The Thirteen Problems (1932) – Agatha Christie

I’ve had so many books on the go, I haven’t been able to continue my exploration of Agatha Christie’s work, and was delighted when I had a chance to dig into one again. Her next published work was a collection of short stories, entitled The Thirteen Problems, which featured her other famous character, Miss Marple.

The Tuesday Night Club – Miss Marple is hosting a gathering at her house that includes her nephew the author. Amongst the guests is a former police investigator and an idea is bandied about for everyone to share an unsolved mystery that they alone know the answer to. The first tale sees murder afoot over a dinner when a woman dies of poisoning. Everyone has to present a theory on what happened with the facts presented to them. 1 – 0 for Marple.

The Idol House of Astarte – A moody, atmospheric piece that hints at the supernatural married with the archeological as another of the Tuesday Night Club shares their tale about a home in Dartmoor and a evil feeling grove and the relics kept there. A murder seems to impossibly play out, confounding all the guests except for me and Miss Marple. I had this one figured out, and loved being proven right.

Ingots of Gold a mystery involving stolen gold and a coastal town leads to an abduction and possible suspects. Can the Tuesday Night Club wade through legend, and history to get at the truth? Marple does but I missed this one. I blame the fact that I didn’t read the whole story in one go.

The Bloodstained Pavement tells an artist’s story involving her sketch and a visit to a coastal town that ended in murder, somehow tied to some bathers and their drying bathing suits. I was with Marple on this one and had it mostly figured so that made me feel better for missing the previous one.

So far they are all short enjoyable tales that all take place in small villages around England. Something Jane Marple is more than prepared for.

Motive v. Opportunity sees the lawyer in the group sharing a story about a dying man, a spiritualist, a large inheritance and loyal house staff. I didn’t have the exact details figured out, but knew approximately what had happened before I reached the story’s end. Fun and clever.

The Thumbmark of St. Peter is a tale shared by Miss Marple about a friend suspected of poisoning her husband and the way the village and those around her turned from her because of it. But Marple puts her mind to work and proves her friend’s innocence as she discovers the real poisoner in a tale of domestic arguments, madness, poisons and fish.

The Blue Geranium sees a dinner party taking over the duties of the Tuesday Night Club and sees a story about wallpaper flowers changing colours, spiritualists, and murder. Fun, and I like how Christie brings on some supernatural aspects and explains them all away.

The Companion tells the story of two British women on a vacation in Europe and a swimming excursion goes awry when it leads to a drowning and then an apparent suicide. What really happened that day?

The Four Suspects sees the dinner party exploring a tale of post war murder that has ties to a secret German organization that wanted vengeance for its betrayal. Of course people, one is guilty, but until they can be discovered three innocents will be painted with the brush of suspicion. Thank goodness Marple is able to suss it out.

A Christmas Tragedy sees the dinner party continuing and Miss Marple shares a story of her own. Set a in the dark of winter, Jane Marple, herself is stymied by a case in a hotel that has had murder play out and her most likely suspect seems to be perfectly innocent of the crime. Even as other bodies arise. Will she figure out the truth? A fun one.

The Herb of Death has a member of the party sharing a bare bones story that the others have to dig into to discover a story of poisoning and murder. And even with the thinnest of details, Marple is able to deduce the actual chain of events.

The Affair at the Bungalow delivers a tale from a stage actress who tells a tale of burglary, betrayal, affairs and costume changes. Will Marple see through the stagecraft to the truth of the matter?

Death by Drowning is the final story in the collection and happens shortly after the gatherings as a drowning is investigated and Marple is quickly convinced it’s not suicide but murder and supplies a name and suggestion to the investigators. Is she right one more time?

This was a fun one and I liked that for maybe half of the stories I was able to keep pace with Miss Marple. I can’t wait to see what Dame Christie has for me next!

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