20 April 2009

Review: THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE, Agatha Christie

Originally published in 1930, this edition is a Marple tie-in edition published by Harper Collins in 2005, to match up with the tele-movie starring Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple, Derek Jacobi as Colonel Protheroe, and Stephen Tompkinson as the Vicar, Leonard Clement, married to Griselda.
ISBN 0-00-719100-6, 380 pages.

Church warden Lucius Protheroe must have been the most unpopular man in St. Mary Mead. Even the Vicar had been heard to wish him dead. And now he was. Dead that is. And what's more shot while he was sitting at a writing table in the vicar's study.

It was more than a decade since there had been a murder in the village, before the vicar's time. Until this point Miss Jane Marple who lives right next door to the vicarage had only exercised her deductive skills on petty incidents. She has always believed the method she has developed could be used in a 'real' case and here is her chance. Between them Miss Marple and the vicar make a formidable sleuthing team.

This is Agatha Christie's first book with Miss Marple. Up until now she has seemed to be in search of a satisfactory protagonist, although Hercule Poirot has made 5 appearances. Indeed Miss Marple won't get another outing for another 12 years. In THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE the Vicar plays a similar role to Hastings with Poirot, and Watson with Holmes. However I did feel he was more of equal standing with Miss Marple.

THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE is written through the vicar's eyes, and at first we see Jane Marple as a village busybody, not particularly popular, and extremely observant. The vicar comes to appreciate that she misses very little. I wasn't convinced that Agatha Christie had quite settled on Miss Marple as her next sleuth. In fact, I wondered if she was thinking of a partnership, and indeed, the vicar and his wife appear in the next Miss Marple mystery THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY (1942).

I thought this, #10, the best in the Agatha Christie novels so far, but apparently it did not get a particularly good reception. A number of reviewers in 1930 said that it was far from her best.

Browse inside the book and read the first 5 chapters online.

My rating: 4.7


Dorte H said...

Wonderful cover!

I think I´ll have to use this one for my Cozy Mystery Challenge soon, especially because I live in the vicarage :D

Uriah Robinson said...

It is incredible that this was first published in the US in 55 instalments. What patience we had in the past.

BooksPlease said...

It's interesting that you thought it the best in the Agatha Christie novels so far but the contemporary reviews were so critical - too gossipy, Miss Marple should have discovered the murderer earlier and the ending an anti-climax!

I remember seeing Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple - in this and in others - and being rather disappointed at her portrayal. But then I'm a devoted Joan Hickson fan.

sally906 said...

I loved Murder at the Vicarage - was a favourite Christie of mine

Kerrie said...

The cover is wonderful isn't it? It really dates the book. My copy had a much more modern cover taken from the tv movie, with Geraldine McEwan, and is the one you can see on http://smikreviews.blogspot.com/

Kerrie said...

I missed seeing any information about it being serialised at first Norman. Are you sure? I can't find any mention.

Kerrie said...

I think in 1930 people may have been disappointed in her creation of a new detective. Miss Marple doesn't come over at first as a particularly nice person either. What I found so good about the novel was an unexpected complexity. It was also quite long by comparison with those that came earlier.

Kerrie said...

I hope I managed to bring back some memories Sally. What was it you liked best?


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