crap i have reread recently #2

murder by deathFive Complete Miss Marple Novels (Agatha Christie):  When I first became a reader I was a  huge fan of Nancy Drew; the first book I ever owned myself was The Secret of the Old Clock.  It was a Christmas present from my parents and quite possibly the best present I received from anyone ever.  It was, if you will, my gateway drug to that heady experience, reading for pleasure.  My dad was my enabler.  He was an avid reader (his tastes in those days tended toward John D. McDonald and Robert Ludlum) and when I developed my own habit he made sure I never wanted for books.   Once I made my way through most of the Nancy Drew books (and The Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown, etc.)  he handed me my first Agatha Christie book.  I’m sad to say I don’t remember which one it was.  I must have loved it though.  I think I read story she ever wrote and I loved all her detectives unreservedly: Hercule Poirot, Tommy and Tuppence, Harley Quin, Ariadne Oliver, and of course, Miss Jane Marple, the nosy old spinster who solves murders before tea.

Enough time has passed that I no longer really remember the details of any but the most iconic of Christie’s works (And Then There Were None/Ten Little Indians, Murder on the Orient Express, etc.) that I thought it might be nice to reread a novel or two of hers.  When someone I was buying something else from on eBay also had listed an inexpensive volume of Miss Marple novels I snapped it up and here we are.   This volume contains The Mirror Crack’d (1962), A Caribbean Mystery (1964), Nemesis (1971), What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! (1957), and The Body in the Library (1942).   These are mid to late era Marple stories (the first Marple novel was published in 1930) and for some odd reason they are not presented in chronological order in the collection.  So we have the somewhat unusual experience of seeing a frail Miss Marple who can no longer tend her own garden and who requires a live-in companion followed up by a somewhat more spry Miss Marple who wanders around the country side poking her nose into things.  Christie unfortunately describes her heroine as pink and fluffy on a regular basis, which I don’t remember at all from my earlier reading.  Miss Marple also seems a bit more nasty and judgmental than I recall; she actually comes across as not very pleasant a good bit of the time, even though everyone remarks constantly on how kind and selfless she is.   Perhaps I am at a stage in my life where the off-handed dismissal of older single women strikes a nerve but on the other hand, given her personality it doesn’t actually surprise me that Miss Marple is an older single woman.  (Meow.)

The stories themselves are a quick read and still entertaining.  The two chronologically earliest ones are the best possibly because Miss Marple is more mobile and a bit feistier.  Nemesis seems somewhat contrived; many parts of it require some suspension of disbelief.  The other two are just good solid mysteries, nothing too very special.  None of them are anything like the more modern detective stories I’ve dipped into in recent years, although they are every bit as blood-stained in their own genteel way.  Read back to back they are somewhat repetitive but this also has the advantage of more deeply sinking the reader into a time and place long gone.

When I read Christie in my younger days Hercule Poirot was my favorite of her detectives so I was curious to see my reaction to Jane Marple now that I myself am (ahem) an old spinster.  I remember when I was younger that Miss Marple never really seemed very geriatric and perhaps that was because she wasn’t really terribly old.  The internet informs me that she was 65 or so in her first novel and it is mentioned a couple of times in the current volume that she is an octogenarian.  So although Miss Marple is still safely past my sphere of experience we have gone from her being old enough to be my grandmother to being old enough to be my mother.  Perhaps in a couple of decades she and I will have something more to talk about.

Score:  You can’t go home again


~ by gun street girl on August 25, 2013.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: