Saturday, January 19, 2013

Murder at the Vicarage: Agatha Christie

This novel is the first in the Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie and was published in 1930. The story is set in the village of St. Mary Mead. A very unpopular resident of the village is murdered in the vicar's study. The vicar, and Miss Marple, get involved in figuring out who the murderer could be.

Mysteries by Agatha Christie are hard to review. Christie is so well known and so revered that it is hard to add anything new. I am on a quest to read one Agatha Christie novel a month this year, and discover what I like and dislike about her novels. I have read only four of her novels (including this one) in the last few years, and I enjoyed three of them. Very encouraging. (The one I did not enjoy was her first published novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.)

It has been so long since I read a Miss Marple mystery that I don't remember which ones I read, how many, or anything about the stories. I was surprised to find that this one was told in first person, and also that there were no further Miss Marple mysteries for another twelve years. A book of short stories was published in 1932, and six of those stories were actually written and published prior to the publication of Murder at the Vicarage.

This is part of a brief description of this book from Robert Barnard, in his book, A Talent to Deceive:
Our first glimpse of St Mary Mead, a hotbed of burglary, impersonation, adultery and ultimately murder. What is it precisely that people find so cosy about such stories?
I will be counting this book for the Cruisin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge, hosted by Socrates Book Reviews because it fits the definition perfectly. But I agree with Robert Barnard, this book describes the dark side of English village life.

What did I like?

I liked the way the story was told: first person narration by the Vicar. There is a lot of subtle humor. I enjoyed the relationship between the Vicar and his much younger wife.  The mystery was interesting. I did guess who did it, but I was never sure until the solution was revealed.

I was surprised, and delighted, to find that the Miss Marple in this book is not a sweet old woman. She is very perceptive and sees the evil that is hidden underneath the surface in the village. The vicar's wife describes her as a "nasty old cat." She also says... "That kind of old cat is always right."

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read for me.

I  read this book for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, hosted by  Mysteries In Paradise. If you are interested in joining in, here are instructions on how to do that.

Also submitted for the Vintage Mystery Challenge (Scene of the Crime).


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I find it hard to fault Christie's mysteries. I have liked all her books so far. I haven't read a Miss Marple novel in years and hope to read a few this year as part of my own AG challenge.

Anonymous said...

Tracy - You've hit on exactly the things that appealed to me about this book. It's interesting to have the first-person perspective of someone other than the sleuth, as it gives one some interesting insights into the sleuth. And in this case it works well. We see a different Miss Marple here (and I really like Miss Marple, so of course I like her sympathetically portrayed). I thought that was innovative, and the later novels show Miss Marple's evolution as a character. I do like the Vicar and his wife, too. Thanks for the reminder.

TracyK said...

Prashant, I hope you do read some Miss Marple books this year so I can read your thoughts on the books.

TracyK said...

Margot, I am trying to read the Christie books sort of in order, especially the series, although I may make exceptions. Whenever you mention a Christie mystery in your posts, they pique my interest to read those. So many to choose from. And I have copies of a lot of them.

Sarah said...

I like Christie's Miss Marple books a lot and I think this is one of the classics. As you say, it is one of her most well known and it is difficult to read it knowing that there is a legion of fans out there. I'll look forward to your future reviews.

TracyK said...

I can't decide which of Christie's books to read next. So far I haven't read one that has no series character.

Sarah said...

Try 'Crooked House'. It's one of my absolute favourite Christie's.

TracyK said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I will be on the lookout for that one. I have a lot her books that I have bought at book sales, but that is not one of them. Maybe I can find a vintage paperback with a nice cover, which is a bonus.

Bev Hankins said...

I love Agatha Christie--have done ever since moving to her mysteries from Nancy Drew (back in the mists of time). One thing I love about her is that it rarely spoils the book if you guess the culprit before the end--because, as you mention, you're never quite sure. Dame Agatha is quite likely to pull one more rabbit out of the hat and fool you yet.

Ryan said...

I have adored Agatha Christie since I was a kid, and think that even her "bad" books are better than most of the crap that comes out now. Glad you liked this one.

TracyK said...

I noticed that you have reviewed a lots of them on your blog. I don't remember which ones I read when I was younger, so I am rereading them all, but not necessarily in order. So far, I haven't hit a bad one.