Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie

No Series

Recovering from amnesia, Dr. Arthur Calgary discovers that he alone could have provided an alibi in a scandalous murder trial. It ended in the conviction of Jacko Argyle. The victim was Jacko's own mother, and to make matters worse, he died in prison.

But the young man's innocence means that someone else killed the Argyle matriarch, and would certainly kill again to remain in the shadows.

Shaded in the moral ambiguity of murder, the provocative psychological puzzler of guilt, vengeance, and blood secrets is among Agatha Christie's personal favorites.

“How can I go on living here and suspecting everybody ?”

I usually avoid comparing movies to books as in comparing apples to oranges....but since I graced my teeth on this Christie story first through Prime's version of the haunting tale, I can't help but constantly compare when reading and reviewing. I knew when watching the three-part series that Christie would not have been racy enough to put in the themes of child abuse, abortion and molestation in her book, and I was right when reading this to check it out. Some of the stuff may have almost been implied, and while Amazon took liberties when creating the film, I can see where they get a little of their source material.

Honestly the movie told a stronger story because it focused on characterization and dysfunction more so than its predecessor. One of the biggest changes was of the witness himself, who the movie version chose to make a weaker and mentally confused character versus the self-assured, professional character in this book. The ending is drastically different and less demented. Rating the book by itself, the plot is slower moving due to so many points of view detecting. We have chapters devoted to the police talking amongst themselves, the witness speaking to the police, the witness speaking to the family, and the family talking amongst themselves. The family is the heart of the story, so the scenes with them are the most interesting.

There aren't really many clues. It's more of a study with a weird family when the mother took in orphaned children and tried to force their love by giving them "good lives." Seeing the way the father felt ignored, the way the mother kept filling her house with children to try to get her heart fulfilled, and how the children went from scheming to resentful was fascinating. I don't remember her other books delving as deeply into the taboo of adoption and twisted mother control, but Dame Christie has a knack for digging deep into hidden dark heart of society with her books.

It's definitely worth a read for Christie fans, but the story does falter at times in the interest level because of the lack of direction on who the detective really is, and who is really in control of the narration for this book.

Book Quotes

“Not selfish things, not things for herself; who could give to unwanted children love, care, a home. All these things she could buy for them, but not their love for her."

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