Murder at Hazelmoor, published in 1931, is one of Christie's non-series books. The original title in the UK was The Sittaford Mystery.
This book introduced me to a term that I am not familiar with: table turning. At Bartleby.com, this is defined as: "The presumed art of turning tables without the application of mechanical force. Said by some to be the work of departed spirits, and by others to be due to a force akin to mesmerism." The rocking table indicates letters and spell out messages. I have, of course, read books and seen movies where this activity takes place, but I was never familiar with the term. Table turning plays a significant part in this book.
After tea, table turning is suggested as a diversion. As it progresses, a message is spelled out saying that Captain Trevelyan has been murdered. Up to that point, the activity has all been in fun. Immediately, everyone loses their taste for table turning and several of the participants are quite upset.
Major Burnaby decides he must immediately walk to Hazelmoor and confirm that the Captain is safe. Everyone protests, due to the impossibility of the trip on foot (or by car) in the snow, but he insists. He sets off immediately. And, two and a half hours later, he arrives at the house and discovers the dead body of Captain Trevelyan. It turns out the approximate time of death is about the same time as the incident of the table turning.
That is the setup of the story. The unusual part of this story is that there are two investigators. One is Inspector Narracott, summoned from Exeter to lead the investigation. The second is a young lady, Emily Trefusis, who is the fiancee of Captain Trevelyan's nephew, who has become the prime suspect. Emily knows that her fiancee has some flaws, but she is sure he is not capable of murder.
This is another Christie mystery featuring a strong, confident female character. Emily adds spice to the investigation as she and Inspector Narracott run into each other as they follow leads. Emily is aided by a newspaperman, also from Exeter, who opens some doors for her that would otherwise have been closed. But she is so enterprising and determined, we know she would have found a way no matter what.
The mystery is quite good and kept me guessing for most of the book. Even in the end, although I considered the solution as one of many possible solutions, I was quite surprised at how it was done. Yet it all makes sense. Christie is so good at diverting the reader, and that is one of the reasons I am enjoying her books so much.
R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII event,
hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. That event celebrates reading of books of mystery, suspense, and horror. The event continues through October 31, 2013. Reviews for that event are here.
It is also submitted for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, hosted by Mysteries In Paradise.