This one’s a bit harder than Poirot because, believe it or not, Agatha Christie only wrote twelve novels featuring her little old lady sleuth. However, for good reason, they remain some of her most popular books. They are all very easy reads, full of gentle humour and clever mysteries. I think part of the appeal of these books is that the mysteries are very fair – you can usually work it out with a Marple book, if you can work out which direction to look in.
UPDATE: At the moment, for no particular reason, I’m re-reading the Marple books and am finding that the memory has cheated somewhat. I think that when I’m done, this list will be re-done. Still confident about the top three, but pretty sure that Nemesis won’t make the cut next time.
1. A Murder is Announced
Everyone in the village is invited anonymously to a country house to see a murder. A masked man appears but then after the lights go off and a shot is fired, the man himself is found dead. An excellent piece of misdirection, highly recommended.
2. A Pocket Full of Rye
A banker is found poisoned in his office, the poison being administrated at breakfast at his family home. For some reason, his suit pocket is full of rye. More murders follow, until Miss Marple spots the pattern. To be honest, you feel the link to the nursery rhyme is simply to give the book a good title, but it’s a cracking mystery which again makes perfect sense.
3. The Moving Finger
Poison pen letters are all over the place in a village, which eventually lead to murder, obviously. There’s a lovely example of a clue that means something different to what you are supposed to think it does – if you get it, then everything falls into place.
Something a little different – Miss Marple takes a road trip (well, coach trip) on the bequest of an old friend to investigate a mysterious death. Slightly reminiscent of Sleeping Murder (written earlier, but published later) but I prefer this one. UPDATE: OK, I’ve now re-read both Nemesis and Sleeping Murder and Sleeping Murder is much better. When I redo this list, it’ll be on it in this slot.
Despite being completely out of her comfort zone, on holiday thanks to her rich nephew, this is an excellent show of deduction from Miss Marple. If your familiar with Christie’s tricks, this is a very solvable mystery, but that isn’t a bad thing.
One to miss – At Bertram’s Hotel. Marple turns up very late – you feel that Christie wrote this one and then someone asked her to put Miss Marple into it. The rest of the book isn’t very interesting either.
Overall, I’d say the standard of the Miss Marple books is on average higher than the Poirot ones. There’s only one that I didn’t enjoy and if you avoid At Bertram’s Hotel, then you’re guaranteed an excellent and, most importantly, fun read.
My dedicated Agatha Christie page has links to all of my Miss Marple reviews.