Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Agatha Christie, Murder at the Vicaage

Agatha Christie, Murder at the Vicaage
© 1930 Dodd, Mead and Company
Copyright renewed © 1958 Agatha Christie Mallowan
This edition published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
ISBN 0-7394-0354-0

(I’m continuing to read Agatha Christie in preparation for the Road Scholar program we will be attending in a little while.)

Ten years after the debut of Hercule Poirot, Christie introduced her other primary sleuth, Miss Jane Marple (an unmarried woman of uncertain age, living in St. Mary Mead, but eventually travelling widely and encountering murder everywhere she goes).  This story is narrated by the vicar of the Anglican church in the village, Mr. Clement.  As the narrative begins, Mr. Clement is awaiting—not happily—a meeting with Col. Protheroe that evening, at 6:15.  The meeting involves the insistence by one of the parishioners that the £1 note she had left in the collection late was apparently stolen and replaced by a 10 shilling note.  However, Mr. Clement is called away, and, by the time he returns, Col. Protheroe has been shot (in the study) while awaiting the vicar’s return.

As usual in any small village lived in or visited by Miss Marple, nothing, and no relationships, are simple.  It appears that Col. Protheroe’s wife (Anne) is not very happy in her marriage, that his daughter by a former marriage (Lettice) is even less happy, that Lawrence Redding (an artist) is infatuated with Anne, and that’s just to skin the surface.  Redding almost immediately confesses, but it quickly becomes apparent that things did not happen as he clams.  The time of death (as determined by the local doctor) and a note left by the colonel for the vicar don’t seem to match up.  As the official forces of law and order (Inspector Slack and the chief constable, Major Melchett) pursue their investigations, Mr. Clement becomes deeply involved as well.

What’s interesting is that Miss Marple’s appearances are few, and brief, until the denouement, when she is able to unravel the various lies, misstatements, and complexities of the situation.  I actually do not know of another mystery in which the person who turns out to be the one who solves the crime has a little to do for most of the book.  Another interesting aspect of the life of St. Mary Mead, at least in this book, is the relative unimportance of the men in the community.  While they are present, the dominant presences were, for me, the women of the village.

Miss Marple is here as she will continue to be—elderly (more or less), occasionally inclined to dither, but fundamentally a keen student of human nature and observer of events around her.  This might, in fact, be one of the very best of the Miss Marple books.


  1. I am curious to which Road Scholar program you will be attending that you are reading Christie.

  2. Agatha Christie, Classic Film Mysteries, The Legacy of Sherlock Holmes
    October 28, 2018– November 02, 2018
    Program #22387

    It's in a conference center at a small college in Montreat, NC, starts October 28. $599, but you have to get there on your own.