The Mirror Crack’d is a Miss Marple mystery, and while I generally prefer Hercule Poirot, this is a story that made quite an impression on me when I first read it as a kid. I have thought of it often over the years but especially over the past few years for reasons that I cannot divulge since it would totally spoil the mystery. Let’s just say it’s timely and a fun, quick read.
Christie published this story in 1962 and it has gotten the film/TV treatment a few times. The one I remember is the 1980 version starring Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple and Elizabeth Taylor as Hollywood star Marina Gregg — an absolutely perfect bit of casting. Marina is a stunning actress, known and loved all around the world. She has also been married multiple times and has had a nervous breakdown. Her life has been tabloid fodder for decades. She is known for being a high strung diva. When word gets around the village of St. Mary Mead that Marina is moving in while filming a movie — her big comeback — it creates a lot of excitement. Marina is feeling happy, healthy, and optimistic — the best she has felt in years. She and her husband producer/director Jason Rudd decide that they will throw a big open house event to raise money for a local charity. Yet at this event, covered by the press, one of Marina’s super fans drops dead before her eyes, having ingested poison in her cocktail. It seems obvious that the drink was meant for Marina, and subsequent events bear this out, but who would want to kill her and who would be able to pull off a murder in public? A disgruntled employee? An acting rival? A former spouse? A family member? Scotland Yard sends one of its detectives to the village to investigate, and he turns to his old friend Miss Jane Marple for assistance.
Along the way, we get an idea of how life post WWII is changing for Miss Marple’s small village. New modern housing units are popping up all over, which means that a lot of new people and businesses (a supermarket!) are moving in to St. Mary Mead. Miss Marple and her older friends prefer to stick to the old ways, but Miss Marple sees that people are people no matter what kind of house they live in or store they frequent. Moreover, Miss Marple has her own problems to deal with. She can’t get around as well as she used to and her nephew has sent an annoying middle aged woman named Miss Knight to stay with and care for his aunt. Miss Marple resents this and does a pretty good job of giving Miss Knight the slip so as to investigate. It’s a humorous side story to the main mystery.
The resolution to the mystery is, of course, brilliantly done. Even though I remembered who did it and why, there were other details that I had forgotten. Christie leaves no loose ends, and her ability to incorporate social and cultural matters into a tricky murder mystery just shows once again how extraordinarily talented a writer she was. This is really REALLY a good mystery to read now. Trust me on that one.