It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to check in on the writings of Agatha Christie, so I settled in to play a bit of the armchair (or lawnchair) detective as I enjoyed the first novel to introduce the other famous detective Christie was responsible for introducing to the world, Ms. Jane Marple, an elderly lady living in the small village of St. Mary Mead, where, at least for the first book, not a lot of bad things have happened until murder strikes!
Told in the first person by the local vicar, its his house that the murder took place in, we join in the investigation of a local man that no one really cared for. A loud braggart of a character, who’s wife is the stepmother of his daughter, who seems to not care for either of the adults in her life.
There are plenty of suspects, a young artist, a poacher the man has vowed to break, an archaeologist and his aide investigating a barrow on his land, his daughter, the vicar himself, and as we soon learn there is a busybody network going on with the elderly ladies of the town, of which Miss Marple counts herself, though she is arguably more acute and right than any of her companions.
As the story unfolds, the clues are laid out for examination and events make for suggestive evidence, and lacing it all is a great deal of humour, Mary, the vicar’s in house help isn’t very good at her job, but the vicar’s wife isn’t intent on getting her too trained up, because she’ll leave for a better paying job.
We learn Miss Marple has a visiting nephew, who frowns on the small town, and considers himself a bit of an elitist, but nothing escape’s Marple’s eagle eyes, and pretty soon she’s rumbled to what is going on, and she and the vicar compare notes leading to the reveal of the villain of the piece, and she got me again.
There were a couple of things that I had figured out before the end of the book, some of the secrets that floated under the surface of the town, but the murderer… didn’t have that one.
This one was a delight to read, and I so love the sense of humour that Christie brings to her work. And while it’s true that Marple drifts in and out of the story, popping up to help align the facts and provide some information, she’s not really the story’s central character. Instead that falls to the vicar, and it’s interesting wandering around his mind as he attempts to reconcile his parishioners with the events that are occuring, and realising that there is a bit of a dark heart to the town.
I can’t wait to see what she gives me next in The Sittaford Mystery!