Book of the Month

Book of the Month: The Moving Finger


Lymstock is a town with more than its share of shameful secrets – a town where even a sudden outbreak of anonymous hate-mail causes only a minor stir.

But all that changes when one of the recipients, Mrs Symmington, commits suicide. Her final note says ‘I can’t go on’, but Miss Marple questions the coroner’s verdict of suicide. Soon nobody is sure of anyone – as secrets stop being shameful and start becoming deadly.

Beyond all doubt the puzzle in The Moving Finger is fit for experts.
The Times Literary Supplement

March’s Book of the Month is one of Agatha Christie’s own favourites - The Moving Finger - which in An Autobiography she described as ‘one I am really pleased with.’ It begins when the narrator Jerry Burton and his sister rent a house in the village of Lymstock on the advice of his doctor. On the first day of the stay in their new home, they receive an anonymous letter accusing them of being lovers rather than brother and sister. It’s not long until they discover that other people in the village are receiving similar letters of hate-mail.

The Moving Finger was first published in the US in 1942, almost one year ahead of its UK publication. The book gets its title from verse 51 of Edward FitzGerald’s translation of Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám: The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit, Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it. Christie originally wanted to change the title for the 1943 UK publication to The Spider’s Web (a title that she used over 10 years later for a play), but another book had recently been published under that title so she was encouraged to stick to The Moving Finger.

The story was Christie’s third novel to feature Miss Marple, although as she’s only present in 10 pages in the story she makes more of a cameo appearance. It has been adapted twice for television: the first time in 1985 with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple, and the second time in 2006 with Geraldine McEwan in the role.

Did you know? Christie wrote the novel during World War II, at the same time as N or M?; her second Tommy & Tuppence novel.

Discover more about The Moving Finger here.

Sign up to the newsletter to receive The World of Agatha Christie: 1920s magazine