Luke Fitzwilliam, an ex-police detective from India, finds himself sharing a train carriage with one Lavinia Pinkerton, an old lady from the village of Wychwood-Under-Ashe. She shares with him (in the vaguest possible manner) her suspicions that there is a murderer at large. She heads to Scotland Yard to detail her concerns to the police, only to be mown down by a passing Rolls-Royce. When Luke hears about this, and the death of Dr Humbleby, who Lavinia had been concerned about, he heads to the village, posing as a journalist, determined to find the killer.
The village has been plagued by a number of “accidental” deaths with no-one noticing anything out of the ordinary. But Lavinia’s words echo through Luke’s mind – that it’s easy to kill somebody when nobody suspects you…
Probably one of Christie’s best known non-series novels, this is a bit of an odd one, to be honest. On first reading, and I devoured it pretty quickly, I really enjoyed it. It keeps moving, bouncing suspicion from character to characters until the dramatic climax.
But I’ve read a lot over the past few days so there’s a little more time than usual to mull over the books that I’m reading, and the more I think about it, the more this one comes up short.
For a start, the killer is completely unguessable until a critical point where it becomes blindingly obvious. Really, really obvious.
There’s a clever idea at the core of Lavinia’s death but it’s not made the most of. First of all, a necessary piece of information about it, namely the registration of the car that hit her, is announced very late in the day, primarily to delay the final act of the story, and, if you think about it, the fact that the trick could be done at all requires a certain thing to be passing at exactly the right time, and I don’t think there are that many of them, even outside Scotland Yard.
And let’s pass right over the “I love you” “I hate you” “I love you” “OK, you win, let’s get married” clichéd romantic sub-plot. Horribly false.
So, worth reading, definitely, but don’t think about it after finishing it…
This review is Book 8 of my attempt at Readathon UK for the school where I work – ten books between 6th Feb and 5th March. If you want to make a donation to the children’s charities that they support, then please visit their Just Giving page.