The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie

published 1931 chapter 1

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. The scene that met his eyes was typical of the English countryside as depicted on Xmas cards and in old-fashioned melodramas. Everywhere was snow, deep drifts of it - no mere powdering an inch or two thick. Snow had fallen all over England for the last four days, and up here on the fringe of Dartmoor it had attained a depth of several feet. All over England householders were groaning over burst pipes, and to have a plumber friend (or even a plumber's mate) was the most coveted of all distinctions.

Up here, in the tiny village of Sittaford, at all times remote from the world, and now almost completely cut off, the rigors of winter were a very real problem.

Major Burnaby, however, was a hardy soul. He snorted twice, grunted once, and marched resolutely out into the snow. His destination was not far away… The door was opened by a neatly clad parlourmaid. The Major was divested of his British Warm, his gum boots and his aged scarf.

observations: Large parts of the UK are covered in snow today, and with most of the population relishing the resulting snow day (no marked spirit of its being essential to trudge into work or school), they could do worse than settle in front of the fire with this mystery, in which prevailing weather conditions play a big part – these are the opening lines. Yesterday’s entry featured a séance, and so does this book - ‘always a great addition to any murder story (as Agatha Christie well knew)’. It’s a clever plot, with one of the keys to the solution in plain view, and the atmosphere of the snowy moors, the proximity to the prison and the escaped criminal, the darkened rooms and the séances, are all very well done.

The book, published as Murder at Hazelmoor in the USA, is one of the relatively few in the Christie oeuvre not to feature any of her regular detectives. The setting in the county of Devon, although imaginary, would be near to where she grew up and where in later years she had a holiday home at Greenway beside the River Dart.

Links on the blog: Agatha Christie (click on the label below) is the most-featured author on the blog. The snow is ‘general all over Ireland’ in Joyce’s superb story The Dead, and it was choking the louvres of the belfry in the Fens at New Year in Sayers’ The Nine Tailors.

The picture of a man in snowy woods in Sweden and is from Flickr.


  1. I love the Sittaford mystery too and it's got a nice method of killing, even if the motive is a little dubious. great picture too Moira.

  2. Moira - Oh, this is a great story to share for a cold snowy day! I love it! And it is a good story.

  3. Thanks - I am actually re-reading it (for the umpteenth time) today...


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