Reading: Miss Marple

Reading: Miss Marple

There’s a reason why Agatha Christie’s books are the best-selling books after the Bible and Shakespeare. Her character creation has made two of the most well-known detectives in the world: Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Although I was introduced to Poirot early on, it was only by sheer accident that I ended up reading my first Miss Marple.

I love buying books at used bookstores as I hate the idea of books being thrown away, or worse, burned, in order to make way for new ones. By buying books at used bookstores, you can discover some of the best fiction for a quarter (sometimes literally just a quarter cent piece) of the price, too.

Many, many years ago, I picked up a copy of Murder on the Links, a Poirot mystery (one of my favorites), without opening the book first. I quickly learned that one should ALWAYS open the book first, as when I opened it to begin reading, I was confused by the title page, which read: “Murder at the Vicarage, a Miss Marple mystery.” I figured this must be a mistake and began reading the book. But the book within the cover was definitely Murder at the Vicarage, the first Miss Marple novel, and not a Poirot mystery.

I so enjoyed the book I decided to read more of her, but unfortunately didn’t get around to it until this past year, when I discovered, much to my delight, that I could download audiobooks through my library, which meant I no longer had to find a CD player or take the time to return them. My favorite reader of Miss Marple, thus far, is Emilia Fox who performs Miss Marple’s stories with varied and distinctive voices. In fact, when I read Miss Marple books myself it is Emilia Fox’s voice for Miss Marple that I now hear in my head!

What I like most about Miss Marple is that she solves mysteries by realizing there’s nothing new under the sun.

In The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, Miss Marple notes, “The new world was the same as the old. The houses were different, …the clothes were different, the voices were different, but the human beings were the same as they always had been. And though using slightly different phraseology, the subjects of conversation were the same.” Later she continues saying, “They aren’t really new subjects. It’s human nature I’m interested in, you know. And human nature is much the same whether it’s film stars or hospital nurses or people in St. Mary Mead.”

To that end, Miss Marple often remembers a similar story that happened before, since she’s a lady of advanced years, and, therefore, has encountered so very many people in the world that she’s bound to come across someone who reminds her of someone from long ago.

In A Caribbean Mystery she makes a another remark which I found incredibly worth remembering for writing my own mysteries: “It is never easy to repeat a conversation and be entirely accurate in what the other party to it has said. One is always inclined to jump at what you think they meant. Then, afterwards, you put actual words into their mouths.”

In this way, Christie seems to be remarking on something that is often a complaint by readers unfamiliar with mystery writing. In books, characters are always capable of recalling to mind an important conversation word-for-word, when real-life police officers will tell you quite honestly that eyewitness accounts are never as accurate in reality.

But by far my favorite quote thus far from a Miss Marple mystery was this description of a woman in The Moving Finger: “She would have been a very nice horse with a little bit of grooming.” Ha!

If you haven’t discovered the marvelous mind of Miss Marple, I highly recommend you pick her up today!

One Reply to “Reading: Miss Marple”

  1. What an interesting point to use when I write now. Thank you! “What I like most about Miss Marple is that she solves mysteries by realizing there’s nothing new under the sun.”

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