The Sittaford Mystery (1931) – Agatha Christie

The next mystery novel, The Sittaford Mystery aka Murder at Hazelmoor, from Agatha Christie didn’t feature any of her familiar characters, in fact it introduces us to a firebrand of a young woman named Emily, though she doesn’t enter the tale until a quarter way through. This time around, murder most foul strikes near Dartmoor, in the midst of winter, and the murder appears to be foretold by a game of table turning, a seance.

When her fiance is arrested for the crime, Emily is determined to dig into the mystery herself, and sort out the truth, and prove her Jim’s innocence. She is one of three upright characters investigating the crime, she uses her brains (and beauty) to persuade a newspaperman, Charles, to help her with the promise of interviews – and she can use him to ask the questions she can’t, and the police inspector, Narracott, who not quite convinced of Jim’s guilt is following all the leads and clues dropped throughout the novel.

There are countless red herrings in this one, as we are introduced to a mother and daughter who are renting Sittaford House for the winter, but who may not be all they seem, there are borrowers of money, old rivalries, jealousies, and secrets aplenty in Sittaford, and the collection of cottages around her.

The first quarter of the book, for me, was rather dry, but once Emily arrives on the scene, Christie’s wry humour surfaces as Emily won’t be held back from the truth. Her romanticism runs just as strongly as there are hints of a possible romance between Charles and Emily, but we know where Emily’s heart truly lies.

I will say this, I had the murderer figured out on this one, I just wasn’t sure of the hows and whys, as I couldn’t make the timeline match, which Christie does wonderfully, and as soon as she, through Emily, lays it all out, it makes perfect sense, and I totally recall the setup she’d given earlier in the book for that very reveal.

I never had as much fun with Christie’s book as a youngster as I am now, which is probably why I read so few of them at the time. She creates very vivid pictures, bringing the era to life in the mind’s eye, and her characters are vibrant and full of life, and oftentimes, have a wonderful sense of humour, and I like to travel alongside them, attempting to reason things out while they do, and see where the clues take us.

A lot of fun, and Emily is a great character, smart, engaging, and dogged. Next time, Christie returns with a more familiar character, the little man and his grey cells, Hercule Poirot in Peril at End House!

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