Nemesis by Agatha Christie

NemesisMiss Marple met the millionaire Jason Rafiel on her trip to the Caribbean and, after reading of his death, is astounded to receive a message from beyond the grave asking her to look into an unspecified injustice. After receiving directions to join a group touring stately homes and gardens, Miss Marple begins to identify the crime that Rafiel wants her to look into – but it seems that others on the tour are also interested in the same events.

When one of her fellow tourists is crushed by a boulder, it seems that Miss Marple is on the right track – but that someone is determined to ensure that the past remains a secret.

Right – two provisos before we kick off with the review.

Number One: Yes, it’s another Miss Marple review. Over the course of the blog, I’ve covered five of them so far – you can access them via the Classic Bibliographies tab at the top of the page – and out of the five to date, only one of them – Sleeping Murder – was any good, and the most recent two – They Do It With Mirrors and A Caribbean Mystery – were very disappointing. And when the comments for the former of those two sparked off a discussion about the problems of another title, I thought it was time to take a good look at the series and see if the books that I remembered as good (A Caribbean Mystery was one of these) were still as good as I remembered.

Number Two: My previous review, Master Of Souls, may have been a little woolly due to having a painkiller-filled hospital visit in between reading the book and writing the review. Well, this one has the added perk of being read during that visit. Not sure if the copious amounts of (legal) drugs in my system helped or not…

This is the last Marple novel that Christie wrote and the format is a little different from the others, although not massively so. The primary difference is that Miss Marple is the focus of the entire book, rather than behaving like a piece of furniture that occasionally says something to remind you she’s there, so you get a lot of insight into the old dear. This is a huge plus point for the novel, because often Christie seemed to forget that Jane Marple had the potential to be an interesting character in herself, rather than hiding her behind her memories of that time little Billy in the village wet himself in church. If only she would stop referring to herself as an old pussy…

As for the mystery itself – well, Christie does her best, but the focus of the investigation becomes clear very quickly and the murderer is probably one of her least surprising. It’s got more of an emotional thump behind it than usual but that’s somewhat undermined by the lack of surprise – although it still beats They Do It With Mirrors by a mile…

The other, more worrying, issue is – what exactly was Jason Rafiel playing at? If he knew enough to put Miss Marple this close to the truth, why did he send her in with so little information? And more importantly, given how important it was to him, why did he wait until after he was dead. After all, someone close to him had been wrongfully imprisoned – why leave them until after Rafiel dies? Best not to think about it, really.

So overall, it’s a reasonable outing for Miss Marple and certainly one of the better of Christie’s later books, but it’s a bit obvious and, at times, a bit dull. Better than a number of other books in the series though. Recommended.

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About Puzzle Doctor

I'm a mathematician by nature and as such have always been drawn to the logical side of things. Hence my two main hobbies being classic mysteries and logical puzzling. Oh, and cats. No logic there, I'm afraid.
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19 Responses to Nemesis by Agatha Christie

  1. Santosh Iyer says:

    I found the book very dull.
    There are too many unnecessary long conversations and reflections.
    Take this example. When thinking about the 3 sisters, Miss Marple feels that anything thought of in threes somehow suggest a sinister atmosphere like the 3 witches of Macbeth. Then follows a lengthy paragraph of her thoughts on the 3 witches of Macbeth. This type of unnecessary padding is found throughout the book. While reading, I often felt like shouting, “ I don’t care a damn! Please get on with the story!”
    Another irritating factor was Miss Marple’s forgetfulness regarding names. Take this example:
    oh dear, she’d forgotten her name now—Miss—Miss Bishop?—no, not Miss Bishop. Oh dear, how difficult it was………..(after some lines) ”of course, it was Miss Knight I was thinking of. Not Miss Bishop. Why do I think of her as Miss Bishop? “ The answer came to her. Chess, of course. A chess piece. A knight. A bishop.
    There are several such instances.
    There are some things I just could not understand. Why did Rafiel make it so difficult for Marple to know what exactly he wanted her to do? What did the final victim know that he/she had to be silenced? How did the killer know that the final victim knew anything dangerous for the killer?

    There are some controversial remarks regarding rape made by some characters:
    “…it seemed to me highly unlikely that there was a very definite case of rape. Girls, you must remember, are far more ready to be raped nowadays than they used to be. Their mothers insist, very often, that they should call it rape. The girl in question had had several boyfriends who had gone further than friendship.”
    “Well, we all know what rape is nowadays. Mum tells the girl she’s got to accuse the young man of rape even if the young man hasn’t had much chance, with the girl at him all the time to come to the house while mum’s away at work or dad’s gone on holiday. Doesn’t stop badgering him until she’s forced him to sleep with her. Then, as I say, mum tells the girl to call it rape.”
    Previously, I wrote that They Do It With Mirrors and At Bertram’s Hotel are among the worst of Miss Marple. I regard this book also as among the worst.

  2. I must admit that I ended up liking it better after being appalled at how it was adapted for the ITV series but it’s very far away from one of the better Marples – sorry to hear you’ve been unwell chum – keep taking the tablets :)

  3. I agree it’s one of the weaker Christies, though I must say I thought A Caribbean Mystery was better. More importantly – get well soon!

  4. Tom Newsom says:

    I think you’d need painkillers to finish this book…

    I remember the writing style being dreadful and unstructured, very sadly for Agatha. The actual plot isn’t explained very well, and didn’t come to life for me at all. At least it features Miss Marple, which puts it a bit above her later, last ever books.
    I dunno about the TV versions, but I listened to the BBC’s audio play, and that seemed better. Perhaps because they spent more time on the final, meatier bits of mystery – or maybe just that I knew the plot already!

    Nice post though!

    • Cheers, Tom

      I think it helped that I read this after They Do It With Mirrors, which is so tediously obvious from the set-up that at least this had something to vaguely think about. Even though the killer seems obvious, I wasn’t sure whether I’d remembered it correctly from the first reading decades ago.

      Still on the hunt/re-read for that great Miss Marple story – the memory cheated with A Caribbean Mystery. Maybe I’ll have more luck with A Murder Is Announced or They Do It With Mirrors

      • Santosh Iyer says:

        In the last line, do you mean The Mirror Cracked ?

      • Oops. Thanks for catching that. No, I meant The Moving Finger. The Mirror Crack’d is too obvious – I solved it when I was 10 and it’s, iirc, a rehash of a better Marple. I will re read it, but with low expectations.

      • Santosh Iyer says:

        A rehash of a better Marple? I don’t recollect any Marple similar to The Mirror Cracked.

      • On a very basic level, the idea is remarkably similar to one of the other books mentioned (quite a lot) in this post. At least it seemed so to me – haven’t read either for a long time…

      • Santosh Iyer says:

        I understand now which novel you are referring to. However, the similarity is only on a very basic level. There is a lot of differences between the two. The motives and the methods of murder are all different. The plot of the other novel is much more complicated and has too many coincidences.One cannot be regarded as a rehash of the other.

      • But it’s enough of one to help me easily spot the murderer when I read The Mirror Crack’d – so that’s enough of a link for me.

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