Ordeal by innocence

Ordeal by Innocence and Crooked House are described by Agatha Christie in her autobiography as the two detective stories that satisfied her the most.

Ordeal by Innocence is unusual in that it is what might be termed a ‘retrospective’ whodunit. The actual murder had taken place two years previously, and a suspect tried and found guilty.

However, fresh evidence comes to light proving beyond doubt that the man was miles away from the scene of the crime when it was being committed. So the case is reopened.

This Agatha Chrisite novel takes an insightful look into what we would nowadays call a dysfunctional family burdened with the intolerable knowledge that one of their number is a killer.

The book’s title is very clever, for under such circumstances of course, it is the innocent who suffer – the guilty party being the only one who does not wonder ‘which of us was it?’

I think I can see why Agatha Christie liked this novel so much – there are some very interesting character studies and the nature/nurture argument is inherent to the story.

There are no familiar detectives in this book – either amateur or professional and I can imagine that Agatha Christie might relish the freedom this gave her.

Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple fans have very definite expectations and having bestowed on these creations certain characteristics, mannerisms and methods of working, she was to a large extent stuck with them.

The main character in the book is Dr Arthur Calgary and he is the catalyst that triggers the train of events that, for better or worse, reveals the plain, unvarnished truth of what happened on a certain fateful night two years before.

This is a good, albeit rather different, Agatha Christie novel. A little sombre, perhaps, but absorbing and with some fascinating characterisations and interesting dialogue.

And for the record, when I came to re-read this after the space of a few years, I guessed the wrong culprit!

You can get hold of Ordeal by innocence via the following links.

Ordeal by Innocence

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