I just remembered that I finished another book while I was on vacation. Sadly, the fact that I totally forgot about it probably gives y’all a clear indicator how I’ll review it. Agatha Christie’s The Murder at the Vicarage (the first appearance of Miss Marple) was kind of a bummer and makes me wonder how well I’ll enjoy the other Marple mysteries I bought on my Amazon Agatha Christie binge. Vicarage centers on a small little town in England (name already forgotten), where a middle-aged vicar lives a quiet life with his young wife Griselda. The town has a smattering of old ladies, a debonair artist, a mysterious visitor, and our victim, a ragey Colonel (Protheroe), who has the misfortune to be murdered in the vicar’s own home.
This book is boring. I have only read one other Christie novel in recent history and whether it’s that Poirot is a superior detective (not in skill just in characterization and narration), or this particular tale just lacked appeal, remains to be seen. I have several others on my kindle so I’ll have to report back on that in later reviews. My first major quibble with this book is that it’s often listed with the parenthetical “(Miss Marple #1),” and yet, we barely see Miss Marple. Though Poirot’s first entrance was a bit similar in ‘screen’ time, you get the impression the entire time that he is actively investigating the case. One would almost wonder if it’s just the sad byproduct of sexism that Christie’s female detective has to pretend to just be a mild nosy old lady while Poirot gets to soar in and detect as free as he likes. Yes, he is a world-famous detective so that gives him some advantage, but even if she has to investigate on the sly, I’d like to read about Marple investigating, not someone else. I’ll refrain from making a more definite conclusion until I’ve read more of both detectives’ stories, but it seems at least in this novel that the vicar, who narrates, is actually doing more investigation. We only get hints of Marple’s interest here and there when she and the vicar discuss things. This happened with the narrator of Poirot’s first novel as well, but again, he was featured much more heavily.
I didn’t enjoy how often the other characters mentioned Marple with distaste. She was a busy body, but often right, etc. She never misses a thing that Marple, and so on. Maybe I just love the Masterpiece version so much I’ve grown defensive of the little old lady. Who knows. As far as the actual mystery I will say that I was left guessing the whole time, so bravo on that front. I love a mystery that really surprises me. I had not really thought that hard about who the actual murderer could be for a few reasons probably – mainly that I kept picking this book up and putting it down to read more exciting ones and it took me quite a long time to finish. The victim is so unpleasant that there are many characters that could easily have been the culprit, so that added I think to my delay in sussing things out.
I only recommend this for someone who is a completist. If you really like reading the entirety of a series and catching everything about a character that is on offer, then you’ll need to read her premier. Otherwise, I would skip this one in favor of something a little more interesting.