Sunday, September 19, 2010
The Murder at the Vicarage
By Agatha Christie.
Hello to visitors from Mysteries in Paradise Agatha Christie Blog Tour! We're celebrating a month long tribute to Agatha Christie on the 120th anniversary of her birth. Go here to see the other stops on the tour.
Recently Dunedin had the pleasure of Scottish crime writer Val McDermid coming to town. I blogged about the visit, and the fine time I had out to dinner with Val, fellow Dunedin writer Liam MacIlvanney and friends. One of the intriguing things in Val's talk at the Settler's Museum was her recounting books that had influenced her life, and one of those mentioned was Agatha Christie's, The Murder at the Vicarage. Val's family didn't have the luxury of many books at home. The library became Val's lifeline when she was a child, but one of the books they did happen to have at home was Agatha Christie's The Murder at the Vicarage. The result of this was that the book became Val's default book when she couldn't find anything else to read. In fact she had lost count of the number of times she had read the book and said she enjoyed it every time. So one has to think Agatha Christie had quite an effect on the one-day-to-be best-selling crime writer.
So, I thought, if it's good enough for Val, I had better see what it was all about...
Oh, the goings on in the little village of St Mary Mead when Colonel Protheroe is shot dead in the Vicarage. Len Clement, the vicar, is appalled that such a thing should happen in his village, let alone in his home. A local artist with a reputation with the ladies promptly confesses to the crime, and then so does the not-so-grieving widow. When the timing shows it couldn't have been either of them, who knows who to believe? In the midst of all this chaos and confusion are the ever vigilant eyes of Miss Jane Marple, one of a quartet of old biddies in the town who know everyone's business. But Miss Marple's skills prove rather valuable.
Oh, the intricacies of this book; clues, red herrings, diversions, coincidences, multiple schemings, I was at a loss until the last few pages. Christie's skill in plotting certainly shows it self in this novel, as do her colourful characters, from the Vicar's much younger and vivacious wife, Griselda, to the ahead of her time Gladys Cram, a young single woman employed as a secretary to a visiting archaeologist and with a penchant for short skirts. I do have to say I was quite surprised at how harsh Miss Marple comes across in The Murder at the Vicarage. This is the first Miss Marple book I have read, and I gather she softens in later novels, but in this one she was really quite bitchy!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I think I'll even have to do a Val and read it again. I'll look out for all the clues with the advantage of foresight.
In a nice little bonus at the end of the novel, the edition I read had an advertisement for my favourite Kiwi girl Ngaio Marsh and her novel The Nursing Home Murder, so happy happy all around.