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MISS MARPLE: THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY

“There she sits: an elderly spinster; sweet, placid …

… so you’d think,” retired Scotland Yard chief Sir Henry Clithering (Raymond Francis) says when describing Miss Marple to his friend, wealthy paraplegic Conway Jefferson (Andrew Cruickshank). “Yet,” he continues, “her mind has plumbed the depths of human iniquity, and taken all in a day’s work.” And Vicar Clement, the narrator of Agatha Christie‘s first Miss Marple story, 1930’s Murder at the Vicarage, couldn’t agree more: “Miss Marple is a white-haired old lady with a gentle, appealing manner – Miss Wetherby is a mixture of vinegar and gush. Of the two Miss Marple is the more dangerous,” he observes on one occasion.

So, while Milchester C.I.D.’s Inspector Slack (David Horovitch), in charge of the investigation into the death of the platinum blonde whose body has mysteriously appeared in the library of Colonel Bantry (Moray Watson), squire of the village of St. Mary Mead, is still hot on the pursuit of the wrong suspect(s), Miss Marple – called in by her friend Dolly Bantry (Gwen Watford), the Colonel’s wife – has already found the solution; relying on her ever-unfailing “village parallels,” those seemingly innocuous incidents of village life making up the sum of her knowledge of human nature, to which she routinely turns in unmasking even the cleverest killer.

Originally airing on TV between 1984 and 1992, the BBC’s adaptations of Agatha Christie‘s twelve Miss Marple novels featured Joan Hickson in the title role; quickly establishing her as the quintessential Miss Marple even in the view of the creator of the grandmother (or rather, grand-aunt) of all village sleuths and “noticing kinds of persons,” Dame Agatha herself. (In fact, after seeing Hickson in a stage production of her Appointment With Death, as early as 1946 Christie had already sent her a note expressing the hope she would one day “play my dear Miss Marple.”) Prior versions, partly involving rather high-octane casts, had seen as Miss Marple, inter alia, Angela Lansbury and Margaret Rutherford, but had been less faithful to Christie‘s books. While Lansbury holds her own fairly well when compared to the character’s literary original in 1980’s “Hollywood does Christie” adaptation of The Mirror Crack’d (and that movie’s ageing actresses’ camp showdown featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak is a delight to watch) the four movies starring Rutherford are only loosely based on Christie‘s books: Dame Margaret’s Miss Marple, although itself likewise a splendid performance, has about as much to do with Agatha Christie‘s demure and seemingly scatterbrained village sleuth as Big Ben does with the English countryside, and of the scripts, only Murder, She Said is at least loosely based on an actual Miss Marple mystery (4:50 From Paddington), whereas two of the others – Murder at the Gallop and Murder Most Foul – are, instead, inspired by Hercule Poirot stories (After the Funeral and Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, respectively), and Murder Ahoy is based on a completely independent screenplay.

The Body in the Library was Christie‘s second novel-length Miss Marple mystery, written twelve years after The Murder at the Vicarage and following two short story collections featuring St. Mary Mead’s elderly spinster, The Thirteen Problems (1932, a/k/a The Tuesday Club Murders) and The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories (1939, also featuring Hercule Poirot and Parker Pyne). The mysterious dead blonde’s appearance at the story’s very beginning was Christie‘s response to a friend’s request for a dead body in her next novel’s first chapter. In the BBC productions, this was the first Miss Marple mystery to air (in three installments in 1984), followed a year later by the likewise multiple-episode A Pocket Full of Rye and A Murder Is Announced, as well as the movie-length The Moving Finger. Only in 1986, the BBC followed up with a movie-length adaptation of The Murder at the Vicarage. The last of the twelve features, The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side, dates from 1992.

Following the rule that ever since Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Lestrade every great private detective needs a policeman he can outwit, the creators of the BBC series inserted the character of Inspector Slack into almost all storylines – hardly in keeping with the literary originals, which are set over a period of more than 30 years and thus, exceed the career span of a policeman already advanced on his professional path at the time of his first encounter with Miss Marple; even if the BBC’s Slack is promoted from D.I. in The Body in the Library (where he really does appear) to Superintendent in The Mirror Crack’d. Yet, Hickson‘s and Horovitch’s face-offs are a fun addition; and one is almost ready to pity Slack, who hardly ever gets a foot down vis-à-vis Miss Marple’s quick rejoinders and, in the words of Sir Henry Clithering, “wonderful gift to state the obvious.”

From the library of the Bantrys’ Gossington Hall estate, the present mystery’s trail leads to the nearby seaside resort of Danemouth, where the dead girl – identified by her cousin Josie Turner (played by Sting’s wife Trudie Styler) as one Ruby Keene – had worked as a show dancer at a large luxury hotel. In classic Christie fashion, the cast of suspects includes everybody from rich Mr. Jefferson’s son in law Mark Gaskell (Keith Drinkel) and daughter in law Adelaide (Ciaran Madden), the spouses of Jefferson’s deceased children – who have taken the place of their dead partners in the rich old man’s life, and have every reason to resent upstartish Ruby for whirling herself into his favor, to the point of his decision to adopt her and settle a large sum of money on her in his testament – to shallow tennis pro and dance instructor Raymond Starr (Jess Conrad), who has hopes of his own regarding Adelaide Jefferson, as well as flamboyant Basil Blake (Anthony Smee), whose extravagant lifestyle and connections to the movie world in themselves provide ample grounds for a close look at him. But while Inspector Slack insists that the case will be solved by “good old-fashioned police work,” Miss Marple’s “village parallels” and her attention to such things as the dead girl’s fingernails prove uncannily superior – and they also allow her to connect this case to the disappearance of another young woman, an incident offhand dismissed as unconnected by Slack.

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: BBC (1984)
  • Director: Silvio Nazzarino
  • Producers: Guy Slater & George Gallaccio
  • Screenplay: T.R. Bowen
  • Based on a novel by: Agatha Christie
Cast
  • Joan Hickson: Miss Jane Marple
  • David Horovitch: Detective Inspector Slack
  • Ian Brimble: Detective Constable Lake
  • Gwen Watford: Dolly Bantry
  • Moray Watson: Colonel Bantry
  • Andrew Cruickshank: Conway Jefferson
  • Ciaran Madden: Adelaide Jefferson
  • Trudie Styler: Josie Turner
  • Keith Drinkel: Mark Gaskell
  • Jess Conrad: Raymond Starr
  • Anthony Smee: Basil Blake
  • Debbie Arnold: Dinah Lee
  • Arthur Bostrom: George Bartlett
  • Sally Jane Jackson: Ruby Keene
  • Stephen Churchett: Major Reeve
  • Astra Sheridan: Pamela Reeve
  • Karen Seacombe: Florrie Small
  • Raymond Francis: Sir Henry Clithering
  • Frederick Jaeger: Colonel Melchett
  • John Bardon: PC Palk
  • John Evans: Inch (uncredited)

 

Links

MISS MARPLE: A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED

Delilah the Cat Unmasks a Murderer

“Just a silly joke” it was supposed to be, waitress Myrna (Liz Crowther) tells Inspector Craddock (John Castle) about her Swiss beau’s, hotel receptionist Rudi Scherz’s hold-up at elderly Miss Blacklock (Ursula Howells)’s home Little Paddocks. And it had begun just as planned: After Rudi’s startling anonymous advertisement in Chipping Cleghorn’s village gazette – “A murder is announced and will take place Friday, October the 5th, at Little Paddocks, at 7PM” – half the village had converged on the cottage, bursting with curiosity, and on pretexts from “just passing by” to “wondering whether Miss Blacklock mightn’t be interested in a kitten.” At 7PM sharp, the lights had gone out and Rudi had entered, adorned with mask and cape, dazzled the assembled group with a torch and commanded: “Stick ’em up!”

But then shots had rung out, and when the lights had finally been turned on again, the person lying dead had been Rudi himself. “Some joke,” Myrna comments bitterly.

Inspector Craddock’s and Sergeant Fletcher (Kevin Whately)’s task is complicated by the witnesses’ disagreement whether Scherz had aimed his torch (and revolver?) at one person in particular, and their disagreement over his reasons for the hold-up. But even though Miss Blacklock herself dismisses the idea as ludicrous, her sweet, somewhat scatterbrained companion Dora Bunner (Renée Asherson) insists that Scherz’s true intention must have been to kill her. Yet, that seems out of character for the young man, whose record merely reveals him as a petty con artist and, in Miss Blacklock’s words, “picker-up of unconsidered trifles.” Unless … well, unless someone put Rudi up to his scheme. And pressed by Inspector Craddock after a consultation with Miss Marple, who happens to be staying at the hotel that is Myrna’s and Rudi’s workplace, Myrna admits that indeed, someone had paid Rudi to do what he did. What is more, Miss Blacklock is to inherit a considerable fortune from her former employer, millionaire Randall Goedler, after the imminent death of his invalid wife. And while the main beneficiaries in the case of her own death are her young relatives Patrick and Julia Simmons (Simon Shepherd and Samantha Bond), currently members of her household alongside her theatrical and not always truthful maid Hannah (Elaine Ives-Cameron) and a lodger, a somewhat distant Mrs. Haymes (Nicola King), in the event Miss Blacklock predeceases Mrs. Goedler, the financier’s fortune goes to the children of his sister Sonia … whom Miss Blacklock only knows as “Pip” and Emma and who, like their mother, haven’t been heard from since before WWII.

Written 1950 and adapted for TV 1985 (the second of the BBC’s “Miss Marple” adaptations starring Joan Hickson), A Murder Is Announced reflects on the changes brought about by the war in English village life; with rationing, foreign refugees and other strangers moving to the countryside, and associated xenophobia. For before the war, people knew each other well, and new arrivals carried tokens of introduction from someone familiar to the local population, vouching for the newcomers’ trustworthiness. That, however, is gone forever, as Miss Marple explains to Inspector Craddock; you just have to take people at face value, along with their ration books and identity cards … “and can you really trust a ration book and an identity card?”

Originally airing on TV between 1984 and 1992, the BBC’s adaptations of Agatha Christie‘s twelve Miss Marple novels featured Joan Hickson in the title role; quickly establishing her as the quintessential Miss Marple even in the view of the creator of the grandmother (or rather, grand-aunt) of all village sleuths and “noticing kinds of persons,” Dame Agatha herself. (In fact, after seeing Hickson in a stage production of her Appointment With Death, as early as 1946 Christie had already sent her a note expressing the hope she would one day “play my dear Miss Marple.”) Prior versions, partly involving rather high-octane casts, featured, inter alia, Angela Lansbury and Margaret Rutherford, but were decidedly less faithful to Christie‘s books. While Lansbury holds her own fairly well in 1980’s “Hollywood does Christie” version of The Mirror Crack’d (and that movie’s ageing actresses’ camp showdown featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak is a delight to watch) the four movies starring Rutherford are only partially based on Christie‘s books: Dame Margaret’s Miss Marple, although itself likewise a splendid performance, has about as much to do with Agatha Christie‘s demure and seemingly scatterbrained village sleuth as Big Ben does with the English countryside, and of the scripts, only Murder, She Said is at least loosely based on an actual Miss Marple mystery (4:50 From Paddington), whereas two of the others – Murder at the Gallop and Murder Most Foul – are, instead, inspired by Hercule Poirot stories (After the Funeral and Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, respectively), and Murder Ahoy is based on a completely independent screenplay.

A Murder Is Announced is one of the stand-out features in the BBC series; not only because, like all installments, it takes great care in maintaining the tone and atmosphere set by Christie herself but also because of its stellar supporting cast, which includes Ralph Michael and Sylvia Syms (opinionated Colonel Easterbrook and his airheaded wife), Matthew Solon and Mary Kerridge (young leftist writer Edmund Swettenham and his silly mother), Paola Dionisotti (stout pig farmer Miss Hinchcliffe), Joan Sims (Miss Hinchcliffe’s simple-minded companion Miss Murgatroyd), and David Collings and Vivienne Moore (Reverend and Mrs. Harmon, Miss Marple’s niece and nephew-in-law, with whom the old lady spontaneously invites herself to stay close to the investigation: after all, “a policeman asking questions is open to the gravest suspicion, but an old lady asking questions is just an old lady asking questions,” as she points out to Inspector Craddock.) The episode also features some truly delightful editing; as such, Craddock’s soothing comment to Mrs. Haymes (“It’s not a bad thing being sensible”) is directly followed by Mrs. Swettenham’s overly dramatic reenactment of the murder, and Mrs. Easterbrook’s admiration for her husband’s self-assured but dead-wrong excursion into criminal psychology is succeeded by the snorting of a pig on the Hinchcliffe/Murgatroyd farm.

“Especially in an English village – turn over a stone, you have no idea what will crawl out,” Miss Marple tells Inspector Craddock during their first meeting over tea and crumpets. But not before some feline mischief by the Harmons’ cat Delilah does she realize who is responsible for Rudi Scherz’s murder – and those of Miss Bunner and Miss Murgatroyd, who’ve been killed in order to silence them. And therefore, “I won’t have a word said against that remarkable cat,” Miss Marple insists. Which decidedly makes her my feline partner in crime’s favorite detective …

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: BBC (1985)
  • Director: David Giles
  • Producers: Guy Slater & George Gallaccio
  • Screenplay: Alan Plater
  • Based on a novel by: Agatha Christie
Cast
  • Joan Hickson: Miss Jane Marple
  • John Castle: Detective Inspector Craddock
  • Kevin Whately: Detective Sergeant Fletcher
  • Ursula Howells: Miss Blacklock
  • Renée Asherson: Dora Bunner
  • Samantha Bond: Julia Simmons
  • Simon Shepherd: Patrick Simmons
  • Nicola King: Phillipa Haymes
  • Elaine Ives-Cameron: Hannah
  • Ralph Michael: Colonel Easterbrook
  • Sylvia Syms: Mrs. Easterbrook
  • Matthew Solon: Edmund Swettenham
  • Mary Kerridge: Mrs. Swettenham
  • Paola Dionisotti: Miss Hinchcliffe
  • Joan Sims: Miss Murgatroyd
  • Vivienne Moore: Mrs. Harmon
  • David Collings: Reverend Harmon
  • Liz Crowther: Myrna Harris
  • Tim Charrington: Rudi Scherz
  • Joyce Carey: Belle Goedler

 

Links

MISS MARPLE: A POCKETFUL OF RYE

Sing a Song of Sixpence …

Seemingly innocuous, English nursery rhymes often have a rather sinister origin; and noone knew this better than Agatha Christie, who repeatedly used them as a motif; most famously probably in 1939’s And Then There Were None (a/k/a Ten Little Indians), where the murderer kills his victims, one by one, in the fashion of the Ten Little Indians ditty.

A Pocket Full of Rye is one of three Christie mysteries inspired by Sing a Song of Sixpence; the others are the short stories Four and Twenty Blackbirds and Sing a Song of Sixpence, contained in the collections Three Blind Mice and The Witness For the Prosecution, respectively. The nursery rhyme describes, in coded language, the modus operandi of a feared pirate known as Blackbeard, terror of the high seas between 1716 and 1718, who lured men into his services by promises of lavish pay and rations of rum (“sixpence” and “rye”), and often approached merchant ships under cover of friendly colors, only to have his concealed crewmen (“blackbirds in a pie”) emerge at the last moment and assault the other ship, which more often than not resulted in rich takings (“a dainty dish”) for Blackbeard (“the king”) and his men:

Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing.
Now wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the king?

In Christie‘s mystery, it is the murderer himself who uses the nursery rhyme to play his ghastly game with the Fortescue family. Soon after ill-tempered, wealthy patriarch Rex Fortescue (Timothy West) has died in his office of a rare poison – and subsequently been found with rye in his pocket – his impossibly young and, shall we say, free-spirited widow Adele (Stacy Dorning) is likewise found dead, in the house’s drawing room and after having had tea, which uncharacteristically included a serving of honey. (The nursing rhyme continues “the king was in his counting house counting out his money; the queen was in the parlor eating bread and honey.”) But while Detective Inspector Neele (Tom Wilkinson), in one of the few mysteries not featuring Milchester C.I.D.’s Inspector Slack, is still searching for clues and the press is starting to speculate about black magic, Miss Marple instantly zeroes in on the nursery rhyme, and as instantly she is worried: For the ditty ends with the lines “The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes, when down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose” … and the Fortescues’ maid is none other than one of Miss Marple’s proteges: impressionable, naïve, clumsy and not very bright Gladys Martin (Annette Badland). Unfortunately Miss Marple arrives too late to protect her; and now, of course, the matter becomes personal – and she will not rest until she has found the murderer who, she feels, must be among the surviving members of the Fortescue household; particularly given that an actual pie containing dead and decayed blackbirds has made its appearance in the house a while earlier. Indeed, there are suspects aplenty, including everyone from Rex’s unequal sons Percival (Clive Merrison) – heir to the Fortescue business – and Lance (Peter Davison) – recently returned from Africa –, their wives Jennifer (Rachel Bell) and Patricia (Frances Low), Rex’s bible-quoting sister in law from his first marriage (Fabia Drake), Adele’s shallow “golfing partner” Vivian Dubois (Martyn Stanbridge), the family’s perfect housekeeper (or is she?) Miss Dove (Selina Cadell) … and the as yet unknown heirs of Rex Fortescue’s former business partner, who quarreled with him over the rights to a certain Blackbird Mine.

Originally airing on TV between 1984 and 1992, the BBC’s adaptations of Agatha Christie‘s twelve Miss Marple novels featured Joan Hickson in the title role; quickly establishing her as the quintessential Miss Marple even in the view of the creator of the grandmother (or rather, grand-aunt) of all village sleuths and “noticing kinds of persons,” Dame Agatha herself. (In fact, after seeing Hickson in a stage production of her Appointment With Death, as early as 1946 Christie had already sent her a note expressing the hope she would one day “play my dear Miss Marple.”) Prior versions, partly involving rather high-octane casts, had seen as Miss Marple, inter alia, Angela Lansbury and Margaret Rutherford, but had been decidedly less faithful to Christie‘s books. While Lansbury holds her own fairly well when compared to the character’s literary original in 1980’s “Hollywood does Christie” version of The Mirror Crack’d (and that movie’s ageing actresses’ camp showdown featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak is a delight to watch) the four movies starring Rutherford are only loosely based on Christie‘s books: Dame Margaret’s Miss Marple, although itself likewise a splendid performance, has about as much to do with Agatha Christie‘s demure and seemingly scatterbrained village sleuth as Big Ben does with the English countryside, and of the scripts, only Murder, She Said is at least loosely based on an actual Miss Marple mystery (4:50 From Paddington), whereas two of the others – Murder at the Gallop and Murder Most Foul – are, instead, inspired by Hercule Poirot stories (After the Funeral and Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, respectively), and Murder Ahoy is based on a completely independent screenplay.

Like all entries in the BBC series produced with great faithfulness to the tone and atmosphere set by Christie‘s original, A Pocket Full of Rye first aired (in three installments) in 1985, a year before the BBC’s adaptation of the first Miss Marple novel (Murder at the Vicarage, 1930 – the first BBC production featuring St. Mary Mead’s elderly spinster was 1984’s Body in the Library, based on the second Miss Marple novel, written 1942). As always, Miss Marple finds the solution while the police are still hot on the pursuit of the wrong suspect. And the murderer’s motive? “Oh, it was greed … one knows that, naturally …”

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: BBC (1985)
  • Director: Guy Slater
  • Producer: George Gallaccio
  • Screenplay: T.R. Bowen
  • Based on a novel by: Agatha Christie
Recurring Cast
  • Joan Hickson: Miss Jane Marple
  • Tom Wilkinson: Detective Inspector Neele
  • Jon Glover: Detective Sergeant Hay
  • Timothy West: Rex Fortescue
  • Peter Davison: Lance Fortescue
  • Clive Merrison: Percival Fortescue
  • Stacy Dorning: Adele Fortescue
  • Rachel Bell: Jennifer Fortescue
  • Frances Low: Patricia Fortescue
  • Fabia Drake: Miss Henderson
  • Selina Cadell: Mary Dove
  • Merelina Kendall: Mrs. Crump
  • Frank Mills: Mr. Crump
  • Annette Badland: Gladys Martin
  • Martyn Stanbridge: Vivian Dubois

 

Links

MISS MARPLE: THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE

“[They] knew I was a noticing sort of person.”

There she sits: a white-haired lady dressed in tweeds, a pair of knitting needles in her lap, more interested in village gossip than in the goings-on of the world at large – but she certainly doesn’t mince words (“Oh yes. Colonel Protheroe has always struck me as being rather a stupid man,” she deadpans about the man who will soon turn up shot in the study of St. Mary Mead’s Vicar Leonard Clement), and whenever a murder is committed you can be sure she won’t be far away; and while the police are still toddling around searching for clues she’ll find the solution. “Miss Marple is a white-haired old lady with a gentle, appealing manner – Miss Wetherby is a mixture of vinegar and gush. Of the two Miss Marple is the more dangerous,” observes Vicar Clement, the narrator of this story’s literary original, about two members of his wife Griselda’s (Cheryl Campbell’s) Tuesday afternoon tea and gossip circle.

And of course this also holds true with regard to the murder of disagreeable Colonel Protheroe (Robert Lang), whom the dismayed vicar (Paul Eddington) finds shot after returning home from a wild goose chase visit to an allegedly terminally ill member of his congregation. From the Colonel’s wife Ann (Polly Adams), his daughter Lettice (Tara MacGowran) and Ann’s lover, the painter Lawrence Redding (James Hazeldine), to the mysterious Mrs. Lestrange (Norma West), small-time poacher Bill Archer (Jack Galloway) – the beau of the vicar’s maid Mary (Rachel Weaver) – and even the vicar’s own curate, Hawes (Christopher Good), there is no shortage of suspects; indeed, half the village seems to have had reasons to want the Colonel out of the way. But to solve the mystery, Miss Marple doesn’t only have to work her way through a thick layer of deception, false confessions and other red herrings – she also has to come to terms with the role accorded to her herself in the devious plan surrounding the Colonel’s murder.

Originally airing on TV between 1984 and 1992, the BBC’s adaptations of Agatha Christie‘s twelve Miss Marple novels featured Joan Hickson in the title role; quickly establishing her as the quintessential Miss Marple even in the view of the creator of the grandmother (or rather, grand-aunt) of all village sleuths and “noticing kinds of persons,” Dame Agatha herself. (In fact, after seeing Hickson in a stage production of her Appointment With Death, as early as 1946 Christie had already sent her a note expressing the hope she would one day “play my dear Miss Marple.”) Prior versions, partly involving rather high-octane casts, had seen as Miss Marple, inter alia, Angela Lansbury and Margaret Rutherford, but had been decidedly less faithful to Christie‘s books. While Lansbury holds her own fairly well when compared to the character’s literary original in 1980’s “Hollywood does Christie” version of The Mirror Crack’d (and that movie’s ageing actresses’ camp showdown featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak is a delight to watch) the four movies starring Rutherford are only loosely based on Christie‘s books: Dame Margaret’s Miss Marple, although itself likewise a splendid performance, has about as much to do with Agatha Christie‘s demure and seemingly scatterbrained village sleuth as Big Ben does with the English countryside, and of the scripts, only Murder, She Said is at least loosely based on an actual Miss Marple mystery (4:50 From Paddington), whereas two of the others – Murder at the Gallop and Murder Most Foul – are, instead, inspired by Hercule Poirot stories (After the Funeral and Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, respectively), and Murder Ahoy is based on a completely independent screenplay.

Although The Murder at the Vicarage (1930) was Christie‘s first Miss Marple mystery, the BBC series opened with a multiple-episode adaptation of the second novel-length story featuring St. Mary Mead’s elderly spinster, The Body in the Library (written 1942, BBC 1984); followed by the three 1985 productions of A Murder Is Announced (written 1950), A Pocket Full of Rye (1953) and The Moving Finger (1942). Only in 1986, the BBC took up the story that had first introduced Miss Marple to Agatha Christie readers all over the world.

Crucially, like all of the episodes produced for TV, this adaptation not only maintains the tone and atmosphere set by Christie‘s original but also – although in the sequence of the adaptations Miss Marple and Inspector Slack of Milchester C.I.D. had already crossed paths in The Body in the Library – the fact that this story very much serves to establish their acrimonious relationship. And while Miss Marple, who compares Slack to a railway diesel engine, or in this story’s literary original to a shoe vendor intent on selling you patent leather boots while completely ignoring your request for brown calf leather (“most unappealing – but I’m told efficient. Well, I suppose we shall have to learn to live with such things. And such people …”) usually has the upper hand vis-à-vis Slack (who in turn calls her a “nice little grey-haired cobra [who] sticks to [murder] like chewing gum to the cat”) occasionally Slack gets in the last word, like in the exchange following his announcement to Miss Marple that he will pay her a visit to get her full account of her observations on the day of the murder:

Miss Marple: “Oh, I’m sure you’re far too busy to listen to my little ideas, Inspector.”
Slack: “Noone can accuse me of not being thorough.”
Miss Marple: “Indeed …”
Slack: “I suppose it’s having an ear for gossip and, uh, a talent for a bit of blind guess work, really.”
Miss Marple: “What is, Inspector?”
Slack: “What stops your little ideas being a waste of time.”
Miss Marple: “Well, I don’t think I’ve ever been complimented quite like that in my life before, Inspector.”
Slack: “Don’t mention it …”

Of course Slack will pay dearly for this slight from that very moment on, and in the end has to suffer the ultimate defeat of (not for the last time) catching his murderer only after having agreed to a “little strategy” proposed by Miss Marple.

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: BBC (1986)
  • Director: Julian Amyes
  • Producers: Guy Slater & George Gallaccio
  • Screenplay: T.R. Bowen
  • Based on a novel by: Agatha Christie
Recurring Cast
  • Joan Hickson: Miss Jane Marple
  • David Horovitch: Detective Inspector Slack
  • Ian Brimble: Detective Sergeant Lake
  • Paul Eddington: Reverend Leonard Clement
  • Cheryl Campbell: Griselda Clement
  • Robert Lang: Colonel Protheroe
  • Polly Adams: Ann Protheroe
  • Tara MacGowran: Lettice Protheroe
  • Norma West: Mrs. Lestrange
  • James Hazeldine: Lawrence Redding
  • Christopher Good: Christopher Hawes
  • Michael Browning: Dr. Haydock
  • Rachel Weaver: Mary Wright
  • Jack Galloway: Bill Archer
  • Rosalie Crutchley: Mrs. Price-Ridley
  • Barbara Hicks: Miss Hartnell
  • Deddie Davies: Mrs. Salisbury
  • Kathleen Bidmead: Miss Wetherby (uncredited)

 

Links

MISS MARPLE: NEMESIS

Of Murder, Justice, Love and the Darkness of the Human Soul

“Thousands of years ago, she had a measuring rod, a sword, and a whip – it’s called a scourge,” explains self-made millionaire Jason Rafiel (Frank Gatliff) to his nurse … and “she rode about in a chariot driven by griffins.” He is talking about Nemesis, the ancient Greek goddess of justice and vengeance, merciless punisher of human transgressions against the natural order, whose epithet was Adrasteia – she whom none can escape. “Last time I saw her,” Rafiel then adds, laughing with some difficulty, “she was wearing a pink wool shawl …”

For the old gentleman, virtually a step away from his own death at this point, is also speaking about Miss Jane Marple, elderly spinster from St. Mary Mead, whom he had met six years earlier on a Caribbean Island (see A Caribbean Mystery, 1965), where together they had unmasked a cold-blooded killer. And although gruff old Jason had initially had only contempt for the lady, apparently so completely out of her element with her knitting needles and tweeds, which she wouldn’t even relinquish under tropical blue skies and palm trees, he had soon changed his mind, realizing the powers of her razor-sharp logic and profound understanding of human nature. Thus, as he now sets about settling his own life’s final score, there is no question in his mind who to turn to for help – none other than Jane Marple will do. “I imagine you knitting headscarves and that sort of thing,” reads the commission she receives through his London solicitors (Roger Hammond and Patrick Godfrey) shortly after his death. “If that’s what you prefer to go on doing, that’s your decision. But if you prefer to serve the cause of justice, I hope you find it interesting.” And he quotes the bible: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everlasting stream.” (Amos 5:24).

So Miss Marple soon finds herself on an unexpected Historic Homes and Gardens coach tour; accompanied by her nephew Lionel (Peter Tilbury), who is seeking refuge with dear Aunt Jane after having been locked out by his wife. Also among the tour party are a Miss Elizabeth Temple (Helen Cherry), the recently-retired headmistress of a renowned private school, a Professor Wanstead (John Horsley), who turns out to be a specialist in criminal psychology associated with the Home Office, and two younger women named Cooke and Barrow (Jane Booker and Alison Skilbeck), who seem to be keeping a close eye on Miss Marple, but whose intentions are anything but clear.

The spinsterly sleuth’s charge is momentous indeed, and it involves Mr. Rafiel’s own estranged son Michael (Bruce Payne), once suspected of having murdered his young fiancee Verity Hunt. While the old millionaire doesn’t expressly say so, it quickly becomes clear that Miss Marple is to find Verity’s killer – even if that ultimately means charging Michael Rafiel. For old Jason has spoken of justice for a reason and, as Miss Marple later explains, “he wasn’t being entirely humourous” when dubbing her “Nemesis.” Indeed, he is relying not only on her “flair for evil” but, as importantly, on the fact that she will not “flinch” should she find out that Michael is guilty. But while things remain unclear to Miss Marple much longer than to Miss Temple, Verity’s erstwhile teacher, who now pays with her life for a fateful misstep on her own mission to uncover the truth, Mr. Rafiel has at least woven as finely-spun a web as he could in support of his avenging angel’s chore; and he has brought her in touch with everybody she needs to meet: Verity’s guardians Clothilde and Anthea Bradbury-Scott (Margaret Tyzack and Anna Cropper) and their sister Lavinia Glynne (Valerie Lush), Archdeacon Brabazon (Peter Copley), Verity’s and Michael’s marriage counselor and spiritual advisor, and a Mrs. Brent (Liz Fraser), whose daughter had disappeared around the time of Verity’s death. And Miss Marple soon realizes that the central clue to unmasking the young woman’s murderer is love: Verity wasn’t killed for her beauty, superior intelligence or money (none of which she possessed) – but, simply, because she was loved.

Originally airing on TV between 1984 and 1992, the BBC’s adaptations of Agatha Christie‘s twelve Miss Marple novels featured Joan Hickson in the title role; quickly establishing her as the quintessential Miss Marple even in the view of the creator of the grandmother (or rather, grand-aunt) of all village sleuths and “noticing kinds of persons,” Dame Agatha herself. (In fact, after seeing Hickson in a stage production of her Appointment With Death, as early as 1946 Christie had already sent her a note expressing the hope she would one day “play my dear Miss Marple.”) Prior versions, partly involving rather high-octane casts, had featured, inter alia, Angela Lansbury and Margaret Rutherford, but had been decidedly less faithful to Christie‘s books. While Lansbury holds her own fairly well in 1980’s “Hollywood does Christie” version of The Mirror Crack’d (and that movie’s ageing actresses’ camp showdown featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak is a delight to watch) the four movies starring Rutherford are only loosely based on Christie‘s books: Dame Margaret’s Miss Marple, although itself likewise a splendid performance, has about as much to do with Agatha Christie‘s demure and seemingly scatterbrained village sleuth as Big Ben does with the English countryside, and of the scripts, only Murder, She Said is at least loosely based on an actual Miss Marple mystery (4:50 From Paddington), whereas two of the others – Murder at the Gallop and Murder Most Foul – are, instead, inspired by Hercule Poirot stories (After the Funeral and Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, respectively), and Murder Ahoy is based on a completely independent screenplay.

Nemesis, published only five years before Christie‘s own death, is darker in mood and atmosphere than earlier Miss Marple mysteries; and this 1987 adaptation faithfully maintains that spirit. My major quibble – one of the few I have with this series at all – is that it was produced before the 1989 adaptation of A Caribbean Mystery, which not only breaks the continuity in Jason Rafiel’s character (superbly portrayed by Donald Pleasence in the later-aired adaptation of the earlier-written mystery) but necessarily also leads to some incompleteness in establishing his and Miss Marple’s relationship. But much of this is made up in Rafiel’s final note to his sleuth, written in a frail hand and transmitted by a most significant messenger after Verity’s murderer is brought to justice: “Thank you, Miss Marple, my Nemesis. Shall we meet again?” I sincerely hope they did …

 

Pierre-Paul Proud'hon: Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime
Pierre-Paul Prud’hon: Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime (1808)

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: BBC (1987)
  • Director: David Tucker
  • Producers: Guy Slater & George Gallaccio
  • Screenplay: T.R. Bowen
  • Based on a novel by: Agatha Christie
Recurring Cast
  • Joan Hickson: Miss Jane Marple
  • Peter Tilbury: Lionel Peel
  • Helen Cherry: Miss Elizabeth Temple
  • John Horsley: Professor Wanstead
  • Jane Booker: Miss Cooke
  • Alison Skilbeck: Miss Barrow
  • Valerie Lush: Lavinia Glynne
  • Margaret Tyzack: Clothilde Bradbury-Scott
  • Anna Cropper: Anthea Bradbury-Scott
  • Liz Fraser: Mrs. Brent
  • Peter Copley: Archdeacon Brabazon
  • Bruce Payne: Michael Rafiel
  • Frank Gatliff: Jason Rafiel
  • Roger Hammond: Mr. Broadribb
  • Patrick Godfrey: Mr. Schuster
  • Ann Queensberry: Miss Wimpole

 

Links

 

Nemesis   Nemesis Louvre   Nemesis: Getty Villa Collection
Nemesis statues: Left – from a temple and statue in Rhamnus (Attica, Greece), where she was held in particularly high honour. Centre: Louvre (Paris) – marble statue of Nemesis dedicated by Ptollanubis; found in Egypt, 2nd century AD. Right: Getty Villa Collection (Los Angeles, CA) – Roman Nemesis statue, c. 150 AD.

MISS MARPLE: 4:50 FROM PADDINGTON

“I can see how irritating this must be for you, Inspector…

… so I’ll ignore what you just said. After all, we may both be involved in this business at a later date. When one of us is clever enough to find the body.”

There she sits: A white-haired elderly spinster, dressed in tweeds and a pair of knitting needles in her lap, seemingly more interested in village gossip than in the goings-on of the world at large. But when told by Milchester C.I.D. Inspector Slack (David Horovitch) that no further investigation is to take place into her friend Elspeth McGillicuddy’s (Mona Bruce’s) report of having witnessed a murder in a passing train, because there doesn’t seem to be any corpse to substantiate that report, and that in fact any insistence on further police action will bring her close to charges for “wasting police time,” Miss Marple’s answer (quoted above) quickly reveals that her placid appearance conceals not only an incredibly sharp mind but also, on occasion, an equally sharp tongue. “Miss Marple is a white-haired old lady with a gentle, appealing manner – Miss Wetherby is a mixture of vinegar and gush. Of the two Miss Marple is the more dangerous,” already observes Vicar Clement, the narrator of her first adventure, 1930’s Murder at the Vicarage.

And of course Mrs. McGillicuddy was not wrong, and Miss Marple knows her friend too well not to realize this at once and initiate an investigation of her own. (“She saw what she saw,” she insists vis-à-vis Inspector Slack.) Realizing that the dead body must have been thrown from the train onto the grounds of the nearby Crackenthorpe family estate of Rutherford Hall, she convinces another friend, young professional housekeeper Lucy Eyelesbarrow (Jill Meager) to seek a position with the Crackenthorpe family and thus become her eyes and ears. But Lucy quickly shows that she is much more than that – not only doesn’t it take her long to discover the body; she also provides much-needed assistance to beleaguered Emma Crackenthorpe (Joanna David) in organizing the household in general and an upcoming family gathering in particular, and she gains the respect of cranky old pater familias Luther Crackenthorpe (Maurice Denham) and the particular attention of one of his sons, philandering Cedric Crackenthorpe (John Hallam) and of Luther’s widowed son in law, former Royal Air Force pilot Bryan Eastley (David Beams). And while Inspector Slack, as always when he chooses to disregard Miss Marple’s “ramblings,” is hot on the pursuit of the wrong suspect(s), St. Mary Mead’s elderly spinster and her friend Lucy find the solution – relying on Lucy’s observations as much as on Miss Marple’s ever-unfailing “village parallels;” those seemingly innocuous incidents of village life that make up the sum of her knowledge of human nature, and to which she routinely turns in unmasking even the cleverest killer.

Originally airing on TV between 1984 and 1992, the BBC’s adaptations of Agatha Christie‘s twelve Miss Marple novels featured Joan Hickson in the title role; quickly establishing her as the quintessential Miss Marple even in the view of the creator of the grandmother (or rather, grand-aunt) of all village sleuths and “noticing kinds of persons,” Dame Agatha herself. (In fact, after seeing Hickson in a stage production of her Appointment With Death, as early as 1946 Christie had already sent her a note expressing the hope she would one day “play my dear Miss Marple.”) Prior versions, partly involving rather high-octane casts, had seen as Miss Marple, inter alia, Angela Lansbury and Margaret Rutherford, but had been decidedly less faithful to Christie‘s books. While Lansbury holds her own fairly well when compared to the character’s literary original in 1980’s “Hollywood does Christie” version of The Mirror Crack’d (and that movie’s ageing actresses’ camp showdown featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak is a delight to watch) the four movies starring Rutherford are only loosely based on Christie‘s books: Dame Margaret’s Miss Marple, although itself likewise a splendid performance, has about as much to do with Agatha Christie‘s demure and seemingly scatterbrained village sleuth as Big Ben does with the English countryside, and of the scripts, only Murder, She Said is at least loosely based on an actual Miss Marple mystery (4:50 From Paddington), whereas two of the others – Murder at the Gallop and Murder Most Foul – are, instead, inspired by Hercule Poirot stories (After the Funeral and Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, respectively), and Murder Ahoy is based on a completely independent screenplay.

Following the rule that ever since Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Lestrade every great private detective needs a policeman he can outwit, the creators of the BBC series inserted the character of Inspector Slack (David Horovitch) into almost all of the storylines; including this 1987 adaptation of 4:50 From Paddington (a/k/a What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!, written 1957), which actually features a Scotland Yard Inspector named Craddock (who in turn also appears in A Murder Is Announced – written 1950, BBC adaptation 1985 – and The Mirror Crack’d – written 1962, BBC adaptation 1992). Yet, Hickson‘s and Horovitch’s face-offs are a fun addition; and one is almost ready to pity Slack, who hardly ever gets a foot down vis-à-vis Miss Marple’s quick rejoinders and, in the words of her friend, retired Scotland Yard chief Sir Henry Clithering, “wonderful gift to state the obvious.” So even if this made-for-TV movie takes some liberties in adapting Christie‘s novel, it is still a delight to watch, and a highly recommended entry in the Miss Marple canon.

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: BBC (1987)
  • Director: Martyn Friend
  • Producer: George Gallaccio
  • Screenplay: T.R. Bowen
  • Based on a novel by: Agatha Christie
Recurring Cast
  • Joan Hickson: Miss Jane Marple
  • David Horovitch: Detective Inspector Slack
  • Ian Brimble: Detective Sergeant Lake
  • Jill Meager: Lucy Eyelesbarrow
  • Joanna David: Emma Crackenthorpe
  • Maurice Denham: Luther Crackenthorpe
  • David Beames: Bryan Eastley
  • Andrew Burt: Dr. John Quimper
  • John Hallam: Cedric Crackenthorpe
  • Bernard Brown: Harold Crackenthorpe
  • Robert East: Alfred Crackenthorpe
  • Christopher Haley: Alexander Eastley
  • Daniele Steel: James Stoddart-West
  • Pamela Pitchford: Mrs. Kidder
  • Mona Bruce: Mrs. McGillicuddy
  • David Waller: Chief Inspector Duckham
  • Will Tacey: Arthur Wimborne
  • Jean Boht: Madame Joliet
  • Juliette Mole: Anna Stravinska

 

Links

MISS MARPLE

The Miss Marple Collection: “It is dangerous to believe people.  I haven’t for years …”

There she sits: A white-haired lady dressed in tweeds, a pair of knitting needles in her lap, more interested in village gossip than in the goings-on of the world at large – and out of nothing, she utters sentences like that.

For more likely than not, another murder has been committed; and Miss Jane Marple, elderly spinster from the village of St. Mary Mead, just happens to find herself near the scene of the crime. And also more likely than not, while the police are still toddling around searching for clues she’ll find the solution – relying on her ever-unfailing “village parallels;” those seemingly innocuous incidents of village life making up the sum of Miss Marple’s knowledge of human nature, to which she routinely turns in unmasking even the cleverest killer. “Miss Marple is a white-haired old lady with a gentle, appealing manner – Miss Wetherby is a mixture of vinegar and gush. Of the two Miss Marple is the more dangerous,” already observes Vicar Clement, the narrator of Miss Marple’s very first adventure, 1930’s Murder at the Vicarage.

Originally airing on TV between 1984 and 1992, the BBC’s adaptations of Agatha Christie‘s twelve Miss Marple novels featured Joan Hickson in the title role; quickly establishing her as the quintessential Miss Marple even in the view of the creator of the grandmother (or rather, grand-aunt) of all village sleuths and “noticing kinds of persons,” Dame Agatha herself. (In fact, after seeing Hickson in a stage production of her Appointment With Death, as early as 1946 Christie had already sent her a note expressing the hope she would one day “play my dear Miss Marple.”) Prior realizations, partly involving rather high-octane casts, had seen as Miss Marple, inter alia, Angela Lansbury and Margaret Rutherford, but had been decidedly less faithful to Christie‘s books. While Lansbury holds her own fairly well when compared to the character’s literary original in 1980’s “Hollywood does Christie” version of The Mirror Crack’d (and that movie’s ageing actresses’ camp showdown featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak is a delight to watch), the four movies starring Rutherford are only loosely based on Christie‘s books: Dame Margaret’s Miss Marple, although itself likewise a splendid performance, has about as much to do with Agatha Christie‘s demure and seemingly scatterbrained village sleuth as Big Ben does with the English countryside, and of the scripts, only Murder, She Said is at least loosely based on an actual Miss Marple mystery (4:50 From Paddington), whereas two of the others – Murder at the Gallop and Murder Most Foul – are, instead, inspired by Hercule Poirot stories (After the Funeral and Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, respectively), and Murder Ahoy is based on a completely independent screenplay.

Miss Marple Opening Credits:

Following the rule that ever since Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Lestrade every great private detective needs a policeman he can outwit, the creators of the BBC series inserted the character of Inspector Slack (David Horovitch) into almost all of the storylines – hardly in keeping with the literary originals, which are set over a period of more than 30 years and thus, exceed the career span of a policeman already advanced on his professional path at the time of his first encounter with Miss Marple; even if the BBC’s Slack is promoted from D.I. in Murder at the Vicarage and The Body in the Library to Superintendent in The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side. Yet, Hickson‘s and Horovitch’s face-offs are a fun addition; and one is almost ready to pity Slack, who hardly ever gets a foot down vis-à-vis Miss Marple’s quick rejoinders and, in the words of her friend, retired Scotland Yard chief Sir Henry Clithering, “wonderful gift to state the obvious.” (During a conversation with Inspector Craddock in The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side, Slack – whom Miss Marple herself, in the TV adaptation of Murder at the Vicarage, has already likened to a railway diesel engine, or in that story’s literary original to a shoe vendor intent on selling you patent leather boots while completely ignoring your request for brown calf leather instead – unaware that he is talking to one of Aunt Jane’s many nephews, rather unsubtly credits her with having “a mind like a meat cleaver.”)

  Miss Marple Opening Credits  Miss Marple Opening Credits  Miss Marple Opening Credits

  Miss Marple Opening Credits  Miss Marple Opening Credits  Miss Marple Opening Credits

 

The Body in the Library

(novel 1942, BBC adaptation 1984)

In response to a friend’s request, Christie makes a mysterious dead platinum blonde appear in the library of Miss Marple’s friends, St. Mary Mead’s squire Colonel Bantry and his wife Dolly.  The horror! The scandal! – The BBC’s first adaptation starring Joan Hickson: Inspector Slack’s “good old policework” vs. Miss Marple’s “village parallels” … guess who carries the day?
Separate review here.

The Moving Finger

(novel 1942, BBC adaptation 1985)

One of the stories that, according to Christie‘s own opinion, have stood the test of time particularly well. – Lymston village is haunted by poison pen letters; and when people begin to die, there is no shortage of suspects. But Miss Marple, on a visit to a friend, sees through the killer’s cruel game.

A Murder Is Announced

(novel 1950, BBC adaptation 1985)

… and will take place on Friday, October 29, at 6:30 P.M.” But the person who ends up dead is the advertisement’s author himself. So who is he and what’s he got to do with the apparently intended victim, Miss Letitia Blacklog of Little Paddocks in Chipping Cleghorn?
Separate review here.

A Pocket Full of Rye

(novel 1953, BBC adaptation 1985)

“Sing a song of sixpence …” While the police are still in the dark and the press is beginning to speculate about black magic, Miss Marple finds clues to a string of murders in a children’s nursery rhyme. (And the murderer’s motive? “Oh, it was greed, of course. One knows that naturally …”)
Separate review here.

Murder at the Vicarage

(novel 1930, BBC adaptation 1986)

Christie‘s first Miss Marple mystery: Disagreeable Colonel Protheroe is murdered, and both his wife and her lover instantly confess – but actually, half the population of St. Mary Mead would have had a motive to kill him.
Separate review here.

Sleeping Murder

(novel 1976, BBC adaptation 1987)

The last published (though not last written) Miss Marple story. Here it is less the old lady herself than newly-weds Giles and Gwenda Reed who act as detectives, with Miss Marple’s help trying to get to the bottom of Gwenda’s unsettling visions relating to their new home, which she conceivably cannot have known previously, and a murder occurring there over 20 years earlier.

At Bertram’s Hotel

(novel 1965; BBC adaptation 1987)

Miss Marple deconstructs the all-too-respectable façade of a seemingly venerable London hotel, and the somewhat less respectable façade of a notorious lady of society.

Nemesis

(novel 1971, BBC adaptation 1987)

Actually the sequel to A Caribbean Mystery, though the earlier novel would only come to be adapted for the screen two years later (see below). – From his grave, rich old Mr. Rafiel sends Miss Marple on a bus tour of historic homes, to either clear his estranged son of a long-ago murder, or prove him guilty.
Separate review here.

4:50 From Paddington

(novel 1957, BBC adaptation 1987; a/k/a What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!)

Miss Marple seeks the help of professional housekeeper Lucy Eyelesbarrow to investigate the murder of a woman, whom the village sleuth’s friend Mrs. McGillicuddy has seen being strangled from a passing train, and whose body must have disappeared somewhere on the grounds of the Crackenthorpe family estate Rutherford Hall. (In the original this, like A Murder Is Announced (above) and The Mirror Crack’d (below), is a story featuring Inspector Craddock, not Slack.)
Separate review here.

A Caribbean Mystery

(novel 1965, BBC adaptation 1989)

Transplanted to a, for her, most unusual West Indian setting, Miss Marple solves the murder of Major Palgrave, who was killed in an attempt to prevent him from foiling his murderer’s even more sinister intentions. – This episode also establishes the title of its sequel Nemesis (see above), although it is actually Miss Marple herself, not her new friend, rich old Mr. Rafiel, who names her thus.

They Do It With Mirrors

(novel 1952, BBC adaptation 1991; a/k/a “Murder with Mirrors”)

Inspector Slack’s secret hobby provides a vital clue to the ungodly doings at the estate of Miss Marple’s old friend Carrie-Louise Serrocold, which Carrie-Louise’s third husband has transformed into a reformatory for young criminals.

The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side

(novel 1962, BBC adaptation 1992)

The last entry in the BBC series (though not the last Miss Marple novel written and published), this mystery, which is based on real events involving Hollywood actress Jean Tierney and whose title is based on a line from Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott, revisits the grounds of Gossington Hall, erstwhile home to Miss Marple’s friends Colonel and Mrs. Bantry (where the BBC series had also opened with The Body in the Library). – After her husband’s death, Mrs. Bantry has sold the estate to ageing Hollywood star Marina Gregg. At a charity benefit, the charity’s secretary, who also happens to be a major fan of Miss Gregg’s, is found dead … and much points to Miss Gregg herself as the intended victim.

 

   Miss Marple: The Complete Collection   Miss Marple: Volume One     Miss Marple: Volume Three

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: BBC (1984 – 1992)
  • Directors: various
  • Producers: Guy Slater & George Gallaccio
  • Screenplays: various
  • Based on novels by: Agatha Christie
Recurring Cast
  • Joan Hickson: Miss Jane Marple
  • David Horovitch: Detective Inspector (later Superintendent) Slack
  • Ian Brimble: Detective Constable (later Seargant) Lake
  • John Castle: Detective Inspector Craddock
  • Gwen Watford: Dolly Bantry
  • T.R. (Trevor) Bowen: Raymond West

 

   :

 

Links

 

Agatha Christie: The Thirteen Problems

The Thirteen Problems - Agatha ChristieThe Tuesday Club Puzzles

“Miss Marple insinuated herself so quickly into my life that I hardly noticed her arrival,” Agatha Christie wrote in her posthumously-published autobiography (1977) about the elderly lady who, next to Belgian super-sleuth Hercule Poirot, quickly became one of her most beloved characters. Somewhat resembling Christie‘s own grandmother and her friends, although “far more fussy and spinsterish” and “not in any way a picture” of the author’s granny, like her, she had a certain gift for prophecy and, “though a cheerful person, she always expected the worst of everyone and everything, and was, with almost frightening accuracy, usually proved right.”

Although Christie herself considered Miss Marple her favorite creation – preferred even over the prim and proper Belgian with the many “little grey cells,” of whose exploits she occasionally tired and whom she brought back again and again chiefly because of her audience’s undying demand – there are only twelve Miss Marple novels and twenty short stories: while no small feat in any other author’s body of work, just over one tenth of the lifetime output of the writer justifiedly dubbed The Queen of Crime.

This compilation unites the twenty short stories revolving around St. Mary Mead’s elderly village sleuth, beginning with the canon of originally six and, after an expansion for republication in book form, later thirteen stories which, in addition to the novel A Murder at the Vicarage (1930) introduced Miss Marple to the world; a series of unsolved problems told by her guests one Tuesday night, to be followed by six further problems narrated during a similar gathering at the home of village squire Colonel Bantry and his wife Dolly, about a year later.

In attendance on those two nights are a number of people who make recurring appearances next to Miss Marple; first and foremost her doting nephew – thriller novelist Raymond West – and retired Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir Henry Clithering, as well as village solicitor Petherick, and of course the Bantrys (who will move center stage, much to their embarrassment, in A Body in the Library, 1942); furthermore Raymond’s new flame, artist Joyce (later reincarnated as his wife Joan), a doctor, a clergyman, and a well-known actress. Of course, all the stories also feature Christie’s usual cast of other unique characters, many of whom could just as well figure in one of Miss Marple’s “village parallels,” those seemingly unimportant events summing up her knowledge of life, on which she unfailingly draws in unmasking even the cleverest killer.

Avid Christie readers will doubtlessly, moreover, recognize individual character types, plot snippets, settings and other features here and there; for Dame Agatha was known to draw repeatedly on devices she found to have worked before, and she tended to use her short stories as mini-laboratories for elements later expanded on in novels. Caveat, lector, of premature conclusions, however, for Christie was equally known to throw in a little extra twist in such cases: what is a real clue in one instance may well be a red herring in another and vice versa, and one story’s innocent bystander may easily be the next story’s murderer.

The following are the thirteen problems recounted in this collection:

Quill-Inkpot Review Icon The Tuesday Night Club: Sir Henry Clithering opens the evening with the case of a woman’s mysterious poisoning by arsenic.

Quill-Inkpot Review Icon The Idol House of Astarte: A man inexplicably dies after a costume party’s nightly excursion to a pagan temple.

Quill-Inkpot Review Icon Ingots of Gold: Raymond West tells about a treasure hunt, sunken ships and murder on the Cornish coast.

Quill-Inkpot Review Icon The Bloodstained Pavement: Joyce and the case of a drowned wife in a Cornish watering place called Rathole.

Quill-Inkpot Review Icon Motive vs. Opportunity: Mr. Petherick’s tale of a will that mysteriously vanishes from its sealed envelope.

Quill-Inkpot Review Icon The Thumb Mark of St. Peter: Miss Marple’s story how she quashed rumors about the sudden death of her niece Mabel’s husband.

Quill-Inkpot Review Icon The Blue Geranium: Opening the second round of mysteries, Colonel Bantry’s narration about a prophecy involving death and three uncharacteristically blue flowers.

Quill-Inkpot Review Icon The Companion: Two English ladies go on a holiday in Tenerife, but only one returns home alive.

Quill-Inkpot Review Icon The Four Suspects: Sir Henry Clithering’s account of the murder of a retired secret agent.

Quill-Inkpot Review Icon A Christmas Tragedy: Having failed to prevent a murder, Miss Marple is all the more eager to unmask the murderer.

Quill-Inkpot Review Icon The Herb of Death: Mrs. Bantry’s gifts as a storyteller, a serving of sage and foxglove, and a charming young girl’s unexpected death.

Quill-Inkpot Review Icon The Affair at the Bungalow: Double-dealings, charades and mischief on stage and off, just outside of London.

Quill-Inkpot Review Icon Death by Drowning: A village girl “in trouble” finds a desperate solution – or does she?

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1442430/the-tuesday-club-puzzles

Merken

Agatha Christie: Miss Marple’s Final Cases

Dear Aunt Jane’s Final Short Cases

“Miss Marple insinuated herself so quickly into my life that I hardly noticed her arrival,” Agatha Christie wrote in her posthumously-published autobiography (1977) about the elderly lady who, next to Belgian super-sleuth Hercule Poirot, quickly became one of her most beloved characters. Somewhat resembling Christie‘s own grandmother and her friends, although “far more fussy and spinsterish” and “not in any way a picture” of the author’s granny, like her, she had a certain gift for prophecy and, “though a cheerful person, she always expected the worst of everyone and everything, and was, with almost frightening accuracy, usually proved right.”

Although Christie herself considered Miss Marple her favorite creation – preferred even over the prim and proper Belgian with the many “little grey cells,” of whose exploits she occasionally tired and whom she brought back again and again chiefly because of her audience’s undying demand – there are only twelve Miss Marple novels and twenty short stories: while no small feat in any other author’s body of work, just over one tenth of the lifetime output of the writer justifiedly dubbed The Queen of Crime.

This posthumously-published compilation, first published in 1979, unites the last seven short stories revolving around St. Mary Mead’s elderly village sleuth. Though Miss Marple had actually – in addition to the novel A Murder at the Vicarage (1930) – even been introduced to readers in a canon of originally six and, after an expansion for republication in book form, later thirteen short stories, Christie‘s readers would soon come to cherish her mostly on the basis of the aforementioned twelve novels, each and every one of which is a gem of detective fiction in and of itself. As a short story character, however, after the initial Thirteen Problems, Miss Marple later only made rare intermittent appearances, whereas the majority of Christie‘s later short stories centered either around Hercule Poirot, or not around any of Christie‘s recurring characters at all.

In those stories that do, however, feature St. Mary Mead’s most famous (and beloved) resident, readers of course also meet a number of other acquaintances from her novel-length adventures; first and foremost her doting nephew – thriller novelist Raymond West – and retired Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir Henry Clithering, as well as village solicitor Petherick, and of course the Bantrys (who had moved center stage, much to their embarrassment, in A Body in the Library, 1942). Add to these Raymond’s flame, artist Joyce (later reincarnated as his wife Joan); as well as, in the later stories gathered in this collection, Miss Marple’s niece Diana “Bunch” Harmon, who is married to the vicar of Chipping Cleghorn, a village not unlike St. Mary Mead (see also A Murder Is Announced, 1950), St. Mary Mead’s Dr. Haydock, several maids called Gladys, and of course Inspectors Slack and Craddock and Colonel Melchett of Melchester C.I.D. and village Constable Palk, plus the usual cast of other unique characters, many of whom could just as well figure in one of the elderly lady’s “village parallels,” those seemingly unimportant events summing up her knowledge of life, and on which she unfailingly draws in unmasking even the cleverest killer.

Avid Christie readers will also recognize certain other character types, plot snippets, settings and other features here and there; for Dame Agatha was known to draw repeatedly on devices she found to have worked before, and she tended to use her short stories as mini-laboratories for elements later expanded on in novels. Caveat, lector, of premature conclusions, however, for Christie was equally known to throw in a little extra twist in such cases: what is a real clue in one instance may well be a red herring in another and vice versa, and one story’s innocent bystander may easily be the next story’s murderer.

Miss Marple’s final short cases are:

From The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories (1939):

  • Miss Marple Tells a Story: Miss Marple assists Mr. Petherick in the case of a client accused of having murdered his wife.

From Three Blind Mice and Other Stories (1950):

  • Strange Jest: A rich iconoclast’s final joke – at the expense of his heirs?
  • Tape-Measure Murder: Miss Marple’s knowledge of village life and human nature (once more) corrects the all-too straightforward path of Inspector Slack’s investigation of an elderly lady’s murder.
  • The Case of the Caretaker: Dr. Haydock’s story about a rural rascal, a poor little rich girl, an old estate and its grumpy caretaker.
  • The Case of the Perfect Maid: Domestic service and burglary in a Victorian estate-turned-apartment building.

From The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (1960):

  • Greenshaw’s Folly (republished in Double Sin, below): A reverse-locked-room mystery at an eccentrically-built country estate.

From Double Sin and Other Stories (1961):

  • Sanctuary (first published 1954, a/k/a The Man on the Chancel Steps): The last secret of a man found dying on Chipping Cleghorn’s church steps.