Author: Agatha Christie
I have always been a great fan of Agatha Christie and her popular detective character Hercule Poirot. Every time I write a review of her work, I can’t stop myself from appreciating her style of writing. The impeccable way in which she writes her characters and places them in a mind boggling mystery is beyond my words. Ordeal of Innocence is one of her standalones, i.e. the murder case isn’t led by her famous detectives- Poirot or Marple. The case is led by a normal person who is also a major part of the mystery. “And Then There Were None” was a terrific stand alone work of hers and it’s a huge task for Christie herself to match her benchmark.
“Ordeal of Innocence” is a cold case mystery. The lives of the Argyle family take a steep twist when Dr Arthur Calgary jumps from nowhere, two years after the murder of Rachel Argyle, presenting a crucial piece of evidence evicting and proving the innocence of Jacko Argyle, who was sent to prison for killing his mother, who subsequently died in prison within 5 months of his sentencing. Rachel Argyle, the victim, is a compulsive mother of 5 adopted children- Mary, Hester, Tina, Mickey and Jacko. Each child is, or say was, unhappy with their adopted mother for reasons of their own. This new evidence from Calgary causes huge ripples in the family as old wounds are opened up. If Jacko didn’t kill his mother, it’s definitely someone else from the family. Even though only one of them is the killer, other innocent members of the family also suffer from the radar of suspicion. The police reopen the case, alibis for the night of the murder are checked again, different lines of investigation are followed by different people- the police, Calgary himself and Phillip Durant- Mary’s handicapped husband.
This case takes the reader through an entirely different experience compared to Christie’s other works. There is a more emotional connect with the characters in this book. We feel pity for every child (not literally child but youngsters) for having craved for their real parents. We also see the deep possessive love of Rachel for her kids, even though she is never alive in the book. Every child has the frustration inside to get rid of their mother. But did one of them actually go through with it? We have, on the other hand, Leo Argyle, the patriarch of the house and Rachel’s husband; his secretary Gwenda whom Leo was going to marry. Did Leo kill his own wife to marry Gwenda? We also have the housekeeper woman, Kirsten, who has a strong bonding with all the children. Did she kill Rachel to provide real happiness to the children? Strong motives are present for every character and most of their alibis are shaky. As a reader, I kept guessing and doubting every character. At a point, every line made me think and reconsider my suspicions. That’s the brilliance of Agatha Christie. I admit, I didn’t feel high excitement because I read this book over a period of 2 weeks due to other commitments but I am sure it would have been great if read at a regular speed.
The coming together of all the clues, more murders to add and the show down at the end were done exceptionally well in Agatha Christie style. I couldn’t give more ratings because the story seemed stagnant in between with no new clues or revelations. It delved more into the characters and their life which, though in a way added to the story, didn’t add much to my interest.
Bottomline: Go for it! It’s completely different from Christie’s Poirot or Marple.