The Sittaford Mystery Botm Article

Book of the Month

Book of the Month: The Sittaford Mystery

In a remote house in the middle of Dartmoor, six shadowy figures huddle around a small table for a seance. Tension rises as the spirits spell out a chilling message: ‘Captain Trevelyan… dead… murder.’ Is this black magic or simply a macabre joke? The only way to be certain is to locate Captain Trevelyan. Unfortunately, his home is six miles away and, with snow drifts blocking the roads, someone will have to make the journey on foot.

The wintry, snowy setting of The Sittaford Mystery provides the perfect December read. The story takes place in the fictional village of Sittaford on Dartmoor, an area close to Agatha Christie’s childhood town of Torquay, Devon. Although it’s one of Christie’s least well known, its remote setting and large cast of colourful characters, each with a distinct and interesting personality, mean it’s both a great “first Christie” read and a delight to pick up again for those that may already know the twist. 

Christie submitted this non-series novel to The Crime Club in 1931 leading to its first publication as a six-part serialisation in Good Housekeeping magazine in the US, published under the title Murder at Hazelmoor. Its UK publication came six months later using the current title, The Sittaford Mystery

Similar to the lead characters in a couple of her previously published novels, The Sittaford Mystery has a young, independent heroine at its core in the form of Emily Trefusis. The New York Times Book Review described Miss Trefusis as, “one of the sharpest and most likeable detectives of recent moons.” Anne Bedingfield of The Man in the Brown Suit and Tuppence Beresford are another two great examples of Christie’s early heroines.

Did you know? Throughout the story Christie makes references to both Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his third crime novel, The Hound of Baskervilles, which is also set in Dartmoor.

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