>> Monday, October 29, 2012
TITLE: Murder At The Vicarage (audio)
AUTHOR: Agatha Christie
PUBLISHER: William Morrow
SETTING: Late 1920s, in a small English village
SERIES: 1st Miss Marple mystery
“Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe,” declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, “would be doing the world at large a favor!”
It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come back and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later—when the Colonel is found shot dead in the clergyman’s study. But as Miss Marple soon discovers, the whole village seems to have had a motive to kill Colonel Protheroe.
Yet another audiobook (I'm becoming addicted!). In it, we're introduced to the village of St. Mary Mead, home of Miss Marple, who appears here for the first time in Christie's oeuvre.
Colonel Protheroe, an odious man, liked by no one in the village, is shot dead in the vicarage while our narrator, the vicar himself, is out. We see the investigation through his eyes, as the police seem quite happy to tell him everything and have him tag along. But of course, it's Miss Marple who notices all the important clues and deduces their significance, and Miss Marple who solves the case!
This isn't the best Christie ever, but it's a fun one. I thought it was especially interesting to see the very beginning of Miss Marple. You can see the basis of her character here, but she does evolve quite a bit in later books. Here we do get things like her very characteristic habit of comparing the current situation with seemingly unrelated situations from her long years in St. Mary Mead, and she's as nosy and as interested in other people's business as ever (Christie contrasts the utter lack of malice in this with the behaviour of the other "old cats" in the village). Still, she's not quite the full Miss Marple yet. There's something missing here, something that I'm having difficulty putting my finger on, the quality that makes her so amazing in later books.
Christie's strong point is, of course, her plotting, and we do get some very clever clues and red herrings. It really is an interesting case. I did, however, feel she went a bit too far with the solution. Although everything fit perfectly and neatly, and every knot was tied in a satisfying manner, this was accomplished by requiring the culprit to have come up with a fiendishly complex plan. That a first-timer could have come up with this and carried it out with clockwork precision, and without repeated rehearsals was a bit too preposterous for my liking. I am willing to suspend disbelief with Christie, but this was too much.
Still, I enjoyed this very much. Christie's rural England is a place I love visiting (even as I shudder at the thought of actually living there). We also get a nice bit of romance, as usual with Christie, even though it doesn't come from where you at first think it might. I quite liked having my expectations overturned there.
The audio was just adequate. I didn't love James Saxon's narration. The voices he did for women were sometimes grating, and the jolly hockey sticks accents a bit overdone, but after a while I got used to it, and it didn't bother me too much.
MY GRADE: A B.