Another non-detective crime story from our beloved Dame; and again, this one picks an intelligent, strong, determined young woman to be the leading heroine: Emily Trefusis. The collaboration between the police (Inspector Narracot) and young sleuths (Emily and a journalist named Charles Enderby) might remind us much to Inspector Battle and Bundle's relationship in The Secret of Chimneys and Seven Dials Mystery. But Emily's character here is much more prominent than Bundle's mere function to add a youthful vigor into the story.
It all begins with a séance, or table-turning, which was originally done casually to cheer a cold winter afternoon. A group of people sat at a table, and began to play, what they thought was at that time, a foolish game. However, it quickly turned to worse, when the "spirit" revealed the death of a prominent character: Captain Trevelyan, at an exact hour: five and twenty minutes to five.
Major Burnaby, a retired army, is a close friend to Captain Trevelyan. Friday is his day of visiting his friend, but that day the snow was so thick, the road was impassable. However, feeling uneasy, Burnaby insisted on walking through the terrible blizzards to "check on" Trevelyan. And of course, Trevelyan was found dead, sandbagged at the head.
A nephew, a "weak" young man called James ‘Jim’ Pearson was arrested by the police, as he was near Exhampton (place of the crime) at the time of the crime, without proper alibi, and he has just borrowed money from his uncle (and was refused). Jim was engaged to Emily, and so that's how the girl got involved with the case (to prove the innocence of her beloved fiancée), helped by the journalist, who, soon, was also smitten by her.
Overall, Sittaford Mystery is a light, funny (at times), and enjoyable crime story with a romance touch. This is another typical "inside" murder - small rural village, retired army men, widows, boring existence with gossips as the center entertainment. Then add restless and reckless young people, bad financial investment which accumulates to debt, and, of course, a wealthy miser, and voila, that's it!
One element I loved the most, is the psychological aspect of the romance, which is rarely exposed in Christie's. Emily is loved by two men; in the end, which one will she choose? Along the story we got to know Charles as a cheerful, energetic, intelligent man. His keen journalistic instinct would be perfect when combined with Emily's logic and deduction skill. Partnered, they would be another Tommy and Tuppence! Everyone said it will be a perfect match. But, is it really? Like Tuppence, Emily is a domineering woman, the leader in a marriage. Charles knew this, but I think he won't feel happy to be under his wife's lead all the time. He is a dedicated professional, and he would love to strive farther in his career. No, as foolish as it seems, the ‘poor fool’ Jim is the most suitable husband for Emily, because they'd fit perfectly. The one needs to lead, the other needs to be led.
My final rate: 4 to 5