Name: Ordeal by Innocence
Author: Agatha Christie
Number of Pages: 288 (Paperback)
Published: March 22nd 2018 by HarperCollins (Originally published 1958)
Genre: Mystery, Crime
Recovering from amnesia, Dr. Arthur Calgary discovers that he alone could have provided an alibi in a scandalous murder trial. It ended in the conviction of Jacko Argyle. The victim was Jacko’s own mother, and to make matters worse, he died in prison. But the young man’s innocence means that someone else killed the Argyle matriarch, and would certainly kill again to remain in the shadows. Shaded in the moral ambiguity of murder, the provocative psychological puzzler of guilt, vengeance, and blood secrets is among Agatha Christie’s personal favorites. – from Goodreads
Rachel Argyle was murdered by her wayward son, Jacko. Clear case. He’d been threatening her, he was found with money on him that had identifiably come from her. Case closed. Or was it?
Two years later a crucial alibi for Jacko is revealed and so his innocence is proved.
All this comes too late as Jacko has died in jail.
And so the troubles of the Argyle family are set to begin again.
This is a great mystery, and one where I couldn’t have anticipated the outcome.
I picked up Ordeal after just watching the recent tv adaptation, which I really enjoyed, but I’d heard that they’d changed the identity of the killer so I tried to pay attention whilst reading, and pick up hints and clues, but I didn’t guess the killer’s identity.
So many of Rachel’s family apparently had motivation to kill her, amidst a great deal of dislike and resentment. Unable to have children of her own Rachel set about adopting various children, creating the family that nature didn’t provide. She seemed set on how these children should behave and grow up, trying to influence them to her will whilst also providing for their every material need or want.
There’s also the unusual reaction to Dr. Clagary’s news; the majority of the family seem to wish the case had never been re-opened, and that blame remained with the now-deceased Jacko, for if he didn’t do it suspicion falls back on each and every one of them, which makes for tense times at Sunny Point. There also doesn’t seem much love for Jacko either, and all this plays into the air that actually, any of these people could have committed murder.
There’s no central investigator in this mystery, but instead a few view points from various parties who are involved. Arthur Calgary is the man who starts it all off when he appears with the alibi exonerating Jacko. Realising that he’s stirred thing sup he decides to stay and try to find out what he can about the case.
Superintendent Huish is the police presence in light of this new revelation.
Philip Durrant is Rachel’s son-in-law, and becomes obsessed with stirring up unrest. He’s unable to leave anyone or anything alone in his determination to find out who killed Rachel, although this drive doesn’t come from a good place, it’s simply something to occupy his mind.
I really like Christie’s writing. It’s streamlined and fast paced and very readable. So much of a character’s personality is revealed in a very few words, and her use of dialogue flows really smoothly. Ordeal by Innocence is an intriguing mystery, a tale of a fractured family, with twists and revelations enough to keep you guessing right until the end. I’ll definitely be reading more Christie.