#69 – By the Pricking of My Thumbs

When visiting Tommy’s aunt at Sunny Ridge old people’s home, Tuppence meets Mrs Lancaster who, seeing her looking at the fireplace, asks “Was it your poor child?” then goes on to say “That’s where it is, you know. Behind the fireplace.”

Three weeks later Aunt Ada has died in her sleep and the only trace of Mrs Lancaster is a picture of a house that she gave her before she was taken away by relatives. A house that Tuppence has seen once before, if only she could remember where.

So while Tommy attends the annual conference of the International Union of Associated Security, she wends her way through the English countryside to find the mystery house and to see whether Mrs Lancaster really did know about a historic crime.

I quite enjoyed this book up until about two thirds in and the appearance of Mr Eccles and everything went all Bertram’s Hotel for no reason whatsoever. I liked how Tuppence and Tommy both got to the same result by different means and it is good to see them at the next stage of their life together. With a better ending this would have been a fitting ending for the Beresford saga…but then we’d still have Postern of Fate to come!

Recurring Character Development

Tommy and Tuppence Beresford

Are now an elderly couple. Traces of his red hair remain but generally it is a sandy-cum-grey colour. Her black hair is now adulterated with random streaks of grey.

His mother has been dead for nearly forty years.

They’ve been married for over thirty years and their son and daughter are also married.

They honeymooned in Ostend.

She enjoys White Lady cocktails.

She has a god daughter called Anthea.

Albert Batt

Is now portly and is the Beresfords non-live-in servant.

His wife’s name is Milly and his youngest child is called Elizabeth. Some of his other children are Charlie and Jean.

Before meeting the Beresfords worked for six months with an antique dealer.

Signs of the Times

When Tommy mentions a book that teaches five year olds to paint in water colours his friend Robert says “Grandma Moses in reverse.” Anna Mary Robertson Moses (1860-1961) only started painting seriously at the age of 78 and enjoyed a very successful career despite starting so late in life.

References to Previous Works

They reminisce about the events of N or M? What they thought may happen at the end of that book can’t have come to pass.


2 thoughts on “#69 – By the Pricking of My Thumbs”

  1. Christie mentioned the “was it your poor child?” incident in book after book after book. (I just learned on ALL ABOUT AGATHA) that she included it in Endless Night, and her editor said, “You’ve done this twice before.” She had forgotten about that – PLUS she was about to write BtPoMT for real.

    I like the opening and the closing, but the middle is as soggy as a bad tart on The Great British Bake-Off. At the same time, the ITV Marple made it a thousand times worse, and next to Postern of Fate, this is an absolute classic! Tonight, everyone was talking on Facebook about how there still isn’t a film version of PoF. Where would you start?!?!?!?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another theme which recurs from a previous book is the reference to the painting of a witch by Nevinson – that must have made a real impression on her, as the other reference is in Murder is Easy, about thirty years earlier.


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