Murder is bloody fun
ONE of the joys of life is to read murder stories by Agatha Christie and to try to figure out the murderer before Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot does. Over the years I must have read several dozens and because I have also forgotten a great many of them, I feel again the delight of the hunt when I re-read them.
In 2013, the Folio Society in Britain reprinted a four-volume Miss Marple set. Unlike paperback editions with their sawdust paper and miserable printing, Folio books are beautifully illustrated and beautifully produced. To hold and caress the pages is sheer pleasure!
Each of Agatha Christie’s stories is not meant to be read in one sitting. When the first dead body is discovered (there will be more than one), the excitement begins. You have to proceed cautiously, pondering over each episode in the story, and noting carefully the comments of the various characters, all the while asking, “Is he or she the one?”
When you have read several of her novels you will begin to see a pattern in the way Agatha Christie misdirects you. First she presents an “obvious” suspect with the best motive and opportunity to kill. Then she gives you convincing reasons that this suspect is most unlikely to be the murderer. So you look elsehwere, only to be told by Miss Marple at the ending that the first chap is after all the killer.
Early on in the story, someone would make a casual comment that holds the key to the identity of the guilty person. Unfortunately, it is “hidden in plain sight” among many other similar comments. When Miss Marple summarises the case and explains her reasoning, she will mention that this comment provides the first clue in her investigation. If only you were as mindful as her, you too would have noted it and solved the mystery way before you’ve read the last chapter.
Colonel Protheroe was lying sprawled across my writing table in a horrible unnatural position. There was a pool of some dark fluid on the desk by his head, and it was slowly dripping on to the floor with a horrible drip, drip, drip. I pulled myself together and went across to him. His skin was cold to the touch. The hand that I raised fell back lifeless. The man was dead – shot through the head.
Miss Marple set reprint by Folio Society 2013: from left, Murder at the Vicarage (first published in 1930), A Pocket Full of Rye (top), The Body in the Library, and Sleeping Murder (right)