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Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Miss Marple Stories, by Agatha Christie, Reviewed

Iconic, much adapted for film and TV, these tales have been around a while and many people have taken pleasure from them in this form. But, until now, I’d not read a single one. This collection both introduces and develops the character (I met one of the original actors, Joan Hickson, whilst working on an article with her son, Nick, when she lived in Wivenhoe. Very private and reserved lady.)
Joan Hickson
Joan Hickson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What I hadn’t appreciated was that the written stories actually distance Miss Marple from most of the events and take the form of tales told at her house. She then interprets the facts from what she’s been told and develops her theories from there. The adaptations generally set her amongst the action, sometime even placing her in danger, but the written stories tend not to do that at all.

The tales are written in Christies no-nonsense, straightforward style. There are no pretentions to literary greatness here, just mysteries set out in simple terms. Very much of their time, they reveal the contemporary prejudices and values of the protagonists. The village setting could have been claustrophobic, but Christie’s ability to connect the locality with the wider world enables the reader to see the ubiquity of human nature.  And it is human nature that most features in these tales.

A gentle and undemanding read. Something to while away a few hours in a country house hotel or on a day at the beach, sitting in a deck chair and drinking tea. Very comfortable.

I enjoyed the read and recommend it to those who’ve seen the better adaptations and enjoyed their mix of gentle humour and cosy crime. Worth dipping into, I think.

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