Book #47 for 2016
This is not my first re-read of this book, so I can’t speak to how surprising the solution is or isn’t, but I still found it immensely entertaining. Christie’s wit is dry and sarcastic, and if you enjoy Cousin Violet’s verbal jabs on Downton Abbey, you will find yourself chuckling a lot as you read this.
This is often referred to as Miss Marple’s debut, but it is only her novel debut. Before this, she had appeared in at least a dozen short stories, so her character is already nicely established. I don’t know that this is the best of the Marples, but it’s impressive. The use of the vicar for the first-person POV was brilliant. For one thing, it sets the reader on edge, watching for clues of a The Murder of Roger Ackroyd kind of solution. (view spoiler) Then we get a front row seat for the vicar’s internal musings and the signature Christie dialogue between the vicar and his wife. Griselda cracks me up.
I do have a few plotting quibbles, but that’s far too spoilerific to discuss here. I did like, though, how one of them seemed to be there specifically to point out how ridiculous it is. It put me in mind of the whole blue-nosed automatic thing in The Seven Dials Mystery. Beyond that, I’ll just say that I found a few things a bit farfetched, but I also have to remember that I’m coming at this with another 80+ years of mystery literature to refer to, so I can’t really knock Christie for being a bit naive.
I think this book helped define Marple as a sleuth without changing her character from the short stories. It makes for a good transition, and I would recommend this to anybody who’s enjoyed the short stories. Marple is also quite different from Christie’s other sleuths, so this would be good for somebody who is maybe not so keen on Poirot.