Ordeal Botm Main

Book of the Month

Book of the Month: Ordeal by Innocence

3rd April 2018

Jacko Argyle is convicted of killing his adoptive mother, and dies in prison while maintaining his innocence. Two years later, a Dr Calgary turns up at the Argyle family home, claiming to be the alibi that proves Jacko did not commit the crime.

His revelation has a disturbing effect on the Argyles – if Jacko did not kill Rachel, someone else in the family must be a murderer. Suspicion falls on each of them. 

'So you all,’ said Calgary slowly, ‘had no doubts? No doubts of his guilt, I mean.’
Hester stared. ‘How could we? Of course he was guilty.’
‘Not really guilty,’ Leo dissented. ‘I don’t like that word.’
‘It isn’t a true word, either.’ Calgary took a deep breath. ‘Jack Argyle was—innocent!’


Ordeal by Innocence is the epitome of family dramas, where five children from diverse backgrounds are adopted by Rachel and Leo Argyle during the Second World War. Relationships between parents and siblings are complex and often troubled as the children grow older, and emotions are stirred up when it appears that delinquent son Jacko may have been wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his mother. Add in secretary Gwenda, housekeeper Kirsten and paralysed, cynical son-in-law Philip, and there's a whole cocktail of suspicious characters who could have taken Rachel's life...

A psychological endeavour on Agatha Christie’s part, this story signifies a shift in style from some of her earlier works, and focuses largely on conversation, memory and perception, as each sibling suspects each other of the murder of their adoptive mother. Christie described Ordeal by Innocence as one of her books that satisfies her the most, and originally named it The Innocent.

The book was dedicated “To Billy Collins with affection and gratitude”, Christie's publisher.

Listen to an extract from the audiobook