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Miss Jane Marple of St. Mary Mead, England, was introduced to the reading public by Agatha Christie 95 years ago.  She made her first public appearance in the December 1927 issue of The Royal Magazine in “The Tuesday Night Club.” 

The Club came about when a group of people, including Miss Marple, decided to meet each Tuesday.  The members took turns introducing a mystery of which they had personal knowledge, and to which, of course, they knew the answer.  The other members each tried to solve the crime, using their professional expertise or life experiences to arrive at the correct answer.  That was the beginning of it all.

The members consisted of Raymond West, Miss Marple’s nephew and an author; Joyce Lemprière, an artist; Dr. Pender, a clergyman; Sir Henry Clithering, formerly of Scotland Yard; Mr. Petherick, a solicitor; and of course Jane Marple.

Even in 1927, Miss Marple is considered “an old lady,” so it’s hard to imagine just how old she is now.  But some people/characters are ageless, and Jane Marple is one of them.

In Marple: Twelve New Mysteries, the age issue is circumvented by placing all the stories in the past, mostly without dates.  One or two take place in the 1960s as referenced by mini skirts and The Beatles, while others could have taken place at any time after 1927.  But Jane Marple’s age isn’t really important; her intellect and her intuition are still first rate even into her “second century.”

The stories in this collection were written by twelve female authors.  I particularly enjoyed “The Second Murder at the Vicarage” by Val McDermid, which brought back some favorite characters from Agatha Christie’s original novel, “The Murder at the Vicarage”–the clergyman Mr. Clement, his wife Griselda, his nephew Dennis, and Inspector Slack.

Another extremely clever take-off is “Murder at the Villa Rosa” by Elly Griffiths, in which the protagonist of the story is plotting on the best way to kill Ripley.  I can’t say any more without spoiling the story, but those familiar with Ms. Christie’s love-hate relationship with one of her creations will be delighted with this entry.

Marple:  Twelve New Mysteries is a delightful homage to Jane Marple’s creator.  The lady from St. Mary Mead may be considered one of the first amateur investigators, leading the way for many other women to follow.  

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.



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