The Argyles have an adopted child who has been convicted of murdering their adoptive mother.
Jacko Argyle's alibi for the night of Rachel Argyle's killing falls through and he is convicted and soon after dies in prison. After all, while Jacko could be charming, he was always in trouble with the law and not very well-liked by his 'siblings'.
But Dr. Arthur Calgary comes forward with compelling evidence to the contrary. A bout of amnesia prevented Calgary from recalling where he was and what he had been doing the very night Rachel was killed. It turns out he can corroborate Jacko's alibi.
Now Scotland Yard is forced to re-open the investigation, which throws the Argyle family into turmoil. They must all confront the fact that if Jacko didn't do it, who did ?! The terrible truth is that one of the family surely is surely responsible. One is guilty and the rest are innocent. And it is the innocent who will suffer.
Was it Mary Durrant, the first child to be adopted into the family; married to Philip - paralysed due to a bout of polio and with too much time on his hands tries to determine the i.d. of the killer?
Was it Micky, the angry young man who always rebelled against the choices made for him by his well-meaning, socially-minded parents?
Was it Hester, the young drama queen of the family who hated that Rachel was always right about everything?
Was it Leo Argyle, Rachel's husband, who discovered that in her barren state, only children could satisfy her needs and he received zero warmth and affection from her in their marriage? With a beautiful secretary in his employ, Gwenda, perhaps he felt she would be his last chance for real companionship.
What about Tina, the graceful half-caste who may have been in the house the night of the murder but never admitted it? What did she have to hide? What is she covering up?
And then the last member of the 'family', Kirsty Lindstrom, who has cared for the adoptees since they were children. What dark grievances might she have harboured against Rachel during all the years she helped with raising the children?
Dr. Calgary continues to have an interest in the proceedings of the case since he feels responsible for Jacko's unfortunate end. While the Yard investigators conduct their own queries, he, too, meets with each member of the Argyle family in hopes of uncovering the truth.
But the killer cannot risk being found out and no one is safe in the family home where they have all gathered!
Christie expertly crafts this mystery that is as much about human nature as it is about finding out 'whodunnit'. It is worthwhile to note that 'Ordeal by Innocence' was one of Christie's own favourites, and it is easy to see why. 'Ordeal' has all the makings of a great mystery, and Christie never drops the ball in keeping up the reader's interest. The disparate characters and the unique English countryside setting give this tale a real depth, and it reaches a most satisfying conclusion.
This report prepared by tesubcalle