Miss Marple makes her debut in this novel which was my first introduction to Agatha Christie’s amateur sleuth. It was a very enjoyable crime mystery although I didn’t find Miss Marple herself very endearing. Maybe I have to get to know her a bit more. She was quite peripheral for most of this story but came to the fore at the end with her solution to the crime.
Mr. Clement, the vicar of the sleepy little village of St Mary Mead, narrates the story. He is married to Griselda who is almost twenty years his junior and they share their home with their nephew, Dennis.
‘You underestimate the detective instinct of village life. In St Mary Mead everyone knows your most intimate affairs. There is no detective in England equal to a spinster lady of uncertain age with plenty of time on her hands.’
Colonel Protheroe is found dead and the whole village comes under suspicion because just about everyone seems to have a motive for the murder. Even the kind-hearted vicar had been heard to say while carving a remarkably tough piece of boiled beef that anyone who murdered the Colonel ‘would be doing the world at large a service.’
It takes many twists and turns and false conjectures before the murderer is revealed.
While I appreciated the complicated plot and the murder’s resolution, what I enjoyed most about The Murder at the Vicarage were the relationships between the people at the vicarage. The Vicar and his wife have such disparate natures. He is serious while she is witty and playful and often exasperates or embarrasses her husband with her comments. Dennis’s remarks and ditties are full of fun, and the droll descriptions of the abysmal meals cooked and served by Mary, their testy maid, are delightful.
I’d like to know if Miss Marple becomes more likeable. Is she really just an old gossip and busybody, albeit with rare detective skills, or does she have some more admirable qualities?