The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Much as I love Miss Marple? I'm sorry to say, met in short story form? Miss Marple can seem a rather supercilious old biddy. The genius of Marple in the novels is in her God-like passivity; in the small universe of St. Mary Mead, Marple hears all, knows all, remembers and puts all to rights, usually without so much as dropping a stitch or burning her chop. There's as surprisingly little Marple in a Marple novel as there is Jehovah in the New Testament; she is felt, understood to be watching, and promises judgment in the end, but mostly we see very little of... Her? This cleverly allows Christie to use all her comic gifts -- which are considerable -- to satirize her beloved English types: bloated, retired Colonels and their drinky wives, village gossips and sinister, plain-spoken children, bumbling local police and pompous experts brought in from Scotland Yard.
With Poirot, the world's most famous consulting detective, save one, Christie has to keep mostly to London and or the upper-class environs of the resort and the big country house where Poirot's clients likely might be. This is a shame, as I suspect Christie is actually much more comfortable among the upper-middle; the academics, duffers and doggy spinsters that fit so much more comfortably into village life than San Tropez. (Thus Poirot's reliance not on servants as such, since they are nearly working class and hence embarrassingly inscrutable -- to Christie at least -- as well as notoriously emotional if female and truculent if male, but rather on that substrata of upper-class life comprised of tutors and governesses, paid companions and private secretaries; decent, intelligent, sarcastic and slightly resentful, if respectably educated and middle class; Christie's people.)
Here are Marple short stories all with the common premise of a room full of folks swapping unsolved mysteries. Guess who solves the lot? Where Poirot fits better in at least a few short puzzles, and functions serviceably even when tightly wound, Miss Marple, confined to just the one drawing room, weirdly, all but ceases to be herself; here she seems a bit of an old pooh, sitting impassive over her knitting until so provoked to comment by the stupidity of everyone else present, she must finally speak up and put the lot of them, like just so many unruly children, in their proper place by providing the "obvious" solution to whatever the mystery under review. After doing this three or four times in a row, frankly, the old girl starts to sound a right old bitch, and I can't imagine the others agreeing to stick. Surely someone ought to suggest she just chime right in before letting the rest make such fools of themselves?
This is still Christie, so there's fun to be had, and some of the stories and solutions are considerably better than others, but I'm convinced now that Miss Marple, for me at least, needs more room in which to not move around much.
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