By the Pricking of My Thumbs

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By the Pricking of My Thumbs
By the Pricking of my Thumbs First Edition Cover 1968.jpg
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
Author Agatha Christie
Cover artist Kenneth Farnhill
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Crime novel
Publisher Collins Crime Club
Publication date
November 1968
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 256 pp (first edition, hardcover)
Preceded by Endless Night
Followed by Hallowe'en Party

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[1] and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year.[2][3] The UK edition retailed at twenty-one shillings (21/-)[1] and the US edition at $4.95.[3] 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, and here elderly, 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."


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 reception[edit]

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."[4]

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."[5]

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."[6]

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations[edit]

In 2005, the novel was adaptated by the French director Pascal Thomas under the title Mon petit doigt m'a dit...[7]

The novel was adapted into a television movie in 2006 as part of the Marple series starring Geraldine McEwan even though Christie did not write Marple into the original story. 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, while 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 and Tuppence were played by Anthony Andrews and Greta Scacchi. The time in which this adaption is set is somewhere between the late 1940s and the early 1950s, but unclear and slightly inconsistent: a US B-17 (which left the UK soon after the war and was out of US service by 1949) overflies the village, yet US airmen wear the blue USAF uniform introduced in 1949, and there is also a 1951 Festival of Britain poster in the village shop.

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 titles[edit]

  • Czech: Dům u kanálu (The Canal House)
  • Dutch: De pop in de schoorsteen (The Doll in the Chimney)
  • French: Mon Petit Doigt m'a dit (My little finger told me, a French expression equivalent to the English title)
  • German: Lauter reizende alte Damen (Lots of charming old ladies)
  • Hungarian: Bal hüvelykem bizsereg (My thumb is pricking)
  • Norwegian: Gammel dame forsvinner (The old Lady Vanishes)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): Um Pressentimento Funesto (Foreboding)
  • Portuguese (Portugal): Caminho para a Morte (Road to Death)
  • Spanish: El Cuadro (The Painting)
  • Italian: "Sento i pollici che prudono" (By the Pricking of my thumbs)
  • Bulgarian: "Злото е на път" [Zloto e na pat] (Something wicked this way comes ("Macbeth", Skakespeare))


  1. ^ a b Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (Page 15)
  2. ^ John Cooper and B.A. Pyke. Detective Fiction – the collector's guide: Second Edition (pp. 82, 87) Scholar Press. 1994. ISBN 0-85967-991-8
  3. ^ a b American Tribute to Agatha Christie
  4. ^ The Guardian, 13 December 1968 (p. 10).
  5. ^ The Observer, 17 November 1968 (p. 28)
  6. ^ Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie – Revised edition (p. 189). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0-00-637474-3
  7. ^ Mon petit doigt m'a dit... (2005) at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]