I know better now, I said. The Queen of Crime will not best me twice, I said. Besides, I said, look at those yummy tea cakes on the cover! How hard can solving this mystery be?
Very hard, it turns out. Very hard indeed. I’d thought The Moving Finger simple at first; I was even confident for much of the book that I knew who the baddie was and why. It was only later in the book that I realized my theories were no longer holding up, and my chances of solving that mystery may be rather slimmer than I’d initially thought. (You can read my entire pride-before-the-fall journey with that Marple mystery here.)
At Bertram’s Hotel had my head spinning from the get-go. There was a gorgeous Edwardian-style hotel where everything feels genteel yet an undercurrent warns that things aren’t quite as they seem. There are a number of personalities staying at this hotel, some of whom have rather intriguing connections to each other. There’s a team from Scotland Yard investigating a series of highly sophisticated robberies where respectable persons seem to be involved until an ironclad alibi reveals them innocent. And there’s Miss Marple, enjoying a fortnight’s vacation in a nostalgic childhood fave, unable to shake the uneasy feeling that something’s off somehow and that she must intervene in some way, but she isn’t quite sure how.
This mystery is Agatha Christie at her very best, full to the brim of complex psychologies, shrouded intentions, and a little old lady taking everything in whilst knitting in a corner. At around the 80% mark, all I could think was that this mystery was super convoluted. There are many clues that I think are clearing things up, but I also felt more confused than ever. In fact, the only salve to my ego is that Miss Marple seemed as in the dark as I was; she had her ‘feelings,’ but I don’t think she’s figured stuff out yet? (Yes, I know, it’s very likely she already knew it all at that point, but let me have this bit of consuelo de bobo for my ego, okay?)
I kept reading in the hopes of finding more clues to help clarify things, and then at the 87% mark, Chief Inspector Davy calls Miss Marple back to London and I’m like, “Aughhhh all right, the big reveal is coming, which means I gotta figure out my guess now.” (Spoilers after the “Read More” tag / boldface SPOILERS tag, where I explain my guess and what the reveal actually was.)
So…did I solve it? Have I outwitted the Queen of Crime?
Oh my god, I did. Not perfectly, of course, I would give myself maybe 75% of a win? I guessed the villain/s and the crimes, but I didn’t completely figure out the details of who did what, and what their motives were. But I guessed the Big Bad! I guessed part of the motive! And I guessed a couple of key elements in one character’s disappearance and another character’s death.
OH MY GOD!!!
Seriously, when trying to solve a Christie, a 75% win is A WIN. As in, if I were the detective on this case, I would’ve made the right arrest. My detective team and the lawyers would’ve had to clear up the details and pieces of evidence before the court case, but I WOULD’VE MADE THE RIGHT ARREST!
Okay, I’m SUPER giddy and proud of myself right now. OH MY GOD!!!
Hair flip, detective notebook at the ready, bring on the next case, Dame Agatha!
*** SPOILERS BELOW ***
My Theory / My Detective Big Reveal:
I think Bess Sedgwick and Elvira Blake are the masterminds behind the robbery ring. I think the mother-daughter team pretend not to know each other to ward off suspicion that they’re in cahoots. Elvira has shown a talent for lying and stealing; Bess is well-known for her daring exploits. Elvira could’ve taken the Irish mail train on the morning of the 20th, and been part of the robbery.
Canon Pennyfeather was knocked out because the robbery gang thought his room was going to be empty that night, and he caught them in his room when he got back. Possibly, it was Bess, Elvira, and Henry and/or Humfries all together, and they needed to knock him out before he recognized them and wondered why they were all in the same room at that time of night. They also needed a stooge to frame for the robbery, and were planning to use his absence to cast suspicion on him, but since he’s still in London, they needed to get him out of the way. I think the person Miss Marple thought was the Canon at 3 AM was actually a member of the robbery gang dressed in the Canon’s clothes to put him on the train.
Michael Gorman was the target of the shooting on the foggy night. He was killed because he knew the secret of Bess and Ballygowlan, which I presume would’ve provided an important clue about her role in the robberies. If Elvira wasn’t involved with the robberies from the start, it’s possible she learned the same Ballygowlan secret and used it to blackmail her mother into bringing her in. I don’t think anyone’s actually trying to kill Elvira; I think she pretended the chocolates made her sick, and she pretended the shooter had been targeting her. I also think Ladislaus is a stooge used by both women; he thinks he’s cheating on one with the other, but in reality, both Bess and Elvira are using him for his car and role in the robberies, and neither is actually really in love with him like he thinks.
And finally, I think Bertram’s Hotel is the headquarters for the robbery gang. They use actors to help create smokescreen suspects for their work, and with so many important people using that hotel, it’s easy enough to fake some guests, or replace actual guests with fakes. I’m guessing Humfries and Henry are both involved, possibly also Miss Gorringe. Bess is a shareholder in the hotel, and could use her connections to help plan and execute the robberies from there.
Miss Marple and Chief-Inspector Davy’s Actual Reveal:
Bess Sedgwich is the mastermind of the robberies! She is a daredevil and enjoyed the adrenaline rush!
The staff at Bertram’s Hotel are in on it!
Canon Pennyfeather did get knocked out because he ran into the robbery gang in his hotel room! The element I did not get right is that he didn’t see the robbery gang members, but rather the person they’d hired as his doppelganger.
Michael Gorman was the intended target of the shooting! And it did have to do with the secret he knew about Bess in Ballygowlan. What I didn’t figure out is that the big secret is that he was married to Bess, and therefore all her succeeding marriages to wealthy men were bigamy.
And I was also right that Elvira Blake is also a culprit. My error was that I thought she was part of the robbery gang, when she wasn’t. But she was the one who killed Michael Gorman. She did it because she learned about her mother’s bigamy and worried that it would mean she wouldn’t inherit her father’s fortune. So she killed Gorman to keep him silent, and screamed to pretend she was the target. I was also wrong to think that Elvira wasn’t in love with Ladislaus — she was, and the reason she wanted her father’s fortune was that she knew Ladislaus would only marry her if she were rich. So I got that detail wrong.
But I also got a lot of details right! So I’m super proud of myself right now. 🙂
That’s ABSOLUTELY a win! You basically solved it!
Woohoo!!! I’m so proud of myself, hahaha! 😀
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