Saturday, 14 March 2015

Review 2015 No. 9 | Miss Marple's Final Cases by Agatha Christie

  • Sanctuary
  • Strange Jest
  • Tape-Measure Murder
  • The Case of the Caretaker
  • The Case of the Perfect Maid
  • Miss Marple Tells a Story
  • The Dressmaker's Doll
  • In a Glass Darkly

Continuing with this year's theme, which is rapidly turning into a gameshow ("How Many Old Fictional Friends Can You Revisit In A Year"), this week I stuck with Christie but this time a Miss Marple. Originally only published in America in 1924, Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories is a collection of six short stories set, as is the case in The Labours of Hercules (see link below), towards the end of the detectives career. Two short supernaturals tales are also included at the end, sans Marple, as if an afterthought. The collection was published in the US first and then (posthumously) in the UK in 1979, and it shows. This is not the pinnacle of her work.

Miss Marple is a character you fall in love with. She's the favourite great-aunt that you will always have a place in your heart for. However she is shamelessly ill-utilised in these short stories. As in The Labours, Christie doesn't have the space for character and plot building,  the kind for which she is celebrated in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. The detective is used as a mere pawn, a plot device to tie up clues that would otherwise remain unresolved. In the two supernaturals Christie reveals herself scrabbling in the deep end, lacking the stylistic flair and practice to pull it off. In short, as a Miss Marple book this just doesn't cut it. But then it has quite some competition. The Final Cases are the lifetime's notes and unpublished papers of a serial wordsmith, the kind found lingering in the back of a writing desk. But why should that make it any less masterful?

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