Last week I recommended mystery novels featuring Hercule Poirot. This week we turn to books starring Miss Jane Marple, another of Agatha Christie’s famous detective creations.
The conceit of Miss Marple is that since she is very old and dresses in an old-fashioned way, and sits around knitting, those around her tend to vastly underestimate her mental prowess. They do not realize that while she knits, Miss Marple listens extremely carefully. When she gardens, she sees everyone who passes by in her “little village of St. Mary Mead” (which has an extraordinary amount of crime, I must say). The lessons she learns about human nature in her village she then applies to solving murders.
These are my favorites:
Murder at the Vicarage (1930) Colonel Protheroe is despised by everyone in town. When he is found dead in the vicar’s study, two people confess to the crime. Which of them did it? And why does Miss Marple think it was neither one?
The Tuesday Club Murders (also titled The Thirteen Problems) (1932) A collection of 13 short stories in which friends of Miss Marple gather to tell of thrilling mysteries they have encountered in the past. Could it be that the unassuming old lady knitting in the corner will figure out the answer to every puzzle?
Sleeping Murder (written 1946; first published 1976) Gwenda Reed is recently married, and is in England for the first time searching for a house. She chooses a home which she immediately connects with. However, over the next few weeks, her feelings of connectedness become spooky, as she knows secrets about the house: where a door used to be before it was moved, and what the wallpaper was like in a certain room before it was painted over. Has she been here before, or is she simply going crazy? And what do her memories mean, of a woman who had been killed in the house?