Who doesn’t love a good mystery? I know I do, and yet somehow I’ve not actually read a great deal of Agatha Christie. I admit, not reading Agatha Christie when you enjoy mysteries basically borders on foolish, doesn’t it? This particularly gorgeous Folio Society edition of the Miss Marple short stories was too appealing to ignore when it came to buying it but, as is too often the case, I didn’t actually get around to reading it until a few years later.
I have to admit never having watched the Miss Marple TV shows (same is true for Poirot, although I’m looking forward to seeing the new Murder on the Orient Express movie soon). I’m not sure why, but they just didn’t appeal. The same cannot be said of the books.
This collection includes all of the short stories, my favourite of which was probably either The Idol House of Astarte, a story where the baddies trick the goodies into believing an old grove is cursed in order to get away with their evil plot. Or, another good one was Strange Jest, in which an old uncle’s sense of humour nearly costs his niece and nephew their inheritance.
The stories are all very twee, Marple sits listening as she knits, very prim and proper and then, when no one else seems to be able to solve the mystery, she proclaims it to be obvious and lets them know what they’ve all missed. Like Sherlock Holmes but without any need for all that nonsense with the opium and the violin.
Possibly the tweeness is what, in the end, meant that I didn’t enjoy them quite as much as I expected to. Or perhaps it’s because they’re short stories, which I never find myself enjoying as much as I enjoy full novels. They’re all very picturesque and, in some ways soothing to the soul but, given that they’re (mostly) murder mysteries, I can’t help that feel that much happens. Much is made about the fact that Marple is a little old lady who has always lived in a village and that it’s so surprising that she seems to know so much about murderers. It is surprising, but somehow the feeling of sleepy village life comes through anyway.
These are comfortable stories. Fun, nonetheless, and I enjoyed puzzling over the solutions to each mystery before reading on to find the answer, but they’re more cosy than riveting.