Miss Jane Marple is a very underrated female detective. She remains the archetypical female sleuth, and every female detective who has ever come after her is compared to this legendary female crime expert whose powers of deduction are second to none.
As you may have noticed, following Kenneth Branagh’s latest trailer for his upcoming film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express (you can read my thoughts on that HERE), I have been on a Christie binge, revisiting old favourites and exploring just what it is that drives my love with the Queen of Crime. Therefore, I thought I would share my top five favourite Miss Marple novels. Although she is always second in my affections beneath the Belgium super sleuth Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple is a truly excellent character and one whose novels make for fascinating studies in the very best of Golden Age detective fiction.
5. The Murder at the Vicarage: The first full length novel to feature the waspish and determined Miss Marple, The Murder at the Vicarage is a great place to start if you’ve yet to sample the delights of these intriguing mysteries. Set in Miss Marple’s home village of St Mary Mead, the plot revolves around the murder of the highly despised local magistrate in the vicarage, with a vast array of suspects all close at hand. Miss Marple, a local busybody, soon involves herself in the investigation and works tirelessly to find out the truth.
4. A Caribbean Mystery: Transplanted from the traditional setting of a Christie novel, A Caribbean Mystery is Set on Caribbean island of St Honore, offering a new space in which to enjoy this elegantly constructed story. Miss Marple, on holiday to recover following an illness, has an ominous conversation with a fellow guest at the resort, who tell her of a man who got away with multiple murders. Later, the man himself is killed, leading our detective to uncover a tangled web of lies, deceit and dishonesty.
3. The Body in the Library: This novel is worth a read for the inventive, almost Dickensian name of Inspector Slack, who is called in to investigate the murder of an unknown young girl, done up as if she were going to a party, found in the library of an ancestral house. The lady of the house is an old friend of Miss Marple, and as such our ammeter detective is roped in to help solve this fiendish mystery and uncover the identity of both victim and killer.
2.At Bertram’s Hotel: As is often the case with Christie, it is the characters that make this novel really remarkable and worth a read. The befuddled Canon Pennyfather, the repugnant Michael Gorman, the scheming Bess Sedgwick, as well as her calculating daughter Elvira Blake, and of course, the shrewd Miss Maple, all amplify the mystery thanks to their cunning and conniving throughout the plot, which centres around Blake and her mother’s reunion at Beteram’s Hotel, where Miss Marple is visiting to relive old memories.
1. 4.50 from Paddington: Dark, twisted and exceptionally well-plotted, this is the ultimate Agatha Christie novel. The plot is so exceptionally well thought out and complicated that I defy anyone to guess the conclusion. Miss Marple is assisted by friends as she works to uncover the mystery of a woman being strangled on a train, seen from afar by her friend, who is swiftly disbelieved by everyone except the ever wary Miss Marple. Full of scheming characters and mountains of social envy and greed, this exhilarating novel explores the darker side of human nature that Christie was committed to portraying at its very worst.