Publication Date: July 1942
Length: 240 pages
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐☆☆
If you are reading this then you probably already noticed my rating is only 3 stars. This was an interesting dilemma for me because I actually enjoyed the book but as I'll explain later it just didn't involve enough intrigue to warrant a high rating. Also, we will address the fact that this is a "Miss Marple mystery".....but is it really? False advertising here if you ask me!
Siblings Jerry and Joanna have moved to the town of Lymstock temporarily to allow Jerry to recuperate from injuries sustained in a war time plane crash. He is told by his doctor to find a nice, quiet place where nothing ever happens and he thinks he has until he begins to see there is a dark spirit hanging over the town with anonymous letters being delivered to various townspeople. They are letters designed to insinuate nasty gossip that may or may not be true. Apparently this has been going on for awhile and although distressing, it is not taken too terribly seriously until one woman commits suicide, despondent over the information contained in one.
Jerry and Joanna are motivated by curiosity and duty to find out who is writing these letters and why. Becoming attached to the adult, yet childlike, daughter of the suicide victim, they both feel responsible for Megan and want to know how her mother was driven to take her own life. As they continue to watch things unfold around them things take an even more sinister turn.
This book had a lot of great things going for it. The main characters were witty and seemed to be a bit world wise compared to the villagers, but were kind and interested in their lives. When the letters begin, it is fun to see things through Jerry's eyes as he tries to make sense of what is happening without giving in to drama and hysteria. His sister Joanna is a bit more flighty and materialistic but we see her change and begin to mature throughout the story. I liked the dynamic between the siblings and the warmth they had for each other when it counted.
As for the mystery part, it is a bit on the weak side, although I'm learning with Christie that patience is key and she really likes to develop the story through lots of dialogue and things are never what they seem in the beginning. There wasn't really a whole lot to it other than the letters, the suicide, and the reasons behind them, but when the clues come together I admit it was really unexpected and had little nuances that were cleverly woven in. Where it really fell flat for me was the Miss Marple part. She enters into the story only in the last 50 pages or so and does very little. I think that was the point here and it was supposed to seem that she looks around and quickly deduces the answer but I didn't like it. You walk away feeling strongly that this is Jerry's story, not Jane's. Still, it was a satisfying ending.
Not my favorite of Christie's books but honestly I kind of liked Jerry and Joanna and would like to read another book with them in it. It was kind of sad to reach the ending and know they were just two of many minor characters in one book.