“I haven't read an Agatha Christie novel since I was a teenager, so I was suprised to return to her and find that she was not merely a master of a genre chronicalling the cutesy era of 1930s and 40s England but a fantastically easy to read stylist. _the Moving Finger_ came out in 1942 but could have been written yesterday so contemporary is Dame Christie's style. There is extreme editing here: we think of Christie as this tweedy Englishy novelist- which her characters certainly are- however there's not a lot of dense descriptive flourish in her books which makes for a snappy entertainment. The scenery is not the town's streets and quaintly named manses but the panoply of suspects in the town of Lymestock- who dot in and out of each other's lives on the streets and during ritual tea time visits. The breezey tone is maintained because although this novel features multiple murders, none of it is pointedly emotional. Noone mourns, and the only crying we see is when one of the characters is humiliated herself! That curious lack of emotion in a murder mystery is perhaps why her novels have remained on so many people's shelves. They are not in the end about richly drawn characters or human suffering, but instead a textual Where's Waldo? where you the reader are sniffing out clues to try to find the criminal lurking behind these charming Englishy scenes of meeting at the butcher's shop, and politely waiting for the daily mail drop. So whipped is this cream of a book that I found myself forgetting the characters as I got to the end so breifly and one notely were they rendered. I also didn't realize until I did some homework that Christie was the child of an American, so maybe she grew up with a half outsider's perspective that allowed her to Disneyfy her native country so effectively- serving up a well-branded land of civilized, passive aggressive, gossipy people who are so tied to their professions that probably most readers are glancingly familiar with the amount of vicars, doctors, and butch country women that are the frequent players in her books.
Anyway this mystery snookered me, just like it did when I was 12. I fingered the red herring for most of the book, and missed the oh so obvious culpirt had only I held onto the central tennant that Christie really knows how to bury the culprit in seemingly set-in-stone facts thrown away in the narration, and the jarring clues are harder to pin down so everywhere are you looking for them. Miss Marple unfortunately only appears in this book in two or three scenes, but you wont miss her because as I've said this is a sleek sure book that entertains with a strongly paced plot, and quick scenes that are over before you get bored with them. The reveal does revolve around some cliche "man vs. women" old wives observations, but its not extremely offensive 60 years later which is probably more an example of how much work we have left to over come in sexist Western culture. And that's not to demean the puzzle: it's tricky and to my own credit I did at least choose the red herring so I was paying better attention than when I was 12! Light as a feather, straight as an arrow read this and you'll see why Christie remains on our shelves, but not much in our hearts! ”