Murder is Easy

For the ReadChristie2023 challenge, March was a month with a motive – Anger. I chose to read Murder is Easy because it’s completely new to me and I will say it was a good choice. A bit creepy, a bit of romance, suspense and humour in the quiet village of Wychwood-under-Ashe.

Luke Fitzwilliam is back in England from the Mayang Straits where he’s been working as a policeman. Sharing his first class railway carriage to London is an elderly lady. Lavinia Pinkerton chatters away telling him how unsettled she is by recent deaths in her village, she believes there’s a murderer about and is on her way to Scotland Yard because she suspects nice Dr Humbleby will be next. Luke humours her because she reminds him of his aunt but is inclined to dismiss her as dotty until a couple of days later he notices in the newspaper that not only is Dr. Humbleby dead but Miss Pinkerton was killed in a hit and run outside Scotland Yard.

Luckily Luke has a friend who’s cousin lives in Wychwood-under-Ashe and it’s arranged that Luke can go and stay with her, undercover as a cousin, writing a book on ancient folklore as he investigates.

Luke is quite a dreamy sort of chap and has an eclectic range of the arts to quote and reference. When he first sees his host Bridget Conway he describes her as ‘a delicate etching . . . poignant and beautiful’, and is reminded of Nevinson’s ‘Witch’. I had a look on Wikipedia and saw this lithograph, The Inexperienced Witch, by Christopher Nevinson. I do hope this wasn’t what he was thinking of! Well, he’s bewitched anyway and he and practical, determined Bridget make a good team.

There’s a busy, liveliness to this mystery as Luke and Bridget run in and out of shops and pubs and houses interviewing the colourful residents. There’s Major Horton whose married life was more ‘military campaign than an idyll of domestic bliss’; Mr. Ellsworthy who has the antiques shop and is a ‘nasty bit of goods’ whose flesh seems ‘not so much white as faintly greenish’ and is thought to dabble in black magic; Miss Waynfleet, a descendant of the old family from Wych Hall, who now lives in a dolls house adjoining it. And even Bridget whose family were the original owners of Ashe Manor, now only lives there as the employee of its owner and her fiancée Lord Whitfield, a man whose father kept a boot shop in the village. They’re all part of a drama that has a clear line of distinction between what is ‘nice’ and what is ‘nasty’.

Reading 80 years on I found the snobbishness interesting as a sign of its time and funny. Before the story begins, four people have been killed: Carter, the landlord of the seven stars ‘that nasty little pub down by the river’, a ‘drunken ruffian, one of these socialistic, abusive brutes,’; Mrs Rose a laundress, Amy Gibbs a housemaid and a ‘fool of a girl, mixed up some bottles in the dark’, and Tommy Pierce whose just a child, but is always talked of as being a nasty little boy. None of these people matter though, we know that from Miss Pinkerton at the very beginning. It’s not until ‘nice’ Dr. Humbleby is thought to be the target that anyone gets involved. And then there’s the new houses which are being built almost as quickly as the bodies are piling up. Poor Luke notices ‘Nasty little houses‘ from the train window and shudders when Mrs Pierce, Tommy’s mother, praises the ‘lovely lot of new houses, some of them with green roofs and stained-glass in the windows.’ First published in 1938, I enjoyed this mix of characters and opinions, which seems to be reluctantly showing a new social order; Lord Whitfield’s father may have had a boot shop in the village, but Mr. Ellsworthy is known to be a gentleman, in spite of his being a shop keeper.

‘. . . Help . . .Help. . .
She gave one last choked cry. . . ‘

Is this the most exciting Agatha Christie ending? It’s not even the ending, to make it even more exciting we’re left there hanging while the story goes off to bring in comfortable Superintendent Battle to dot the i’s and cross the t’s and make everything official before we find out if help does come. This was altogether a brilliant mystery and I guessed whodunit!

8 thoughts on “Murder is Easy

  1. This sounds the sort of Christie novel to fire up my interest, as much for its reflections of society in the pre-war period as for the crime aspects. I’m almost due for a periodic Christie read now and this is very tempting, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t have time to read anything for the Christie challenge this month, but would have liked to have read this one as there’s a new BBC adaptation coming later this year. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Snap! I listened to this one just a couple of weeks ago too, and thoroughly enjoyed it! Haha, that picture of the witch has completely changed my concept of Bridget though! Not at all what I thought he meant… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When I read your review, the plot didn’t sound familiar at all, but according to my Kindle, I have actually read it. My memory really is abysmal… Anyway, you’ve certainly made me want to reread and I’ve always had a soft spot for Superintendent Battle

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think I’ve come across Battle before and I quite enjoyed being apart from Miss Marple or Poirot, in spite of how much I like them, it seemed a bit more racy!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s