AGATHA CHRISTIE—By the pricking of my thumbs (Makes an interesting read)
One and only one—Agatha Christie.
Like a sinusoidal wave the excitement of her plot never wanes, and therefore her pen, never gets stale. Her works are now nearing a century. But, one still gets a feel. As if the crime was committed, only yesterday, and that too, in my own neighbourhood. The churning thrill of which, grips you tight. Both while you’re reading and even when you’ve kept the book aside. As the crime scene continues to remain in your psyche.
Sunday Express describes the novel as. ‘The most macabre and eerie Christie I have read for a long time.’
Title is halfway a Macbeth quote—‘By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.’
It all happens when:
Tommy and Tuppence Beresford are an ordinary British couple. Their conversation with each other in the novel. Reminds you of those, eloquent British natives who are full of etiquette and punctuated verbose. Tommy is the husband and Tuppence is the wife. They happen to call on Tommy’s aunt Ada in a retirement home called the Sunny Ridge. Aunt Ada by nature is difficult. Therefore, a complex person. In the retirement home while Tommy is busy talking to his aunt. Tuppence enters into a conversation with a resident, Mrs Lancaster. When Mrs Lancaster unexpectedly says, ‘Was it your poor child? There behind the fireplace.’
A few weeks later Aunt Ada dies of natural causes in Sunny Ridge. When, Tommy and Tuppence return to the retirement home after the funeral to make arrangements for Ada’s possessions. They find that Mrs Lancaster has suddenly vanished. The matron there informs them that a relative called Mrs Johnson took her away. Tuppence suspects there’s more to it than meets the eye and tries to find the relative. But the trail hits a cul-de-sac. One of the items that Aunt Ada had left is a painting of a house by the riverside. The picture strongly reminds Tuppence of a house she once saw and took to immediate liking. The painting was supposedly given to Aunt Ada by Mrs Lancaster.
Tommy is away for a few days. So, Tuppence starts looking for the mystery house on her own. Eventually, she finds it in a small village by the name Sutton Chancellor. It turns out that the house is divided in a peculiar way. Front and back. The backside is rented to a middle-aged couple called the Perries. The front part has been vacant for several years now. Tuppence meets with the people of Sutton Chancellor. There is an elderly vicar, a talkative big and beautiful landlady called Mrs. Copleigh, and a Miss Bligh who seem to run the parish.
Under the pretence of house hunting she tries to get more information about the house. Mrs Copleigh tells her a grim story about a spate of child killings some years ago. Then she fails to return home on the arranged day, having been concussed by a blow on the head.
Tommy and his man Friday Albert are now worried about Tuppence. Tommy does some investigation on his own. First, he discovers the painting was by an artist called Boscowan. Who died several years ago. Next Tommy meets the doctor of Sunny Ridge. There have been some deaths that the doctor finds odd and he is worried about a possible foul play. Tommy then talks to an investigator friend, Ivor Smith. Who hints the house in Sutton Chancellor might have been used as a safe house for a criminal gang. Tommy shows the painting to Mrs Boscowan, who notes that someone has added a boat to the picture. At home, Tommy learns that Tuppence is in a hospital near Sutton Chancellor with severe concussion. Tommy and Albert then find a hidden letter from Aunt Ada. In which she suspects there is malice in Sunny Ridge.
Tuppence has recovered. An old doll that she found in the mysterious house turns out to contain uncut diamonds. A party is arranged in Sutton Chancellor. Sir Phillip Starke, the local landowner, and Mrs Boscowan are invited. Tuppence has the impression that Sir Phillip knows more about the whole affair. The next day Tuppence goes to the vicarage and confronts Miss Bligh, who she suspects was the one who hit her on the head.
Alone, Tuppence goes to the mystery house. Where, to her surprise she finds the missing Mrs Lancaster. She takes Tuppence to a secret part of the house and proceeds to tell her life story. After her child was aborted against her will she became deranged and started killing children. One of the other residents in Sunny Ridge had recognized her. So she had to be silenced. Miss Bligh, posing as a relative, resettled her into a new home. After her candour, Mrs Lancaster attempts to kill Tuppence.
Tuppence is saved just in time. It is revealed that Mrs Lancaster is actually the wife of Sir Philip Starke. He had covered up her insanity and the crimes she committed. He assisted in the cover-up by Miss Bligh, his former secretary and confidante. Tommy and Tuppence then return home.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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