“Nothing is ever what it seems but everything is exactly what it is.” – B. Banzai.
This quote, in my opinion, about sums up some of the best works of Agatha Christie. The murder mysteries penned by this author never fail to enthral me and always leave me pining for more. Her plots have a reputation for ingenuity – what seems to be an impossible murder at first is unravelled and explained quite simply by the principal “detective(s)” at the end.
The Murder At the Vicarage is the first book to feature Miss Marple, the elderly spinster with a “flair for justice” (as per Mr. Rafiel’s letter in the Nemesis). As in other works, she is portayed as a shrewd old lady with a keen sense of observation and the rather trying habit of drawing parallels for every other occurence, from her past experiences. Labelled an “old pussy” (thanks to her keen interest in the lives of people around her) by the inhabitants of her resident village, St. Mary Mead, she is shown to be an excellent judge of human character and thus, a master crime solver. This book is set in the English village of St. Mary Mead and is narrated by the village’s Vicar. It tells the story of the murder of one, Colonel Protheroe and the subsequent investigation of the crime. The colonel is found shot dead in the Vicar’s study. Thus, the inhabitants of the normally sedentary village, suddenly find themselves in the midst of a sensational crime. As usual, there is more than one person with a motive for murder. To add to the confusion of the police, more than one person confesses to the crime. Miss Marple becomes an important witness, with her house being next door and thus takes a natural interest in the affair.
As is usual with all Agatha Christie books, there are a set of interesting characters, who go about acting sufficiently suspiscious – there is the “vague” Lettice Protheroe, the strange and ill curate, Mr. Hawes and the even more mysterious Mrs. Lestrange (mysterious due to her background – which no one seems to know about). Thus, there are sufficient “goings on” and incidents to keep the reader hooked. However, as is typical with Agatha Christie books, most of the “detecting” is done by means of conversation and the use of “little gray cells” as Hercule Poirot would say. So, it may not appeal to those looking for fast paced, action packed thrillers.