The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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January 4, 2014

Meeting Miss Marple

      Then I spoke to him very earnestly. I begged him to leave St. Mary Mead. By remaining there, he could only bring greater unhappiness to Anne Protheroe than was already her lot. People would talk, the matter would get to Colonel Protheroe's ears -- and things would be made infinitely worse for her.
      Lawrence protested.
      'Nobody knows a thing about it except you, padre.'
      'My dear young man, you underestimate the detective instinct of village life. In St. Mary Mead everyone knows your most intimate affairs. There is no detective in England equal to a spinster lady of uncertain age with plenty of time on her hands.'
I usually try to start the new year by beginning a serious, deep, intellectual, literary book, the kind only we seem to read. :)  But I don't think I read a single word on Wednesday, never mind anything improving. It's my own fault, since working at a university means a week off at the end of the year, and it's too easy to fritter that time way. But that's why our snow day-and-a-half was so welcome ... it was an extra gift of time, an extra deep breath before we rush back in.

But speaking of rushing, when I was getting my stuff together for work on Wednesday night, I realized I didn't have a bus book, and when I looked on my Nook to see what it might have to offer I found Agatha Christie's The Murder at the Vicarage.  Who knew?  It must have been a freebie at some time and since the books you download from B&N end up in a different folder from the ones you get from the library, I had forgotten it was there.  {But so is Miss Buncle's Book, thanks to lovely Bellezza!}

The Miss Marples and Hercule Poirots were always some of my favorite Mystery! programs,  so it's suprising that I haven't read more Agatha Christie. I'm curious -- have you read her?  I looked in my notebook, and found I'd only read five of them, and none of them were Miss Ms. {It reminds me of a comment I oncc read about Jane Austen, something about how she's everyone's favorite author even though most of those people haven't actually read her books.}   Since this is the first Miss Marple, it's the perfect book to read first in the new year, don't you think? :) Can we pretend I planned it that way?

The Murder at the Vicarage is narrated by Mr. Clement, the Vicar, who is married to the charming, slightly flighty and much younger Griselda, uncle to Dennis, a mystery-loving sixteen-year-old, and employer to Mary, their unpleasant servant and terrible cook.  The victim is nasty Colonel Protheroe, who lives at the Old Hall with his lovely wife Anne and his floaty, wraithlike, 'morally colour-blind' daughter, Lettice. We also meet Lawrence Redding, an attractive young artist, sensible but troubled Dr. Haydock, troubled but not sensible Mr. Hawes, the curate, the archaelogist Dr. Stone and his secretary, Miss Cram, and Inspector Slack.  And, of course, the neighbor ladies {Miss Marple is just one of half a dozen}.

No one is especially surprised when Colonel Protheroe is shot in the head, but everyone confesses, or has a motive, and there are a lot of red herrings.  I, true to form, guessed right away who it was, only to have chosen the last false suspect in the book. :)

Two things I noticed right away:  how good Agatha Christie is at sketching in her characters, so they are all distinct, even when there are so many of them, and how, if I was reading this in 1930, or now, I would already be looking forward to the next Miss Marple.

{The audiobook cued up on my Ipod -- a Georgette Heyer -- is equally 'light' but equally enjoyable, and since I might actually venture outside today for the first time in 48 hours, when it warms up into the 20s, and it will be good company on my walk to the grocery store and the library.}

I hope your new year - whatever you're reading -- is off to as nice of a start. :)


Lisa said...

There were a couple of years when I think I read very little besides Agatha Christie. I even read the Parker Pyne stories - scraping the bottom of the Christie barrel (not to say they're bad, just obscure). But the Miss Marples I've read don't stick out in my mind like the Poirots, or the Tommy & Tuppence books (my favorites).

I've grown to appreciate Sprig Muslin more lately. It's one of the quieter stories, I think.

Frances said...

This is a great Christie. I love the disparity between people's perceptions of Miss Marple and the reality of her wry, wise self. What a lucky forgotten book to have found!

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