The Murder at the Vicarage

Rating: 5 out of 5.
the murder at the vicarage book cover

Agatha Christie, 1930 – Miss Marple #1

When Miss Marple made her first appearance,  Hercule Poirot had been solving crimes for a few years already.  I read Miss Marple first, though, so I always think of this book as a starting point for those being introduced to Agatha Christie’s work.

Mr. Clement, the vicar whose first-person voice narrates the mystery, is witty, kind, and generally mildly irritated with his much younger wife Griselda.  Other characters include the obnoxious Colonel Protheroe, his wife Anne, daughter Lettice, Dr. Haydock,  archaeologist Dr. Stone and his  “secretary” Miss Cram, Hawes, the church curate, artist Lawrence Redding, Inspector Slack and the Chief Constable, Colonel Melchett.

Also present is a Greek chorus of single ladies of a certain age, one of whom is Miss Marple.  The voices and actions of these characters, as filtered through the voice of Mr. Clement, are indistinguishable from each other in the eyes of the other characters. Miss Marple soon distinguishes herself of course, by solving the murder.

This story is written with charm and wit; Miss Christie writes a male main character very convincingly in Mr. Clement. In contrast with modern cozies, the characters are presented only in the context of the crime committed, which means the plot moves along briskly – the dialoge is fast-paced and events evolved quickly.  It’s a sort of cross between a modern cozy and a game of Clue.  As this is a dialogue-driven work, I scored more for plot and less for world-building.

Miss Christie had a little fun with the names of some of the characters; can you guess which ones?

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