From the desk of Amy Louise:
It has been 45 years since Agatha Christie’s last Miss Marple novel, Sleeping Murder, was published posthumously in 1976. First introduced to readers in a story Christie wrote for The Royal Magazine in 1927, Jane Marple made her first full-length appearance in the 1930’s novel, The Murder at the Vicarage. Marple, a collection of new stories by twelve Christie devotees will be a timely reminder why Jane remains the most famous fictional female detective of all time.
Miss Marple, the Quintessential English Grandmother
Whilst I very much enjoy stories featuring Agatha Christie’s famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, I have to admit that my personal favorites of her books are those in which English spinster Miss Jane Marple takes the starring role. White-haired and usually to be found in the vicinity of a ball of wool and a pair of knitting needles, Miss Marple is, on the surface, the quintessential English grandmother. Yet as Mrs. Dane Calthrop says in, The Moving Finger, Miss Marple “…knows more about the different kinds of human wickedness than anyone I’ve ever known.”
Paying Homage to the Source
As a Miss Marple fan, it’s been an absolute delight to read twelve new stories featuring Christie’s much-loved detective, all of which breathe new life into an old favorite. From Lucy Foley’s, “Evil in Small Places”, which sees Miss Marple in classic English country village territory to solve the murder of a choir mistress, to Alyssa Cole’s, “Miss Marple Takes Manhattan”, which involves a theatrical murder during her nephew Raymond West’s first US theatre production, the twelve contemporary writers who have contributed to Marple: Twelve New Stories have done a fantastic job of paying homage to their source material without falling into pastiche or attempting emulation.
Adding Their Own Unique Style
Joining Foley and Cole in paying tribute to Miss Marple are Val McDermid, Natalie Haynes, Ruth Ware, Naomi Alderman, Jean Kwok, Dreda Say Mitchell, Elly Griffiths, Karen M McManus, Kate Moss and Leigh Bardugo. Each brings their own unique style to Miss Marple’s adventures, with Karen M. McManus using her YA background to excellent effect when she introduces us to Raymond’s granddaughter, Nicola West, and Elly Griffiths offering a spirited riff on the problem of crime-writers block in her tale, “Murder at the Villa Rosa”.
Returning Characters from the Original Novels
Fans of Miss Marple’s previous adventures will also be delighted to find other returning characters. In addition to Miss Marple’s nephew and his wife Jean, Miss Bella from, A Caribbean Mystery, acts as co-detective in Dreda Say Mitchell’s, “A Deadly Wedding Day”, whilst Dolly Bantry makes an appearance in both Ruth Ware’s “Miss Marple’s Christmas”, and Leigh Bardugo’s, “The Disappearance”. Miss Marple’s live-in companion Cherry also features in several of the stories, as does retired Scotland Yard commissioner Sir Henry Clithering.
Several of the stories see Miss Marple confronting the changing post-war world, with Kate Mosse’s, “The Mystery of the Acid Soil”, one of several stories that gently confront the challenges of aging and find our heroine and her friend reflecting on earlier times. Contemporary concerns are also addressed, with Naomi Alderman’s, “The Open Mind”, featuring a #MeToo-style scenario in an Oxford college (and doing a wonderful job of sending up academic pomposity in the process) and Jean Kwok’s, “The Jade Empress”, confronting racial prejudice on board a luxury cruise liner bound for Hong Kong. Natalie Haynes’, “The Unravelling”, meanwhile, is one of several stories to gently examine the after-effects of war upon the Home Front.
As with most short story collections, I felt some stories were more successful than others, both in terms of capturing Miss Marple’s unique character and in providing a satisfyingly realized mystery within a relatively short space. Val McDermid’s, “The Second Murder at the Vicarage”, is, as the title might suggest, probably the most classically Marple of the stories featured, but I admired the way that writers utilizing very different settings and styles managed to convey Christie’s spark – and Miss Marple’s unique appeal – whilst retaining their own unique voices.
A Delight to Fans, and New Readers
Fans of Miss Marple are sure to be delighted to have twelve new stories featuring the sharp-eyed spinster to enjoy whilst, for those new to the character, it is to be hoped that this might act as an introduction to Christie’s lesser-known – but no less ingenious – sleuth.
5 out of 5 Stars
GUEST REVIEWER BIO
UK-based book nerd Amy Louise has been running her blog, The Shelf of Unread Books, since 2015. She loves sharing the book love with similarly minded bibliophiles and is an active part of the book blogging community on Twitter, where she tweets as @shelfofunread. Amy is also a NetGalley reviewer, a member of several book blogging collectives, a regular blog tour host, and an occasional Instagram user. She enjoys a wide range of fiction and non-fiction but her go-to genres are crime, historical fiction, and narrative social history. When not blogging, reading, or increasing her TBR pile, Amy is in the final year of her PhD in English Literature, where she specializes in eighteenth-century medievalism. Visit her at The Shelf of Unread Books.
- Marple: Twelve New Mysteries, by Naomi Alderman, Leigh Bardugo, Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, Elly Griffiths, Natalie Haynes, Jean Kwok, Val McDermid, Karen M. McManus, Dreda Say Mitchell, Kate Mosse, and Ruth Ware
- William Morrow (September 13, 2022)
- Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook (384) pages
- ISBN: 978-0063136052
- Genre: Historical Mystery, Short Story Anthology
ADDITIONAL INFO | ADD TO GOODREADS
We received a review copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of William Morrow © 2022; text Amy Louise © 2022, austenprose.com.
This is near the top of my wish list. So thrilled to see your thoughts on it, Amy!
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I listened to the audiobook, Sophia. You will love it.
I really fancy this anthology. I know Poirot is the better known, but Miss Marple has always been my favourite of Christie’s characters, partly for the shock value of all the people who always underestimated the observational and deductive powers of somebody based on the fact that she is ‘just’ a little old lady.
When I was a child my mum used to watch murder mysteries on a Sunday evening and my favourite were when the BBC showed the Miss Marple adaptations starring Joan Hickson in the main role. I would recommend these adaptations to anybody who is a fan of Miss Marple as they are beautifully made. Plus Joan Hickson was, in her younger years, picked out by Christie herself as somebody who could play the role.