ordeal“It was dusk when he came to the Ferry.”

Ah, Dame Aggie. Here we are again. This time we’re in 1957 and, as usual, there has been a murder. However, there’s a twist this time – the murder took place two years previously. At the time it had all been cleared up nicely. Mrs Argyle, a perfectly nice woman who did a lot of work for charity and took care of orphaned and abanonded children after the war, had been bludgeoned to death by her son, Jacko. Of course, he claimed he’d been somewhere else at the time, but since no one could ever prove it, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

It’s too late for him now – he’s died of pneumonia since – but Sunny Point, the Argyle family home, has had a visitor – Dr Arthur Calgary. He’s a polar explorer who has been away for a while but upon reading something in the papers, has realised that he can change the fate of the Argyle family: he has an alibi for Jacko. He thinks he’s doing the family a favour by turning up and revealing that Jacko was innocent after all, but instead of being greeted by jubilation (and perhaps a little resentment that he hadn’t been able to show up sooner), he and his news are not welcomed at all.

And that’s because it has caused a new question to be asked – if Jacko didn’t kill Mrs Argyle, then who did?

Much like Five Little Pigs (adapted for stage as Go Back For Murder), this novel is about a murder that happened long ago, but people are still trying to find the answer. In this clever story, Christie drums up suspense and fear among a close-knit family who were convinced that Jacko had commited the murder. They seemed to be happy with the idea – he’d always been a problem child – but the idea of suddenly having suspicion thrust upon them again causes tension.

The story takes some time to get going, and all the usual twists and turns we expect from Christie don’t tend to roll up until towards the end, and while it’s not my favourite of her books, it’s definitely interesting and I was on an entirely different train of thought to the characters. In fact, I was inventing twists far more fantastical than she did. It’s a book about not how the guilty deal with their crimes, but how the innocent deal with crimes of others, and how suspicion can destroy a person.

Rather splendid with a mix of delightful and detestable characters.

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