Book Report: Five Miss Marple Novels by Agatha Christie (1984)

Book coverThis is the famous five-novel omnibus that my grandmother sent me earlier this year. It includes the following novels:

  • The Mirror Crack’d, wherein a movie star buys a home and renovates a home in St. Mary Mead, home village of Jane Marple. The movie star throws an open house, and a woman dies immediately after meeting the movie star. Poisoned! Miss Marple investigates.
  • Caribbean Mystery, wherein Miss Marple is on holiday at a Caribbean resort, when an elderly blowhard offers to show Miss Marple a picture of a murderer. When he glances at the photo whilst taking it out of the wallet, he reacts to it and puts it back without showing Miss Marple. He then dies, and when Miss Marple investigates, she discovers the photo is no longer in his wallet, and someone else to whom he told the story must be THE MURDERER. Other bodies hit the floor sand before Miss Marple strikes!
  • Nemesis, wherein a rich fellow from Caribbean Mystery leaves a strange bequest/challenge for Miss Marple when he dies: Travel on a garden and sites bus tour and solve a mystery. What is the mystery? He doesn’t say, but ultimately it might be to clear his estranged, ne’er-do-well son of a murder. Other bodies hit the floor treacherous mountain trail before Miss Marple, along with some dead rich guy-funded guardian angels, nab the bad guy before Miss Marple becomes the next victim!
  • What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!, wherein a friend of Miss Marples is convinced she has seen a murder on a train on the next track, but the police find no evidence and no body. But Miss Marple believes her friend and finds herself in a remote town with a catspaw investigating a rich house full of suspects. When the catspaw discovers the body, everyone might be a suspect, but whose body is that in the sacrophagus? Also, poisoning occurs!
  • The Body in Library, wherein friends of Miss Marple find a body in their library. For novelty’s sake, this body was strangled, but it’s not anyone known to the Bantrys, in whose library the body was found. So Miss Marple comes to investigate on behalf of her friend, and as the other bodies hit the floor canyon in a flaming wreck, she has to uncover the real murderer.

So, Brian J., did you figure out the murderers? You know, I knew by page 70, about halfway through The Mirror Crack’d, but I might have read that book before. I also remember Mrs. McGillicuddy seeing the murder from when I read that book in high school, but I didn’t remember whodunit. So I was one for five, ish, as I knew in what direction the murderer lie in What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!. But perhaps I kind of remembered it. Also, I knew kind of something in Nemesis, but not exactly.

My beautiful wife asked me which was my favorite, but to be honest, that’s like asking what your favorite Executioner book is. They’re formulaic, but of a different formula than men’s adventure paperbacks. Someone Miss Marple knows or somewhere Miss Marple goes has a murder on her/its hands, and she acts all dithery but listens to people and compares them to a list of people she’s known to ferret out the killer. The books often feature common tropes, such as:

  • A child or young person interested in the murder who looks for clues or tries to help, and sometimes finds a relevant clue. Although in one such book, playing against type, the child is the murderer (not in any of these books, though).
  • The murderer(s) kill a second person to confuse the issue by dressing the second person, a random townie, up like the person he/she/they meant to kill in order to confuse the time/circumstances of the original murder. This happens a couple of times in these books.
  • Poison is the method of choice for many of these murderers, or strangulation. Neither of which leaves a messy crime scene–at least, not a crime scene that would have yielded many details in these days.
  • Rich men who are almost dead or invalid. Such characters appear in two of these books and trigger a third.
  • The murderer is generally present throughout the story, but is not under suspicion until the big reveal at the end.

Reading five relatively close together means I can spot these tropes. I imagine if I read a bunch of them, I would get better at figuring out whodunit. I think I was better at them when I was reading a bunch of them at the beginning of high school, but in the interim, I’ve gotten a little more used to hard boiled or modern thrillers which are less clue-driven whodunits.

Also, the body in the library thing. The last novel is entitled The Body in the Library, as a matter of fact. You know, in reading these old English mysteries, libraries aren’t good for much except killing people or stashing bodies. You know, I have often dreamed of having a home with a proper library, but English mysteries might be killing that urge in me.

So it was a nice way to pass some time. Although I’m not sure I am in the frame of mind, really, to get the most out of English or modern cozy mysteries, although I will read them from time to time when I find them on the to-read shelves. Or when my grandmother sends them to me.

This is a pretty nice edition, too, with Genuine Bonded Leather cover and gold paint atop. Probably archival paper, too. Chatham River Press must be akin to Easton Press in publishing nice editions of books, but it looks like they’re no longer in business. Still, although Nogglestead does not smell of mahogany, it’s nice to have as many leather-bound books as possible.

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