Murder at the Vicarage. A Miss Marple Mystery. Agatha Christie. 1930/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 288 pages.
It is difficult to know quite where to begin this story, but I have fixed my choice on a certain Wednesday at luncheon at the Vicarage. The conversation, though in the main irrelevant to the matter in hand, yet contained one or two suggestive incidents which influenced later developments.
Murder at the Vicarage is the first Agatha Christie novel starring Miss Marple. And it was a delight. A pure and simple delight. It is narrated by the vicar, a Mr. Clement. His narrative was just right--for me. It was a perfect blend of humor and charm. And, of course, suspense! Mr. Clement is shocked to discover a dead man in his study. Colonel Protheroe had his moments--he's a man most would find difficult to live with. But no one *really* expected him to be murdered! He was supposed to be having a private meeting with the vicar that evening. But a phone call changes all that...
Inspector Slack is the "official" detective on the case. The man responsible for solving this crime and bringing the murderer to justice....
Chapter by chapter, readers find clues. Can they guess the identity of the murderer before Miss Marple's big reveal?
I found both Mr. Clement and Miss Marple charming. I just LOVED the characterization in this one. The humor, the wit, the drama. It was just a satisfying read.
Here are some of my favorite lines:
"Dear Vicar," said Miss Marple, "you are so unworldly. I'm afraid that, observing human nature for as long as I have done, one gets not to expect very much from it. I daresay idle tittle-tattle is very wrong and unkind, but it is so often true, isn't it?" (23)
Thursday started badly. Two of the ladies of my parish elected to quarrel about the church decorations. I was called in to adjudicate between two middle-aged ladies, each of whom was literally trembling with rage. If it had not been so painful, it would have been quite an interesting physical phenomenon. (40)
"Ah!" said Miss Marple. "But I always find it prudent to suspect everybody just a little. What I say is, you really never know, do you?" (154)
"I remember a saying of my Great Aunt Fanny's. I was sixteen at the time and thought it particularly foolish."
"Yes?" I inquired.
"She used to say, "The young people think the old people are fools--but the old people know the young people are fools!" (282)
At that moment Anne Protheroe entered the room.
She was dressed very quietly in black. She carried in her hand a Sunday paper, which she held out to me with a rueful glance.
"I've never had any experience of this sort of thing. It's pretty ghastly, isn't it? I saw a reporter at the inquest. I just said that I was terribly upset and had nothing to say, and then he asked me if I wasn't anxious to find my husband's murderer, and I said 'Yes.' And then whether I had any suspicions and I said 'No.' And where I didn't think the crime showed local knowledge, and I said it seemed to, certainly. And that was all. And now look at this!"
In the middle of the page was a photograph, evidently taken at least ten years ago--Heaven knows where they had dug it out. There were large headlines.
WIDOW DECLARES SHE WILL NEVER REST TILL SHE HAS HUNTED DOWN HUSBAND'S MURDERER.
Mrs. Protheroe, the widow, of the murdered man, is certain that the murderer must be looked for locally. She has suspicions but no certainty. She declared herself prostrated with grief, but reiterated her determination to hunt down the murderer.
"It doesn't sound like me, does it?" said Anne.
"I daresay it might have been worse," I said handing back the paper. (201-02)
© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews