They Do It With Mirrors
A 1952 Miss Marple novel which takes Miss Marple out of her comfort zone away from the village of Saint Mary-Mead and into a reformatory for boys. She’s turned onto this mystery by an old friend who has asked her to check in on the reformatory after her sister and brother in law has sort of given themselves over to the place.
When Miss Marple shows up, she finds a young man (20s) there to meet her. He helps her from the station and she tries to find her way around the school and learning as much as she can to give a thorough report back to her friend. Then a murder happens (as you can imagine it would have). The young man she met, who appears to be “mad” in the way of cartoons — thinking his father might be Winston Churchill or some other famous man — shoots a gun at the caretaker in a performative way. In the moments after, someone else shoots the man dead.
Jane is on the case! She of course finds out there’s a lot more going on than she originally thought.
It’s of course really interesting to see her out of her element where her intuition about small towns, her knowing the people around her so well, and her familiarity have been her strengths. Now she has to rely on her skills alone, and this is a very JANE-forward novel — as opposed to ones where she’s pretty unsuspecting til the end.
Also, this has one of my favorite things: British audiobook readers doing their best American accent.
The Regatta Mystery
This is a short story collection with mostly Poirot and other detectives, and one Jane Marple.
The title story falls into one of those tropes you see with a lot of the short stories — whether or not Poirot can fish out a scam, not just a death. At horse race, a rich man is duped into a bet over a diamond and when the stone turns up missing he seems to be on the hook for replacing it. Another story that I really liked in this collection involves a man telling Poirot all about a dream of his own murder, only to have him die in this precise way soon thereafter. You then have to decide whether or not you believe Poirot will think this is supernatural, or if there’s a more direct answer. (I mean you can guess).
Like other short story collections of Christie’s, there’s a bad habit of taking either half baked ideas that couldn’t be novels and presenting them as stories that feel like they might work — these can be successful when she maintains a singular setting to everything. The other habit is where the mystery should have been a novel, but instead we get a story that is pretty thin around the edges. I don’t blame her her shortcomings too much as this is a failure of plenty of other writers of mystery stories — Raymond Chandler and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among others.