tuppence strikes up a conversation with one of the other ladies, a Mrs. Lancaster. The latter asks Tuppence a question about a baby in the fireplace, which - obviously - strikes Tuppence as odd. When T&T later return to the resting home, it turns out that Mrs. Lancaster has been moved from there and the only thing she has left behind is a painting of a house - a house Tuppence remembers having seen before...

It's nice to see this elderly pair again. As usual with these Tommy & Tuppence titles, there's not much detection. Things just happen and they manage to meet exactly the right person at the right time and end up at the perfect place when necessary. Though it has to be said that this characteristic is even more pronounced in this late Christie novel.

Remember how I complained in my fairly recent re-read of 4.50 from Paddington how it felt rather loose? Well, that's nothing compared to this novel. In that Miss Marple story, it was only the plotting that seemed to take a few shortcuts. Here, everything is loose and woolly and fluffy (except the motive for the whole thing, which is the exact opposite).

There's the germ of an interesting mystery plot here, and the resolution is still quite chilling and surprising, but holy moly does it take a long time to get there. And coincidence piles up on coincidence so Tuppence (and Tommy, to some extent) gets exactly the information they need. Get me right, this is not horribly bad in any way, it's just not a true detection story. There's hardly any deductions made, and those that ARE made are generally made through very fuzzy logic.

I'll award this a 27 out of a 100. Enjoyable to a certain extent, but very far from being a necessary Christie read.

1969 1998
The British title derives from something the second witch says in Shakespeare's Macbeth (Act IV, Scene 1), and the Swedish title also alludes to what's said in the Swedish translations of that play, though I haven't found a copy that features exactly these Swedish words. One of Christie's least celebrated novels, perhaps the fact that we've had as many as two editions is the more surprising thing.

The first cover, which is the edition I own, looks a bit naivistic and not too imaginative. Another cover where I wonder why they don't make use of the entire page. Still, they manage to feature both the painting and the doll that Tuppence finds later in the novel.

The second edition from 1998 looks as though it's a movie tie-in with all those "actor portraits," but as far as I know this story has only been adapted twice, and both adaptations came several years later. So I don't really know what that is all about. But that hand looks super bad - almost like a rubber hand.

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