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The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side
on 9 June 2017
This Miss Marple novel is set in St Mary Mead, but it is a village that has seen changes. Miss Marple’s old friend, Dolly Bantry, has sold Gossington Hall and moved into the East Lodge, while ‘the Development’ – a new housing estate, encroaches on the very outskirts of the village. There is even a supermarket, which is viewed with suspicion by elderly ladies, who enjoy shopping as a form of social interaction and are not necessarily in a rush to hurl items into a basket. Miss Marple is more elderly in this novel and has a ‘daily’ in young Cherry Baker, from the ‘Development,’ and has the bossy Miss Knight staying in the house as she has been unwell. Although Miss Marple knows that Miss Knight is meant as a kindness by her ever supportive nephew, Raymond West, she bristles under her attentions and is always finding errands to send her on to regain her freedom.
One day, having slipped away from Miss Knight’s careful ministrations, she ventures into the Development and has fall, being gathered up and taken in by the voluble Heather Badcock. Mrs Badcock tells her a long story about when she met the movie actress, Marine Gregg, who is now living at Gossington Hall. The story revolves around an escapade when she was younger and left her sick bed to go to a fete where Miss Gregg was presiding in order to get her autograph. She tells this story again some days later to Miss Gregg herself at another fete, this time at Gossington Hall. To everyone’s surprise, shortly after meeting Miss Gregg, Heather Badcock collapses and dies. Mrs Bantry is quick to inform Miss Marple, telling her that, while she unfolded her story, Marina Gregg looked frozen in shock – much like the Lady of Shalott…
It is obvious that Miss Marple needs an interest and so she is keen to learn all she can about the murder; even going as far as gathering up an armful of gossipy film magazines from the hairdresser. When her godson, Dermot Craddock, arrives to investigate, he keeps her informed and it is, of course, Miss Marple who untangles the mystery. For who should murder a perfectly innocent, well meaning, if somewhat nosy, middle-aged woman? Was the real victim meant to be Marina Gregg and, if so, is she in danger? This is a really enjoyable mystery. There is an excellent cast of characters, including the glamorous Marina Gregg, who both takes to her bed and has hysterics with enjoyable frequency. You feel that Agatha Christie really enjoyed writing this and she combines the changing, more modern landscape (this was published in 1962) with the traditional, village mystery, very cleverly.