My mother has always preferred Miss Marple to Hercule Poirot (and I seem to recall reading that even the author herself found M. Poirot insufferable at times). Although I don’t mind the Belgian’s arrogance for the most part, it was great fun to go sleuthing with Miss Marple for a change. In this lovely novel, I got to watch Miss Marple solve her first case!
When Agatha Christie first introduced Hercule Poirot in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, it was as a world renowned detective with numerous cases already to his credit. But when we meet Miss Marple in Murder at the Vicarage, the Vicar describes her as “a white-haired old lady with a gentle appealing manner” (although his wife, Griselda, calls her “the worst cat in the village” who “always knows every single thing that happens–and draws the worst inferences from it”). So if you were reading this novel hot off the press in 1930, you would have no idea that one of the four old ladies attending Griselda’s “Tea and Scandal” on Wednesday afternoon would solve the murder of Colonel Protheroe.
The entire novel is narrated by the Vicar, Mr. Clement. With the murder occurring under his roof and with Miss Marple’s home being located next to the Vicarage, it is plausible that he would be able to impart most of the clues the reader would need. Mr. Clement is also an interesting character in his own right with a delightful sense of humor. Indeed, I found myself laughing out loud in various chapters. The Vicar is a fascinating lense through which to view both the ordinary and the not-so-ordinary events in the little village of St. Mary Mead.
My Synopsis: Colonel Protheroe’s particular lack of charity combined with an inordinate stubbornness to make him one of the more unpleasent residents of St. Mary Mead. Even the saintly vicar, remarked that “anyone who murdered the Colonel would be doing the world at large a great service.” Unfortunately, the vicar entered his study the next evening to find that someone had done just that! As Inspector Slack investigates the crime, he finds that the more evidence he uncovers, the more difficult it becomes to single out any one suspect. But the vicar’s spinster neighbor is a “noticing kind of person” whose self-professed hobby is Human Nature, and Miss Marple is eager to test her skills on St. Mary Mead’s biggest mystery to date!
First line: 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.
I would recommend this book to: Anyone who enjoys a slice of English village life with their murder mysteries.
Would I read it again: Definitely.
My personal rating: 4 out 5