Synopsis[ edit ] The novel is divided into four books. While Tommy talks with his aunt, Tuppence has a conversation with another resident, Mrs Lancaster, who unexpectedly says "Was it your poor child? There behind the fireplace. The matron tells them that a relative called Mrs Johnson took her away. One of the items Aunt Ada had left is a painting of a house by a river. The picture strongly reminds Tuppence of a house she once saw and immediately liked.
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I read this book a very long time ago and never forgot the image of the old lady calmly saying that the milk is not poisoned TODAY and inquiring about the body walled up in the fireplace. Gave me shivers! The creepiness was back in full force on re-reading, and I had forgotten the twist that occurs in the denouement and was very startled and unnerved by it! So, five stars for atmosphere, but also for another reason: I love the way Tommy and Tuppence have aged in this novel. Christie portrays their marriage wonderfully; it is not overdone, just a portrait of a fond couple who are very "settled in" together and have mutual affection and respect.
Very sweet. I also like that Albert is still with them and provides a bit of domestic comic relief. One more reason to admire this novel is the way that Christie sets herself a difficult challenge and lives up to it--rather like Nemesis, the mystery starts with almost no clues to go on, and the characters must think well outside the box to get on the right trail.
Any decent mystery writer can start with a dead body and go from there, but only Christie could start with a harmless painting of a pretty house with something ever so slightly "off" about it and develop the plot in the fascinating way that she does here. Highly recommended.
By The Pricking Of My Thumbs
Full Cast & Crew
By the Pricking of My Thumbs
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