15th September 2020. 5 stars.
This is the first novel to feature Miss Marple. In her first appearance, she’s described as a bit of a busybody, who’s always right in her assessment of any situation. The vicar, who relates the story, isn’t too kind in his opinion of her, but he slowly grows to realise she sees what most people miss.
While some of the attitudes are of their time in the 1930s, the story is written in a direct style that feels fresh and perfectly at home in today’s world. As you’d expect from the author, the plot is complex and clever, with plenty of suspects and red herrings to keep you guessing. The touches of humour lighten the story where needed as the cunning plot is slowly unravelled.
The characterisation is first rate, especially Inspector Slack, who’s like a rude, overbearing whirlwind, dismissive of Miss Marple in the first instance. Her knowledge and understanding of people is drawn from parallels within the village of St Mary Mead. Naturally Slack doesn’t have the time or patience to listen to the tales she relates to make her points.
While Miss Marple plays only a modest role, her short, incisive appearances reveal the determined and uncompromising sleuth she will become.
If you’ve never read Agatha Christie or Miss Marple, this is the perfect introduction and a delight from start to finish.
‘Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe,’ declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, ‘would be doing the world at large a service!’
It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come back and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later. From seven potential murderers, Miss Marple must seek out the suspect who has both motive and opportunity.