Saturday, September 3, 2011
Ordeal by Innocence
Oh, they are, they are! One need look no further than the premise of Agatha Christie's Ordeal by Innocence (1958), to see the truth of Professor Calgary's observation borne out.
When the doting mother of a large family of adopted children is found bludgeoned to death with a fire poker, Jacko Argyle, the black sheep of the family, is accused and convicted of the crime. When he dies in prison, six months into his sentence, the Argyle family thinks that justice has been adequately served, and they can at last put the ghastly chapter in their lives behind them.
But then evidence to exonerate Jacko emerges in the form of Arthur Calgary, a biologist and Arctic explorer, who recounts giving the accused a lift at the time of Rachael Argyle's murder. To Professor Calgary's great consternation, the family find his news most unwelcome.
The reason for their discomfiture becomes obvious, as each Argyle must, in his or her turn, prove their own innocence of the murder; and, true to Agatha Christie form, each one of them has something to hide.
Ordeal by Innocence is another standalone novel that features neither M. Poirot, nor Miss Marple, or indeed any of the characters -- Capt. Hastings, Inspector Japp, Ariadne Oliver -- who so often aid in the effort to set the world back to rights after injustice has been done. Even so, Mrs. Christie takes care not to stray too far from the cerebral investigation and drawing-room revelation formula that is the stamp of so many of her other excellent novels.