I have always wanted to dabble with a bit of Miss Marple. Even though I work in criminal law, funnily enough crime/detective fiction has never really appealed (perhaps a bit too close to reality!) For 2012, I thought it was about time that changed and, seeing Agatha Christie’s The Murder at the Vicarage peeking out on the trestle table of a local charity shop, I took it as a sign and snaffled it up. (for just 50p!)
The quaintly named village of St Mary Mead is home to Miss Jane Marple; avid gardener, gossip and busybody extraordinaire. Joined by a colourful cast of clucking spinsters, wayward artists and gruff country folk, local vicar Leonard Clement narrates a sinister tale; Colonel Lucius Protheroe has been murdered, shot through the head in the Vicar’s very own study. An intensely disliked figure, Clement and Marple lead the charge in discovering who, out of Protheroe’s many enemies, could have had the gumption to sneak into the heart of the community and take the lethal shot…
Luckily, Agatha Christie was everything I expected/hoped for and more. Although not a high brow literary affair (who NEEDS that over the holidays anyway!?) Christie is a classic of crime/detective fiction, or, as I prefer to categorise these kind of stories – the ‘WHODUNNIT’ canon – and is basically just a bit of fun. The characters are hilarious and I imagine have helped fuel many stereotypes of more recent fiction/comedies/sitcoms, etc – i.e; the bungling police officer (Detective Slack – slack by name, slack by nature!), the harmless local tart, respectful parson and, of course, our favourite busybody. Murder becomes a delightful Cluedo mystery and the crudely drawn maps and plans of the village merely add to the quaintness and fun of it all. Great thing is, despite the highly formulaic plot, I still didn’t guess whodunnit! I have always been absolutely rubbish (unlike Mummy Relish) at dissecting the plots of books and films (the only person in the cinema who was shocked at The Sixth Sense…) and my ignorance makes the entertainment of The Murder at the Vicarage all the more thrilling.
Only thing I didn’t like Agatha – please stop trying to tell me just how logical and wonderful gentlemen are in comparison with their female companions – I know you’re a 1930s girl but I am a modern lady after all and it did start to bug me towards the end!