Publication Date: October 30, 1967
Length: 224 pages
Since Agatha Christie said this was one of her favorites I was anxious to read it and see why. It is unique, without Poirot or Marple or any stand out detective at all. And I consider this one to be more psychological than some of her others since finishing and reflecting on it. The 1960's seem to have been a time when the field of psychology and the "why" behind murder was a big interest and I can recall movies and books I've seen or read during this era really tackling the topic from a mental perspective. So this book, with its focus, being published in that time period makes sense.
Michael Rogers seems to be an idealistic twenty-two year old who wants to have the perfect life. He would like to live in a charming house, with a beautiful wife, and lots of disposable income. He hasn't made much of himself up to this point, wandering aimlessly though life, doing odd jobs, and meeting interesting people. He clearly wants the "easy" way out when it comes to providing for himself. When he stumbles upon a property called Gipsy's Acre, he thinks he has found the home of his dreams. The girl he meets there, Ellie Guteman, seems to be the girl of his dreams as well. She is an American born heiress, with plenty of money to spare, so much that Michael will not need to work if married to her. He can also have his architect friend, Rudolf Santonix, create the perfect house for them on the property. There is only one problem: Gipsy's Acre is said to be cursed, and it doesn't help that the old gipsy lady living nearby, Mrs. Lee, creepily suggests they leave and never return lest something horrible befall them.
Michael and Ellie refuse to listen to her advice, and after a whirlwind courtship and wedding, build their dream house and try to settle in. Almost immediately strange things occur. A rock is thrown threw a window with a sinister note, Ellie is injured and has to have a former helpmate, Greta come and stay with them. There is a general feeling of uneasiness both in the house and on the property and Mrs. Lee is still menacing them with what will happen if they don't leave.
Local villagers, Major Phillpot and Claudia Hardcastle are bright spots in their days and befriend the couple, Michael and Ellie having strained relationships with their families and no one else to spend time with. It seems most of the other people in their lives are either out for a piece of Ellie's money or in Michael's case with his mother, are disapproving of their life choices. Just when it feels like things are looking up for them a bit, tragedy strikes and all the dark, ominous warnings appear to be coming true. Michael must decide if he is able to continue with the life he has chosen or cut his losses and leave Gipsy's Acre for good.
This story was slow to get started but when it did it was really intriguing. I did start to figure out who the villain was as things progressed only because this time I really tried hard to think outside the box. As I'm reading more of Christie I try to see if I can put things together in the most unexpected way and this book was a lot of fun in that regard. I wasn't totally correct about everything but wasn't completely taken off guard when the ending was revealed. Without giving away any spoilers, about halfway through it reminded me of an old movie from the 1940's I've watched many times that had the same vibe and turns out I was on the right path there!
The dark atmosphere created at the beginning was done well and I started off wanting to know more about the curse and Mrs. Lee, why she was so insistent that Michael and Ellie leave and not return. The secondary characters of Greta, Major Phillpot, and Claudia Hardcastle were great additions to the story as well.
I felt like this was one of her better stories and it was a nice addition to the collection that doesn't feature Poirot and Marple. Sometimes those haven't been my favorites but it worked well with this one.