My Book Notes: The Sittaford Mystery AKA The Murder at Hazelmoor (1931), by Agatha Christie

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HarperCollins , 2012. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 1369 KB. Print Length: 289 pages ASIN: B0046REG94. eISBN: 978-0-00-742280-7. It was first published in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1931 under the title of The Murder at Hazelmoor and in UK by the Collins Crime Club on 7 September of the same year under Christie’s original title. Both editions were preceded by the US Good Housekeeping serialisation in six instalments from March to August. It is the first Christie novel to be given a different title for the US market.

x500_8079e441-ed2c-4797-a2ab-db489ff5e9e0First sentence: Major Burnaby drew on his gum boots, buttoned his overcoat collar round his neck, took from a shelf near the door a hurricane lantern, and cautiously opened the front door of his little bungalow and peered out.

Synopsis: A séance in a snowbound Dartmoor house predicts a grisly murder… In a remote house in the middle of Dartmoor, six shadowy figures huddle around a small table for a séance. 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…

More about this story: This is the first novel into which Christie incorporated a supernatural element and she used it to great effect in the wintry Dartmoor setting. There are several Hound of the Baskervilles references with escaped convicts, naturalists and even a reference to Conan Doyle himself. The novel was dramatized by BBC radio in 2004, and was very loosely adapted into an episode of ITV’s Marple starring Geraldine McEwan in 2006, with many large changes to the plot, right down to the identity of the murderer.

My take: Mrs Willett and her daughter Violet have rented Sittaford House from Captain Joseph A. Trevelyan, a retired merchant marine. They are willing to spend the winter there, something that have seem quite odd to everyone in the area. Trevelyan himself, in view of the price offered, has rented a house in the nearby village of Exhampton and moved there. One evening, Mrs. Willet and her daughter invite a group of Sitafford residents to take tea: Mr Rycroft, Mr Ronald Garfield, Major John Edward Burnaby who is Trevelyan’s old friend, and Mr Duke. Since some don’t play bridge, someone suggests to play table-turning to pass the time. They all accept and, during the course of the game, a spirit does in fact communicates with them telling them that captain Trevelyan has died, murdered. They can’t telephone and the newly-fallen snow makes inaccessible all the roads. Major Burnaby, worried about his friend, decides to walk through the snow the six miles separating them from Exhampton. Two and a half hours later, he arrives at Trevelyan’s house, no one answers the door. He looks for a policeman and they manage to enter the house finding  captain Trevelyan dead, with his skull fractured. The police rule out it’s been the work of a stranger and everything points out to an inside  job. When the police discover that Trevelyan’s nephew, one Mr James Pearson from London, was in Exhampton at the time of the crime, the police arrest him. James Pearson happens to be one of the beneficiaries of captain Trevelyan testament. The official investigation is carried out by Inspector Narracott, however James’s fiancée, Emily Trefusis, is convinced of his innocence and she joins forces with Mr Charles Enderby, a journalist from the Daily Wire, to investigate on their own.

I found The Sittaford Mystery a very entertaining read. I particularly enjoyed both the setting, in which the story unfolds, and the superbly crafted character of Emily Trefussis. As Nick Fuller said in his review, it’s one of Christie’s lesser-known books, but it is surprisingly good. A light reading? Possibly, but with the unmistakable hallmark of Agatha Christie, no more no less.

The Sittaford Mystery has been reviewed, among others, by Nick Fuller at The Grandest Game in the World, Kerrie Smith at Mysteries in Paradise, Steve Barge at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel  Mike at Only Detect, Rob Kitchin at The View form the Blue House, Aidan Brack at Mysteries Ahoy! John at Countdown John’s Christie Journal, Christian Henriksson at Mysteries, Short an Sweet, greencapsule at The Green Capsule, and Bev Hankins at My Reader’s Block.


(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets.Dodd, Mead & Company (USA) 1931)


(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets. Collins The Crime Club (UK) 1931)

About the Author: Agatha Christie is the world’s best-known mystery writer. Her books have sold over a billion copies in the English language and another billion in 44 foreign languages. She is the most widely published author of all time in any language, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Her writing career spanned more than half a century, during which she wrote 80 novels and short story collections, as well as 14 plays, one of which, The Mousetrap, is the longest-running play in history. Two of the characters she created, the brilliant little Belgian Hercule Poirot and the irrepressible and relentless Miss Marple, went on to become world-famous detectives. Both have been widely dramatized in feature films and made-for-TV movies. Agatha Christie also wrote romantic novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. As well, she wrote four non-fiction books including an autobiography and an entertaining account of the many expeditions she shared with her archaeologist husband, Sir Max Mallowan. Agatha Christie died in 1976. (Source: Fantastic Fiction)

If I’m right, it is widely accepted Agatha Christie wrote twenty nineteen standalone novels, of which six were romance novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. The rest, among which we may find some of her best novels, are: The Man in the Brown Suit (1924); The Sittaford Mystery apa The Murder at Hazelmoor (1931); Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? apa The Boomerang Clue (1934); And Then There Were None apa Ten Little Indians (1939); Death Comes as the End (1944); Sparkling Cyanide apa Remembered Death (1945); Crooked House (1949); They Came to Baghdad (1951); Destination Unknown (1954); Ordeal by Innocence (1958); The Pale Horse (1961); Endless Night (1967); and Passenger to Frankfurt (1970).

Colonel Race and Ariadne Oliver often show up in other Christie’s book series, although I don’t considered them a “series character”. However, even if Superintendent Battle join forces with Hercule Poirot, Ariadne Oliver, and Col. Race in Cards on the Table, he has enough entity in other books, The Secret of Chimneys, The Seven Dials Mystery, Murder Is Easy and Towards Zero, to be considered a “series character” in my view. Even though, Murder Is Easy and Towards Zero might be considered standalone books as well.

The Best Non-Series Agatha Christie Novel – The Results – A poll at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

Five to Try – Non-series Christie at The Invisible Event 

Harper Collins UK publicity page

HarperCollins US publicity page

Home of Agatha Christie website

Notes On The Sittaford Mystery

Agatha Christie page at gadetection


Mike Grost on Agatha Christie

El misterio de Sittaford, de Agatha Christie

El_misterio_de_SittafordPrimera frase: El comandante Burnaby se puso las botas de goma, se abrochó el cuello del abrigo, sacó de un estante cercano a la puerta una linterna protegida contra el viento, abrió con cautela la puerta principal de su pequeño bungalow y miró hacia fuera.

Sinopsis: Mientras la nieve cae en el pueblecito de Sittaford, sus escasos habitantes se reúnen en una sesión casera de espiritismo con un velador que anuncia el asesinato de un convecino: el capitán Trevelyan. Estupor e incredulidad, aunque a la postre los hechos dan la razón al espíritu. La policía detiene finamente al sobrino y heredero del muerto. La novia del inculpado y un periodista de prensa sensacionalista no se dan por satisfechos e investigan por su cuenta. El misterio de Sittaford es una de las novelas menos conocidas de Agatha Christie, y en la que no participa ninguno de sus personajes más conocidos.

Más sobre esta historia: Esta es la primera novela en la que Christie incorporó un elemento sobrenatural y lo utilizó eficazmente en el entorno invernal de Dartmoor. Incorpora varias referencias  El sabueso de los Baskerville con convictos fugitivos, naturalistas e incluso una referencia al propio Conan Doyle. La novela fue dramatizada por la BBC radio en 2004 y se adaptó muy libremente a un episodio de Marple de ITV protagonizado por Geraldine McEwan en 2006, con muchos cambios importantes en la trama, incluida la identidad del asesino o asesina.

Mi opinión: La señora Willett y su hija Violet han alquilado Sittaford House al capitán Joseph A. Trevelyan, un marino mercante retirado. Están dispuestas a pasar el invierno allí, algo que les ha parecido bastante extraño a todos en la zona. El propio Trevelyan, en vista del precio ofrecido, ha alquilado una casa en el cercano pueblo de Exhampton y se ha mudado allí. Una tarde, la señora Willet y su hija invitan a un grupo de residentes de Sitafford a tomar el té: el señor Rycroft, el señor Ronald Garfield, el comandante John Edward Burnaby, antiguo amigo de Trevelyan, y el señor Duke. Como algunos no juegan al bridge, alguien sugiere jugar a girar la mesa para pasar el tiempo. Todos aceptan y, durante el transcurso del juego, un espíritu se comunica con ellos diciéndoles que el capitán Trevelyan ha muerto, asesinado. No pueden telefonear y la nieve recién caída hace inaccesibles todas las carreteras. El mayor Burnaby, preocupado por su amigo, decide caminar por la nieve los casi diez kilómetros que los separan de Exhampton. Dos horas y media después, llega a la casa de Trevelyan, nadie abre la puerta. Busca a un policía y logran entrar en la casa encontrando al capitán Trevelyan muerto, con el cráneo fracturado. La policía descarta que haya sido obra de un extraño y todo apunta a un trabajo interno. Cuando la policía descubre que el sobrino de Trevelyan, un tal James Pearson de Londres, estaba en Exhampton en el momento del crimen, la policía lo arresta. James Pearson es uno de los beneficiarios del testamento del capitán Trevelyan. La investigación oficial la lleva a cabo el inspector Narracott, sin embargo, la prometida de James, Emily Trefusis, está convencida de su inocencia y se une a Charles Enderby, un periodista del Daily Wire, para investigar por su cuenta.

Encontré El misterio de Sittaford una lectura muy entretenida. Disfruté particularmente tanto del escenario, en el que se desarrolla la historia, como del personaje magníficamente elaborado de Emily Trefussis. Como dijo Nick Fuller en su reseña, es uno de los libros menos conocidos de Christie, pero es sorprendentemente bueno. ¿Una lectura ligera? Posiblemente, pero con el sello inconfundible de Agatha Christie, ni más ni menos.

Acerca del autor: Agatha Christie es la escritora de misterio más conocida del mundo. Sus libros han vendido más de mil millones de ejemplares en inglés y otros mil millones en 44 idiomas extranjeros. Es la autora más publicada de todos los tiempos en cualquier idioma, superada solo por la Biblia y Shakespeare. Su carrera como escritora abarcó más de medio siglo, durante el cual escribió 80 novelas y colecciones de cuentos, así como 14 obras de teatro, una de las cuales, The Mousetrap, es la obra de mayor duración de la historia. Dos de los personajes que creó, el pequeño y brillante belga Hércules Poirot y la irreprimible e implacable Miss Marple, se convirtieron en detectives de fama mundial. Ambos han sido ampliamente dramatizados en largometrajes y películas para televisión. Agatha Christie también escribió novelas románticas bajo el seudónimo de Mary Westmacott. Además, escribió cuatro libros de no ficción que incluyen una autobiografía y un entretenido relato de las muchas expediciones que compartió con su marido el arqueólogo, Sir Max Mallowan. Agatha Christie murió en 1976. (Fuente: Fantastic Fiction)

Si estoy en lo cierto, es ampliamente aceptado que Agatha Christie escribió veinte diecinueve novelas independientes, de las cuales seis eran novelas románticas bajo el seudónimo de Mary Westmacott. El resto, entre las que podemos encontrar algunas de sus mejores novelas, son: The Man in the Brown Suit (1924); The Sittaford Mystery apa The Murder at Hazelmoor (1931); Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? apa The Boomerang Clue (1934); And Then There Were None apa Ten Little Indians (1939); Death Comes as the End (1944); Sparkling Cyanide apa Remembered Death (1945); Crooked House (1949); They Came to Baghdad (1951); Destination Unknown (1954); Ordeal by Innocence (1958); The Pale Horse (1961); Endless Night (1967); y Passenger to Frankfurt (1970).

El coronel Race y Ariadne Oliver aparecen a menudo en otras series de libros de Christie, aunque no los considero un “personaje de serie”. Sin embargo, incluso si el Superintendente Battle une fuerzas con Hercule Poirot, Ariadne Oliver y el Coronel Race en Cards on the Table, tiene suficiente entidad en otros libros, The Secret of Chimneys, The Seven Dials Mystery, Murder Is Easy y Towards Zero, para ser considerado un “personaje de serie” en mi opinión. Si bien, Murder Is Easy y Towards Zero también podrían considerarse libros independientes.

The Most and Least Recommended of Agatha Christie’s Books (revised)


I think it was Lin Wewei who came up with the idea. “The best way to find The Top 20 of Agatha Christie’s books is by asking the well read GAD members to list down theirs. What is your Top 20?” Some of us set to work on it. If I’m right 20 GAD members sent in their suggestions. The results were:

Books that were not even mentioned once (8):

1. Parker Pyne Investigates, 1934 (Parker Pyne)
2. They Do It with Mirrors, 1952 (Miss Marple #5)
3. Dead Man’s Folly, 1956 (Hercule Poirot #27)
4. The Clocks, 1963 (Hercule Poirot #29)
5. Third Girl, 1966 (Hercule Poirot #30)
6. Passenger to Frankfurt (1970)
7. Elephants Can Remember, 1972 (Hercule Poirot #32)
8. Postern of Fate, 1973 (Tommy & Tuppence Mysteries #4)

Most Recommended books (21):

1.- 2. TIE The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None (17/20)
3.- 4. TIE  A Murder is Announced and Towards Zero (16/20)
5.- 8. TIE Death on the Nile; Murder on the Orient Express; Five Little Pigs; and After the Funeral (15/20)
9.- 10. TIE  The Body in the Library and Crooked House (14/20)
11.- 13. TIE Evil Under the Sun; The ABC Murders; The Moving Finger; (13/20)
14.- 15. TIE The Hollow; and The Pale Horse (11/20)
16.- 17. TIE Cards on the Table; and Mrs McGinty’s Dead (10/20)
18. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (10/20)
19.- 21. TIE Peril at End House; Murder is Easy; and Ordeal by Innocence (8/20)

A couple of notes:

  • I’ve not taken into account the short story collections
  • I used a chronological order. No instructions were given and some participants only said “in no particular order”.

It’s of interest to compare this list with the one compile by Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp some six years ago, The Results: Favorite Agatha Christie Novels:

1. And Then There Were None (24)
2. Murder on the Orient Express (23)
3. Death on the Nile (21)
4. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (18)
5. Five Little Pigs (15)
6. A Murder Is Announced (14)
7.-8. TIE Evil under the Sun and The Hollow (10)
9. Curtain (9)
10.-11. Crooked House and The Moving Finger (8)
The next 9, making the top 20, are as follows:
12.-14. TIE The ABC Murders, The Body in the Library and Endless Night (7)
15.-18. TIE After the Funeral, Cards on the Table, 4.50 from Paddington and Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (6)
19.-20. TIE The Murder at the Vicarage and The Mysterious Affair at Styles (5)

Thanks for joining in, it was great fun. My apologies for any mistake. Your comments are welcome.

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