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Wonderful! We see our first introduction to Miss Marple in this wonderfully 'twee', gentle tale of village life and murder in the Parish of St Mary Mead. The Vicar makes an unfortunate statement at the outset of the novel and murder soon rears its ugly head. Colonel Protheroe, a most disliked character in the village, meets his maker. No-one is remotely surprised, everyone knowing his unfortunate traits only too well. The village is abuzz with gossip and scandal mongering. Miss Marple steps in to solve the crime. Colourfully drawn characters, witty dialogue, plenty of red herrings and suspects alike although nothing escapes the razor sharp mind of Miss Marple. The conclusion is genius in its simplicity. An absolute joy to read.(The BBC audio dramatisation of this novel is also an absolute delight). Highly recommended.
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on 1 August 2017
The debut appearance of Miss Marple in 1930 is a plotting masterpiece and full of wit and tongue-in-cheek observations which prove a delight for readers. More interesting still is the proliferation of suspects and with all and sundry in the sleepy village of St Mary Mead having expressed their antipathy to the deceased churchwarden, Colonel Lucius Protheroe, often very vocally, suspicion looms large…

Opening with the vicar recounting his frustrations at the “pompous old brute” - in the words of his sixteen-year-old nephew Dennis, and Protheroe’s insistence that there be an investigation into a suspected defalcation from church funds he makes a remark most unbecoming for a man of the cloth. The vicar mentions that he is expecting the “trying” Protheroe the very next evening to go through the accounts. An off the cuff riposte about the man's demise sets the tone for the sentiments of many within the village of St Mary Mead. Distractingly pretty, not in the least bit meek and incapable of taking anything seriously, the vicar’s twenty years younger wife, Griselda, then does her duty and hosts afternoon tea for the elderly spinsters of the village. Scurrilous gossip, supposition and a few choice remarks from Miss Jane Marple manages to convey the notable events and arguments that are consuming the villagers occupations. This airing of dirty linen serves as a brief introduction to the local citizens and the multitude of potential motives. And with everyone in St Mary Mead seemingly having their own differences with the Colonel and ulterior motives for implicating another party, the red herrings are plentiful as Christie shines the light of suspicion on each and everyone, making the majority of the villagers ‘fair game’ suspects.

Narrated by the mild-mannered vicar, Len Clement, the amateur investigations which go on amongst the villagers are full of dry wit and loaded with suggestive incidents, and his unassuming manner allows Agatha Christie to make mischief and entertain her readers with some scathing remarks, all made in the disguise of being the very converse. As the village goes into amateur sleuthing mode, with no definitive record of whether shots were heard, a surly housekeeper who is loathe to be drawn into the matter and a deliberately fast clock, confusion reigns supreme. Specifying the exact dynamics of how each individual has come a cropper at the hands of Colonel Protheroe would do a disservice to what is an absolute pleasure to observe first-hand and it is Miss Marple who soon after the discovery says she can think of at least seven potential viable candidates. Unwilling to share her unproven suspicions, the all seeing and unobtrusive Miss Marple’s deductive powers prove a match for anyone, and all under the guise of her many smoke screens as a demure spinster. Early candidates range from the seemingly intentionally dreamy, Lettice Protheroe, daughter of the Colonel, through to second wife Anne and the young portrait artist charming the ladies of the village, Lawrence Redding. With Colonel Protheroe having a reputation for being firm on the bench in his capacity as local magistrate and taking a rather overbearing interest in the work of the archaeologist engaged on his land, it proves extraordinary difficult to discount the many suspects.

A singularly deficient in humour but very zealous Inspector Slack is determined to get to the bottom of things and all under the watchful eye of the Chief Constable of the County, Colonel Melchett. Whether it is gardening, birdwatching or simply passing the time of day, Miss Marple misses nothing and her unflappable manner and habit of letting the conversation unfold naturally frequently proving revealing. As the vicar muses to himself, “for all her fragile appearance, Miss Marple is capable of holding her own with any policeman or Chief Constable in existence”. Indeed, as the vicar informs Inspector Slack:

“My dear young man, you underestimate the detective instinct of village life. In St Mary Mead everyone knows your intimate affairs. There is no detective in England equal to a spinster lady of uncertain age with plenty of time on her hands.”

Miss Marple herself has a rather simpler theory on her eagle-eyed skills:

“I’m afraid that observing human nature for as long as I have done, one gets not to expect very much from it. I dare say the idle tittle-tattle is very wrong and unkind, but it is so often true, isn’t it?”

As careless comments and deliberate attempts at implicating others unravel, just as I thought I was getting the measure of events and forming my own theories, Agatha Christie blindsided me with some cracking diversional tactics. Even more satisfying was that Christie took the time to address all of the puzzles which made for headaches along the way and hence tied up all loose ends and the solution is undoubtedly highly plausible. Not only does Miss Marple beat the Inspector to the solution, this first mystery sees her devising a little trap to ascertain proof of guilt and force the murderer into the open. Bravo! Outrageously good entertainment and my journey into the work of Christie is only just beginning..

Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel)
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on 9 July 2017
Charmingly dated introduction of Miss Marple. Set in a period when everyone had servants, who play the key role of spreading information. Complex, very clever and with intricate plotting. Don't see how anyone (except Miss Marple) could figure it out.
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on 11 August 2017
A naive and gentle story. It was interesting to read how Miss Marple appeared in her debut.
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on 14 March 2017
As always all Agatha Christie stories are well worth the read
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on 17 June 2017
Always love an asthma christie and this one did not disappoint.
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on 18 May 2017
Nice murder mystery, I like it.
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on 18 July 2017
First class story. Very enjoyable.
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on 22 July 2017
Superb as usual
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on 18 June 2017
Agatha Christie is a great author. I have read all she has written but thought this would be good to take on holiday next time I go.
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