The Witness for the Prosecution — An Agatha Christie Mystery
Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Mr. Mayherne is a British solicitor tasked with defending a young man named Leonard Vole. Leonard met an elderly woman named Emily French at a party. When he discovered she was wealthy and enamored with him, he began to visit her. Emily ends up dead, and her maid, Janet, reveals Leonard convinced Emily to leave him everything in her will. Janet said Emily believed she and Leonard might marry someday, even though she was 40 years his senior.
Mayherne listens to Leonard’s denials of guilt and wonders what to believe. Leonard says his wife, Romaine, will testify he was with her when the murder occurred. Mayherne asks about his relationship with Romaine. Leonard says Romaine is devoted to him and would do anything for him. Mayherne knows this isn’t necessarily helpful. The testimony of a devoted wife may not do much to convince a jury.
Mayherne is taken aback when he goes to visit Leonard’s wife. Romaine, a mysterious Austrian actress, laughs when Mayherne asks if she loves her husband. She says he isn’t even her husband, but that they only live together since her husband is in an asylum. She asks Mayherne if he really believes Leonard’s story of innocence. She also asks what would happen if she were to stand up in court and tell everyone he came home that night with blood on his coat and admitted to the murder. Mayherne is confused and concerned to see how much she seems to hate Leonard.
On the eve of the trial, Mayherne gets an almost illegible note offering information about Romaine. He meets an old, disfigured woman in a slum apartment. She says Romaine stole her man, the same man who disfigured her face. The woman admits she’s been after Romaine ever since. She shows Mayherne recent love letters written by Romaine to a man named Max. In them, Romaine talks of her plans to get her revenge on Leonard at the trial.
Romaine testifies against Leonard as a witness for the prosecution. When the letter from the woman in the slums is brought into evidence, Romaine breaks down and admits she fabricated Leonard’s murder admission to get even with him. When her testimony breaks down, so does the case against Leonard.
Mayherne is about to congratulate his client on his innocence when he sees Romaine moving her hands in a certain way as she talks. He recognizes the movement as something he’s seen before. He then realizes the woman in the slums displayed the same mannerism. He also remembers Romaine is an actress.
After the trial, Mayherne meets with Romaine and tells her what he noticed. She admits the letters were part of an elaborate rouse, and she was the woman in the slums. She tells Mayherne she is a devoted wife, but she knew that alone wouldn’t save her husband from conviction. Her plot to vilify him and then herself bought him his freedom. In the final sentence of the story, she admits Leonard actually did commit the murder.
Other Belief Systems
The Lord’s name is used in vain. The word d--n also appears.
Romaine claims to be living with Leonard out of wedlock and having an affair with another man. Neither of these claims turns out to be true.
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Readability Age Range
14 and up
William Morrow Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins published this book in a collection titled The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories in 2012