Thursday, October 3, 2013

#BookReview--> Miss Marple #1 - Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie


"...anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe would be doing the world at large a service" remarked the Vicar of St. Mary Mead, Len Clement. But what he didn't anticipate at that time was the fact that this statement of his would come back to trouble him when Colonel Protheroe is found shot in his own library some hours later.

Colonel Protheroe is a thoroughly despised man. There is not one person in the whole village who likes him. His first wife left him, his daughter hates him and his second wife is also on the verge of running away from him! He is pompous, a self imposed authority on things he has little knowledge of and a little deaf too so that his voice is always loud. Therefore his death leaves everyone restless because it seems all have a motive for wanting him dead!

A place filled with old, nosy ladies who know the ins and outs of everyone there is Miss Marple who is the next door neighbor to the Vicar and who it seems has her own seven suspects who she thinks had perfect opportunity and motive to kill the Colonel. As she goes sleuthing, shocking secrets are revealed and what with everyone confessing to the murder, the police are left clueless and its up to Miss Marple to pick out the real murderer.

But can she find the real murderer or will she also find herself lost in the web of deception and lies surrounding the murder?

A classic first novel that introduces Miss Marple. I have lost count of the number of times I have read books by Agatha Christie and its no different with Murder at the Vicaragewhich has always intrigued and hooked me irrespective of all the times I have already read it!

I have always loved Christie's expertise at sketching her characters and this book also showcases her skill.
The character sketch of Miss Marple, who is compared to another busybody of the village Miss Wetherby, is very interesting and creates an instant picture of an old and frail grandmother like figure in our minds.

'Miss Marple is a white-haired old lady with a gentle, appealing manner - Miss Wetherby is a mixture of vinegar and gush. Of the two Miss Marple is much the more dangerous.'

This is the only book that has her sketched in a bad light. She is disliked by Griselda who describes her as "..the worst cat in the village..And she always knows every single thing that happens- and draws the worst inferences from it." Even the Vicar's nephew, Dennis calls her the "terrible Miss Marple".
In all her other novels she is always sketched as the very tame and perfectly harmless old spinster who is so old that often people thinking her a little gaga share their secrets never once suspecting that behind her facade of fragility is a mind most sharp and alert!

I also loved the character of Griselda, the Vicaress, who is introduced in a very engaging manner by the Vicar.
"My wife's name is Griselda- a highly suitable name for a parson's wife. But there the suitability ends. She is not in the least meek."

The narration is from the point of view of the Vicar and it adds a fresh perspective of a common spectator to the already very interesting plot. Though not the best Miss Marple case yet this is a very challenging case which exercises all the reader's investigative prowess.

But I think the most appealing aspect of this book which lures me again and again to read it is the humor in it. There is Griselda who is extra protective of her maid Mary, despite her being a terrible cook, because as long as she’s a bad cook nobody else will want to hire her! 
Then there are the old gossipy women who know everything about everyone and news through them spreads faster than even an eye blink!

As the Vicar aptly puts it
"It is a mystery to me how any one gets any nourishment in this place. They must eat their meals standing up by the window so as to be sure of not missing anything."

and "Miss Marple always sees everything. Gardening is as good as a smokescreen, and the habit of observing birds through powerful glasses can always be turned to account."

A typical Christie mystery where any and everyone is a suspect and when the real culprit comes to light at the end its always someone who was as far down in our list of possible murderers as expecting snow to fall in the summers! :)

I give Murder at the Vicarage4.2 out of 5 and recommend that you read and meet the enigmatic Miss Marple as she solves her first case. :)

"Miss Marple is not the type of elderly lady who  makes mistakes. She has got an uncanny knack of being always right."

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