Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

August Books 30) The Murder at the Vicarage, by Agatha Christie

This is my seventh Agatha Christie novel, and the first Miss Marple book - both the first I have come to as I work through the Christie canon in order of LibraryThing popularity, and the first published of the twelve. Coming to it so soon after the first Poirot mystery, which was also Christie's first novel, written fourteen years earlier, I felt that she was deliberately revisiting and reversing some of the elements from the previous book - the victim is the gentleman of the Big House, rather than its lady, and is shot, rather than poisoned; there is a similar gender reversal in the identities of the obvious suspects (victim's unfaithful spouse, victim's spouse's lover); the detective is a long-term resident of the village who emerges almost from nowhere to put the solution together rather than a celebrity detective who happens to be on the scene and whose every move is tracked by the narrator. I don't know if Christie always intended to make Miss Marple a long-term investment, but I do get the feeling that she was wanting to set up a new central character and do it better this time.

The above differences apart, the story is largely the same as Styles, only now much more polished and rounded, with a certain amount of humour - vicars and old ladies are intrinsically humorous, after all, yet it takes a fairly practised touch to merge them with the gruesome details of homicide as Christie does here. The narrator is the vicar, and there is a nice contrast between his well-meaning but not terribly effective efforts at pastoral care of his village (and indeed his own household) and the more knowledgeable guardians of the village, led by Miss Marple. The only flaw is that the climax is somewhat muffed, in that the perpetrators are whisked demurely off-stage, before one can get into such ungenteel topics as the justice system. But overall this was better than I had expected.
Tags: bookblog 2013, writer: agatha christie
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