This was fun, but it felt much less like a whodunit than I wanted it to, and Miss Marple came in late to the story even for Miss Marple. I think it may be a record of some sort, how little and how late she was in this book (and her parts were the best parts).
Our narrator is actually Jerry Barton, a man who has moved to the small village of Lymstock on the advice of his doctor. Jerry is recovering from a plane crash where he was severely injured, and needs peace and quiet (it is never clear whether or not this was a war injury; though the book was published in 1942, there is no mention of any war at all, so it either takes place before WWII, or all of the characters are willfully ignoring it). His sister Joanna has come with him. The events of the mystery plot are kickstarted when Jerry and Joanna receive a poison pen letter accusing them of not being brother and sister at all, but lovers. They laugh this off, but other villagers receive letters as well, none of which seem hold any true accusations, despite how nasty the letters are.
Most of the book centers on social interactions between Jerry and various villagers, where we are doled out clues before we know they are clues. Jerry also takes a fancy to a hapless village girl named Megan, who is a bit of a mess. Aimless social interactions turn to pointed ones when one of the poison pen letters seemingly hits its mark, and a villager commits suicide. The police are called in after this, and attempt to ferret out the evildoer.
This is one of those books that is more satisfying after the fact, when you can see the pieces all laid out and what it was all leading up to. There isn’t really an “investigation”, though Jerry and Joanna are curious and a bit nosy, and try to figure out for themselves what’s going on. Jerry is also a bit of a caveman when it comes to his love life. This felt a bit pointed, like Christie was taking the piss out of him, but it was still irritating to be in his head. His possessive chauvinism was benign, but still gross. SPOILERS His patronizing of Megan was out of control, and I almost barfed when he took her to London for a makeover. And then got mad when she was all badass and smart about helping Miss Marple catch the murderer, who was her stepfather END SPOILERS.
So, not one of my favorites, but not bad either. Richard E. Grant was a pretty good narrator. He made Jerry sound appropriately clueless and pathetic when needed.