Time has moved on in St Mary Mead. Gossington Hall, once home to Colonel and Dolly Bantry (and once having a Body in its Library) has been sold to Marina Gregg, the much-married movie star. While hosting a drinks party to meet the important people of the area, and some less important people such as Heather Badcock, Marina freezes, looking utterly horrified, like, so Dolly Bantry suggests, The Lady Of Shallot.
“Out flew the web and floated wide-
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott.”
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Soon afterwards, Heather drops dead, poisoned after drinking from a glass destined for Marina herself. As the murder attempts continue and more deaths follow, it’s a good thing one thing hasn’t changed in St Mary Mead. There’s still a little old lady who knows one or two things about murder – if her carer will let her out of the house, that is…
One of the most popular posts on my blog is the Miss Marple Top Five – a list where this book doesn’t even get a mention. There’s a reason for this – my abiding memory of the first time that I read this one is that the central plot was a rehash of at least one other Christie novel that I had previously read. And as I’d read the other two books, this one failed to make an impression.
So, my second review in a row where I call my younger self an utter idiot.
This is a rather wonderful example of Christie’s writing. Not just her plotting, where she dangles countless clues to the truth of the matter under the reader’s nose, but in her characterisation as well. There’s a lot more Miss Marple than you usually get in one of her books, and her battle against the infirmity of encroaching old age is rather charming. Her non-antagonistic relationship with Chief Inspector Craddock (rather oddly referred to by his forename Dermot far too often) is rather sweet as well.
It’s rather odd that the next book she wrote after this was the deeply dull The Clocks, as this is one of the most readable of all of her mysteries. You could make a case that she could have developed some of the non-guilty parties a little more, and, as I said, the trick is an old one, but those are minor niggles. In fact, of the eight Marples re-read and reviewed to date, this is probably the best so far. Highly Recommended.