“Major Burnaby drew on his gum boots, buttoned his overcoat collar round his neck, took from a shelf near the door a hurricane lantern, and cautiously opened the front door of his little bungalow and peered out.”
I love this opening paragraph. It sets the scene for one of my favourite cozy mysteries: A small village near Dartmoor – you know, the misty remote parts of Baskerville fame.
Some of the villagers have are gathering for tea and enjoy a game of table-turning, adding a supernatural edge to the already eerie setting.
As the party enjoys the movements of the ouija board, it spells out a name and the party is stunned:
“Supposing something had happened to Captain Trevelyan…
Anyway, not to take too much away from the ensuing story, there is a murder and a subsequent investigation, and a number of potential culprits. After all, this is Christie mystery.
What makes The Sittaford Mystery stand out for me is that there is lightheartedness and humor in this story which is lacking in some of her other books, and there is a female lead who cracks the confines of her role:
So one hand she proclaims that:
“One can’t do anything without a man. Men know so much, and are able to get information in so many ways that are simply impossible to women.”
And on the other, only a few pages later she takes charge of the investigation:
“‘Well,’ said Emily rising to her feet. ‘It’s about time we went back to the Three Crowns, and I will pack my suitcase and do a short weeping act on Mrs Belling’s shoulder.’
‘Don’t you worry,’ said Mr Enderby rather fatuously. ‘You leave everything to me.’
‘That’s just what I mean to do,’ said Emily with a complete lack of truth. ‘It’s so wonderful to have someone you can really rely on.’ Emily Trefusis was really a very accomplished young woman.”
A brilliant read for admirers of the cozy mystery and the classic Christie who-dunnit. I still have to re-read some of the stories that pre-date The Sittaford Mystery (1931) but at the time of writing this one, Christie had already found her forte of setting the story in a confined space and letting psychology drive the story.
3.5* (out of 5*)