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By the Pricking of My Thumbs

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By the Pricking of my Thumbs First Edition Cover 1968

Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition

By The Pricking of My Thumbs
is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in November 1968 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. The UK edition retailed at twenty-one shillings (21/-) and the US edition at $4.95. It features her detectives Tommy and Tuppence Beresford.

Youthful in two Christie books written in the 1920s, middle-aged in a World-War II spy novel, Tommy and Tuppence were unusual in that they aged according to real time, unlike Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple, whose age remained more or less the same from their first novels in the 1920s, to their last novels in the 1970s.

The title of the book comes from Act 4, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, when the second witch says:

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.

SynopsisEdit

In Sunny Ridge, the nursing home where Tommy Beresford's Aunt Ada lives, resident Mrs. Lancaster stirs up worry among those in charge with her bizarre, disjointed ramblings about 'your poor child' and 'something behind the fireplace'. Intrigued, Tuppence Beresford conducts an investigation when Aunt Ada dies.

Literary significance and receptionEdit

The novel is dedicated "to the many readers in this and other countries who write to me asking: 'What has happened to Tommy and Tuppence? What are they doing now?'"

Francis Iles (Anthony Berkeley Cox) in The Guardian's issue of 13 December 1968 admitted that, "This is a thriller, not a detective story, and needless to say an ingenious and exciting one; but anyone can write a thriller (well, almost anyone), whereas a genuine Agatha Christie could be written by one person only."

Maurice Richardson in The Observer of 17 November 1968 said, "Not her best though it has patches of her cosy euphoria and aura of the sinister."

Robert Barnard: "Begins rather well, with a vicious old aunt of Tommy's in a genteel old people's home, but declines rapidly into a welter of half-realised plots and a plethora of those conversations, all too familiar in late Christie, which meander on through irrelevancies, repetitions and inconsequentialities to end nowhere (as if she had sat at the feet of Samuel Beckett). Makes one appreciate the economy of dialogue – all point, or at least possible point, in early Christie."

Film, TV or theatrical adaptationsEdit

In 2005, the novel was adaptated by the French director Pascal Thomas under the title Mon petit doigt m'a dit...

The novel was adapted into a television movie in 2006 as part of the Marple series starring Geraldine McEwan. The plot was altered with Tommy away on military intelligence business abroad, and Tommy's part of the story was re-written for Miss Marple. Tommy was portrayed as a self-important strong male, whilst Tuppence was portrayed as a maudlin alcoholic who carried a hip flask and who was resentful of her husband's success; she too was going to be signed-up by MI6 but who had then not been able to fulfil this ambition as she was pregnant with their first child. Tommy was played by Anthony Andrews and Tuppence by Greta Scacchi.

Publication history Edit

  • 1968, Collins Crime Club (London), November 1968, Hardcover, 256 pp
  • 1968, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1968, Hardcover, 275 pp
  • 1969, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback, 208 pp
  • 1971, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 191 pp
  • 1987, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, ISBN 0-7089-1571-X
  • 2000, Signet (New York), Paperback, ISBN 0-451-20052-7

International titlesEdit

  • Czech: Dům u kanálu (The Canal House)
  • German: Lauter reizende alte Damen (Lots of charming old ladies)

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