The Body in the Library –
In essence, this is the second of the Miss Marple mysteries. In fact, it’s the third, if you count a collection of short stories. I like the Miss Marple books so far because they are an argument in how to use a character in a mystery novel without over-exhausting or over-bearing the reader with repetition. This sometimes leads tv show versions of her to shoehorn in the character in places she doesn’t really belong, but in the novels, a lot of times her arrival and role are slight and subtle.
In this first one, she plays a mostly ancillary role. Her job is not to solve the mystery directly from the outset, and she is brought in well after the investigation has already begun. She’s brought in as a kind of consulting detective whose knowledge of the town and her sense of how people act provide insights to the police who are less acquainted with the details of the village. In fact, there’s even a moment where someone mentions how passe it has become to write detective fiction where the police are shown as boobs in comparison to the brilliant detective. Also, Agatha Christie namedrops herself into this novel in a funny little meta way, that also challenges the very idea of her fiction! Who is this Agatha Christie that writes mysteries in the world of Agatha Christie novels?! Will she and Miss Marple meet? Is this a Don Quixote moment? Who knows?
The Moving Finger
The fourth book and very good. It reminded me instantly of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and don’t take that as a spoiler, but instead in the sense of this new detached first person narrator. This is his novel and in fact Miss Marple is barely in this one. It has the same feeling as The Murder in the Vicarage, but the vicar is a vehicle for the delivery of the mystery unto Miss Marple, and this one just isn’t.
Someone has been writing nasty letters. They threaten to reveals the recipients’ worst secrets! The issue is that they don’t actually to know very much of the secrets. So our narrator Burton, instead of tearing the letters up and tossing them in the fire as the police inspector suggests everyone else is doing decides to hold on to his. He seems to realize that a too specific letter in the right hands could end in a kind of disaster. And in a very Agatha Christie way she keeps telling us that AND THEY FOUND OUT IT WAS…at the ends of chapters.
The narrator is a wounded war vet recuperating in the country with his sister. He becomes friends with a young precocious 20 year old “village half-wit” who’s mother ends up committing suicide because of the letter. Now armed with a reason to pursue the mystery further and protect someone who he’s becoming more and more fond of, he enlists the help of the police and of course, Miss Marple.