The First Three Miss Marple Mysteries by Agatha Christie

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Book 1: Murder at the Vicarage

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie is the first Miss Marple novel. It takes place in the sleepy town of St. Mary Mead where there hasn’t been a murder for at least a decade. So the town is thrown into a tizzy of excitement and horror when the body of Colonel Protheroe is found in the Vicar’s study. Being a much disliked man, there is a large pool of suspects and more than one confession. It takes Miss Marple, a busy-body spinster to sort the mess out.

Along with finally figuring out who did the deed, we also find out that this village contains a great variety of eye color: golden, grey, startling blue, bright blue, black… I never imagined the countryside of England was filled with such varied irises!

Book 2: The Body in the Library

Some time has passed since the first book and Miss Marple has become somewhat of a legend, having solved a number of crimes during the intervening time. She has transformed from a neighborhood gossip that people avoid to a respected, no-nonsense genius. So when the body of a peroxide blonde shows up in the Bantry’s library the police are called first followed by a call to Miss Marple. And Miss Marple does not disappoint! (Not that we even for a minute thought she would…)

In the second book of the Miss Marple series, Agatha Christie is beginning to expand her descriptive skills, leaving eye color in favor of extremely revolting descriptions of whole faces such as, “A thin ferrety little face, not much chin, teeth running down her throat, nondescript sort of nose.” The real mystery of this installment is not who the murderer is, but what in the world it means to have teeth running down your throat. You’ll have trouble going to sleep at night, for sure. Not because of the imagined mysterious murderer lurking outside your window, but because you have a new fear that maybe you have teeth running down your own throat. Would you know? Would you be able to lead a normal life with this condition? Would you be able to take a stroll through the neighborhood without sending scores of children howling towards their mothers’ protective embraces?

Book 3: The Moving Finger

The third mystery begins when young gentleman Jerry is sent to the country to recuperate after a plane crash that left him wobbly in the legs. He settles in Lymstock, a town we first assume is fairly close to Miss Marple’s home of St. Mary Mead. Soon after his arrival a flurry of anonymous letters accusing the recipients of scandalous deeds have the town up in arms. Even poor, almost invalid Jerry is quickly a target for the evil letter writer who accuses him and his sister of being something other than brother and sister, a very unsavory something other, if you get my drift. We wait for Miss Marple to come and expose the writer, but she doesn’t show, and we are left wondering what is going on. Is this really a Miss Marple mystery? She is old, perhaps she has died and Jerry will be the new town gossipy murder solving genius?

Soon the letters cause a woman to commit suicide. And then there is a murder! The police don’t seem to be making headway (because country police are just a bunch of bumbling idiots). And the new amateur detective Jerry isn’t doing so hot. So someone finally decides to do the right thing and calls Miss Marple in on the case.

I’m not sure if this should really be considered a Miss Marple book since she didn’t become involved until the last 10% of the book. But I guess because she did end up making an appearance and quickly solved the whole thing it’s ok… My feelings are mixed.

In this book Agatha Christie continues her obsession with faces. I learned two nicknames that are evidently acceptable to affectionately call your sweetheart: ‘slab face’ and ‘funny face’. I also learned that you might describe someone you would never consider as sweetheart material as ‘pudding-faced’. I find this a little confusing as I would never want to be called slab face, but pudding face sounds wonderful and delicious.

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