While romance is my genre of choice, when I stray it is always to mysteries. Lately my mystery reading has taken me to the historical and paranormal sub-genres, but my first love was of the cozy variety. I read many of Agatha Christie’s books back in high school but hadn’t read any in 20+ years. I remember liking almost everything she wrote, but the Miss Marple mysteries were my favorite. Something about a woman who is underestimated and overlooked but outwits everyone is very appealing to me right now. Belphebe reviewed the Miss Marple short stories in CBR8, and it reminded me that I had picked up the entire Miss Marple collection on sale. ($70! I paid $6 for the whole thing). I can’t remember which ones I have read, so I decided to just start at the beginning.
The story is told from the viewpoint of the vicar of St. Mary Mead, a small and quiet English town. The action takes place off screen, and the vicar arrives home one day to find the body of one of his neighbors in his study. Of course, everyone around is a suspect and everyone has a potential motive. The vicar is inexplicably included in the police investigation, but only through the help of Miss Marple (the next door neighbor and one of the town’s resident spinsters) do they learn the truth.
Miss Marple’s gifts are intuition, observation, and experience. She has observed People throughout her life and sees the patterns in behavior that other, less observant mortals miss. I have always loved her calm demeanor and her ability to look for the worst in human behavior. She is an unapologetic busybody and a gossip and I want to be like her when I grow up. She did not have a lot of ‘page time’ in this particular book, but she was definitely the best part of it. It’s possible Christie agreed and that’s why the Marple series was born. There’s no real indication that this book was a set-up for a long running series (and therefore it avoids a lot of long-winded introductions to a cast of characters – yay!)
It is a small town mystery where every character has his/her quirks and role in the town. I like that when it’s down well (as it is here) where the characters do not end up as caricatures, but as real people that we just get a glimpse of by how society sees them. Another thing I always liked about Christie – even when lives are at peril, the suspense level is very, very low. This is my preference because I like to be able to sleep at night. 😉
This was a nice book to read very slowly over the holidays where I was constantly interrupted. Nothing spectacular, but expect to be hearing a lot about Miss Marple from me this year.