Jerry and Joanna Burton have relocated to the village of Lymstock to recover, he from injuries received in a plane crash, she from a failed relationship. Unfortunately, they don’t realise that they’re in an Agatha Christie novel, and that the village’s women are being plagued by a series of poison pen letters. Needless to say, things escalate as the wife of the local solicitor commits suicide and when another girl dies, it falls to Jerry to sort things out. Well, until a certain little old lady shows up…
The third Miss Marple book, following The Murder At The Vicarage and The Body In The Library, this is another review in my re-evaluation of the Miss Marple mysteries. So far, I’ve actually been rather disappointed with the re-reads so far. Is this the one to break the pattern?
It’s interesting to note the dates of the Miss Marple books – the first (Vicarage) was written in 1930 but the second (Library) turned up twelve years later. This one turned up the following year, so presumably she’d become popular. But you could make a good case that this isn’t really a Miss Marple book – because she’s hardly in it. The joys of my Kindle tells me that it’s 74% of the way through the book before she shows up, and even then she’s only in three or four scenes.
If I was Jerry Burton, I’d be pretty cheesed off. He’s clearly set up to be the hero of the piece and, while he doesn’t do much detection, he’s vaguely on the right track, when he’s not distracted by his slightly creepy romance with a young lady in the village. Once Miss Marple turns up (and basically spots the murderer immediately), he starts blundering around like an idiot, poor chap.
As for the mystery, it’s one of times where the critical “look at one event in the right way to solve it” isn’t as obvious as in some of her other books. I remember that when I read it the first time, I felt that I was being clever that I’d solved it, rather than that the book was being obvious.
Having said that, there’s some misdirection that is used far too many times which does kind of point to the murderer with a flashing neon sign. But it’s still one of the better books that Miss Marple (briefly) appears in.
Definitely worth reading, although it might have been better if Miss Marple hadn’t shown up. I wonder why Dame Agatha put her in it – could she have generated such a following after only two books?