Excuse me, Miss Marple? (A Five Post for a Crime Solving Master)

*Cover Image from google search of “Miss Marple”

I love Agatha Christie, and so does my friend. So while I was staying with her on vacation, she lent me a small pile of Miss Marple books to enjoy. I read three while I was there, one of which I had bought myself. I haven’t quite read all twelve Miss Marple novels, but I’m hoping to have them all read soon. And of course, I haven’t been reading them in order.

I love Miss Marple. I love the TV series with Geraldine McEwan, and I think I have seen at least four different versions of the 4.50 from Paddington on Sunday night prime drama (My favourite is Geraldine McEwan with Amanda Holden as Lucy Eyelesbarrow). Despite this, I had only read Murder at the Vicarage because our small country library was woefully lacking in Agatha Christie. I like how the stories don’t start with Miss Marple being called to a murder, or stumbling across one. The few I’ve read have Miss Marple introduced a few chapters in, as the police are scratching their heads, and it’s been a combination of happy coincidence. I also love how they are told from others perspectives, like the questioning Sergeant might be sat there thinking “We’d better be nice to the old bat”, and her leaving the room at the end with a distinct sense that she had been questioning him. I love it.

Miss Marple is seen as this doddery old lady who sits with her knitting and must be cared for. In actuality, she is shrewd, and she has a mind like a steel trap. She draws comparisons between the people in the case, and people she knew in the village, often citing that there is more to see in Village life than there is in the city.

4.50 from Paddington (#8)

Elspeth McGillicuddy is not given to hallucinations. Until she witnesses a murder at Paddington Station. But did she? No victim, no suspect, no other witnesses. In fact no one believes it really happened at all. Except her friend Miss Jane Marple, and she’s returning to the scene of the crime to discover just exactly what Mrs. McGillicuddy saw.

Blurb from Goodreads

The 4.50 from Paddington is quite possibly my favourite Miss Marple, and I held this opinion before and after reading it. I have seen at lease four versions of the TV adaptation, and because each adaptation is different, I really hadn’t known which would be true in the book. After all, I loved the TV adaptation of the Poirot An Appointment With Death and was disappointed to find that the plot in the book bears little resemblance to the TV show. I was expecting something similar. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was fairly accurate to all the adaptations – each adaptation picked a theme to run with, but they are directly lifted from the book. The characters were a little hit and miss, some developed more fully than others, as required by the plot, but well done. Most of the story follows Lucy Eyelsbarrow and Detective Raymond as they attempt to follow Miss Marple’s orders and prove that a murder actually took place (then who did it).

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

They Do It With Mirrors (#6)

Miss Marple senses danger when she visits a friend living in a Victorian mansion which doubles as a rehabilitation centre for delinquents. Her fears are confirmed when a youth fires a revolver at the administrator, Lewis Serrocold. Neither is injured. But a mysterious visitor, Mr Gilbrandsen, is less fortunate – shot dead simultaneously in another part of the building.

Blurb From Goodreads

I love how some titles have just made their way into the collective vocab. I think the title The do it with mirrors has done so, unless it’s just my family who just shrug at illusions and say “but they do it with mirrors”. Distinctly possible. As it is, I didn’t realise for quite a while (and by a while I mean Series 4 of Doctor Who, when they meet Agatha Christie and it’s a game of Spot the Title for the whole episode) that this was a Marple book. As it is, it has all the makings of an eerie spooky story – isolated house, a boys juvie, angsty family members, a visitor to stay, and then a murder happens while everyone is watching something else. There were also puzzles within the puzzle – who is poisoning the much adored lady of the house? Is it connected to the murder?

I have to confess, it all felt a bit…sleuthing by numbers, everything gets laid out in drips and so its a fairly easy, quick read that doesn’t require as much brainpower – and the whodunit is actually less a surprise (as with her bests) but more a “Yup, called it.” before putting the book down and getting a cup of tea.

⭐⭐⭐

A Murder is Announced (#5)

The villagers of Chipping Cleghorn are agog with curiosity when the Gazette advertises “A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30 p.m.”
A childish practical joke? Or a spiteful hoax? Unable to resist the mysterious invitation, the locals arrive at Little Paddocks at the appointed time when, without warning, the lights go out and a gun is fired. When they come back on, a gruesome scene is revealed. An impossible crime? Only Miss Marple can unravel it

Blurb from Goodreads

I thought A Murder is Announced was very interesting, from an emotional perspective – the characters are so well done, with so many layers that when it comes to the final reveal, it’s like being hit with a flashing neon sign. And looking back, the signs were there, you just didn’t pick up on them. Everyone has the potential, and the motivation to the murder, and it’s fascinating how the dynamics of the village change. I loved the two women who lived together, and how they interacted with each other, and with other people. The people in the house, the murder and attempted murder are all just so well done that I tore through the book to find out the end. It’s an interesting one, one of my favourites now!

⭐⭐⭐⭐

All in all, Agatha Christie is one of the few crime writers that I enjoy. As a rule of thumb, I prefer crime shows rather than crime books, because I love the family dynamics of the crime solving team, rather than the actual crimes. Agatha Christie is a master because she knows people, and the people are the ones who commit murders, or thefts, or whatever else is going on between the pages of the book.

After Marple, I need to read Crooked House and Ordeal by Innocence.

What’s your favourite Miss Marple?

Bea

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