I was inspired by the amazing Sarah Rees Brennan’s post on Miss Marple to read through all of her books (Miss Marple’s, that is). My mom is a huge mystery reader and has a LOT of Agatha Christies, so I set out to gather all of the Marples I could find. I don’t know if she has all of them, but I’m sure I can supplement with the library if anything is missing.
Side note before we begin: I tried to find the correct covers (aka the ones I have) for these, but every Christie has been republished to the moon and back and I was only able to find the right one for the third book and I am too lazy to do the scans myself. OH WELL just consider this a purposeful medley.
OKAY first up are The Tuesday Club Murders, a collection of short stories in which Christie introduced Miss Marple. Every week, Miss Marple, her nephew and his girlfriend, and a few other people get together and tell stories of “some mystery of which they have personal knowledge, and to which, of course, they know the answer.” Everybody else is to guess the answer and then the storyteller of the week reveals the truth. Miss Marple, who everybody underestimates and indeed they assume she won’t even want to play, solves every single one through her intimate knowledge of human behavior. She makes parallels from village life in St Mary Mead and, most importantly, never assumes people are good. Or evil.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the stories. Murder mysteries short stories are hard to pull off and, while Christie does a good job of setting up little mysteries, fails pretty well at making you care about anybody. Part of the problem is that murder mysteries of the era were already emotionally detached and having less time with the characters doesn’t help matters.
Still, these are fun and short (derp derp I am so smart) and introduce some important characters in the later books. Jane Marple, of course, but also her nephew Raymond West (a novelist) and Sir Henry Clithering, an ex-Commissioner of Scotland Yard who becomes a great fan of Jane’s.
It feel particularly silly, really, to give a plot summary/blurb for Christie novels. You know exactly what is going to be inside: witty, rich, white people, one of whom will die and one of whom will kill and one of whom will solve.
The Murder at the Vicarage is from the point of view of the vicar, Clement. He and his new young wife, Griselda, were two of my favorite characters in the book. I suppose this isn’t a surprise to anybody, but I love reading about relationships, especially healthy and supportive ones. Clement and Griselda have their issues, but their relationship throughout the book is pretty consistently strong even through the trying situation of having a murder occur in their house and both being under suspicious of the murder.
Anyway, I liked this one a lot! Best out of the three. Seriously I don’t have anything intelligent to say, just go back to the Sarah Rees Brennan link and read what she has to say!
And lastly we have The Body in the Library. It’s a third shorter than MatV, which at least partially accounts for me liking it a lot less. Plus this one is third person omniscient, so we’re even further away from the emotional life of the characters.
I also just kind of wasn’t enthralled by the pacing of the plot. We start off with a body, claro, but it takes quite a while to get to the primary setting and even longer to get any useful clues/knowledge. It felt like it took 2/3rds of the book to introduce all of the relevant characters, which means that there was little time to properly get to know them and develop theories and do the things you do when you read a murder mystery.
OTOH, it’s a Christie. And Miss Marple is always full of awesome. I have no doubt I’ll enjoy many of the rest of the books! The Moving Finger is up next, but I’m taking a short break to read other things.
Lastly, I’m 100% with Sarah when she says that Joan Hickson is the only Miss Marple. Dare to suggest otherwise and, uh, I’ll do something bad to you.
Or maybe I’ll get the ghost of Joan Hickson to haunt you!