Top critical review
Signs of Life?
on 15 March 2015
Having just completed the Hercule Poirot novel 'Peril At End House' I thought I'd proceed on to a Miss Marple one. This time I was not at all familiar with the story which did make it all the more engaging.
The double murder plot is fiendishly clever, no doubt about it, and the handful of red herrings suitably distracting and confounding. I do not for a moment dispute Agatha Christie's sublime ability to concoct a murder mystery. However, as with 'Peril At End House', I found the investigation rather unrelenting. There is plentiful dialogue as suspects and key characters reveal facts and clues and the sleuthing intensifies, but little in the way of descriptive colour or atmosphere. And the characters, including Miss Marple, lack personality and humanity, in my opinion - there's simply no time for it. They're like chess pieces manoeuvred with masterly authority, rapid-fire, toward a decisive end game.
As with ITV's splendid Poirot series, I believe the Miss Marple mysteries are also greatly enhanced by the small screen adaptations, particularly Joan Hickson's performances. The subtlety of human interaction and reaction, the fully-formed backdrop and setting, missing quite often from the novels, manifests, necessarily, on the screen, creating a more rounded, satisfying experience.