Get Blog Posts Via Email

View RSS Feed


Book Author: Agatha Christie


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.



AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie: Book Review

Not to keep you in suspense, I’m writing my first post in this section about what I consider the most golden of all Golden Oldies–And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.

I have read this mystery at least five times over the years, each time with the thought that this time I’d see the red herrings and clues that I hadn’t noticed the previous times I had read the book.  After all, I knew after the first reading what had happened and why.

But that didn’t happen.  With each reading I was more impressed by the author’s ability to completely mystify me, to lead me down paths that definitely led me away from the murderer, all the while being convinced that I knew exactly what she was doing. In my mind there’s no one like Dame Agatha  (she was named a Commander of the British Empire in 1956).

For those not familiar with the novel’s plot, ten people, a very disparate group, are invited to a deserted island off the coat of Devon. There seems to be nothing in common among them–there’s a judge, a rich young racing car enthusiast, a married couple who are the servants on the island, a retired military man, a governess, a former policeman, an elderly woman, a mercenary, and a physician.

Each had received a somewhat cryptic invitation from someone who professed to be an acquaintance, inviting them to spend a few days on the island.  But when the group was assembled, it turned out that no one knew exactly who had invited them, and there was no host or hostess there.

All was set for their arrival however, and they anticipated that the next day would bring the owner of the island to the house.  But after dinner, the manservant played a recording that accused each of the guests of being a murderer. They all vehemently denied the accusations with various excuses or reasons for the deaths that were described, and all claimed they were innocent.

The young race car enthusiast admitted that he had run down and killed two pedestrians some time ago, but he said that certainly wasn’t murder, just an accident that was “beastly bad luck.”  He picked up his drink at the bar, swallowed it in a gulp, convulsed, and died in front of the group.

And then the other guests started dying, one by one. At first there was denial, the guests saying that the deaths were natural–suffocation, a weak heart.  But soon there was the realization that someone had decided that these people literally had gotten away with murder and needed to be punished.

And Then There Were None is a masterpiece. Perhaps it’s dated, as a Sherlock Holmes story may be dated, but that doesn’t take away one bit from its perfection.  If you haven’t read it, put it on your reading list.  If you have, you know why it’s heading the G. O. list.