Friday, September 16, 2022

Miss Marple

John Wilson reviews Marple: Twelve New Mysteries:
.... I suspect that the vast majority of fans will enjoy this high-spirited volume, loaded as it is with allusions to the canonical novels and stories.

Like many readers of our generation, Wendy and I see the actress Joan Hickson in our mind’s eye whenever we are reading about Miss Marple. Indeed, Hickson channeled Christie’s creation to an uncanny degree: the spinster Jane Marple living in the village of St Mary Mead, gardening, knitting, faithfully going to church, observing all that goes on with her compassionate but steely intelligence. ....

One of my favorite stories in the book is “The Second Murder at the Vicarage,” by Val McDermid (who happens to be the only one of the twelve authors I’d read before picking up this book). Here McDermid gives us a delightful mini sequel to Christie’s first Marple novel, The Murder at the Vicarage (1930). There’s a fine line to walk with such homages, avoiding self-indulgent cutesiness, but McDermid brings it off without a false step. And a crucial clue comes when Miss Marple glimpses the title of a book on a shelf where its presence is incongruous: Native Fungi of the Home Counties. Delicious.

Another story I particularly enjoyed was “Miss Marple’s Christmas,” by Ruth Ware. In this tale, a book that a sullen young man at the Christmas gathering is reading, Dorothy Sayers’s Hangman’s Holiday, gives Miss Marple a vital clue. ....

I have complained now and then that Christie’s convictions as an unambiguously Christian writer have often been given short shrift or overlooked entirely. (A sterling exception is Jeremy Black’s recent book The Importance of Being Poirot, which emphasizes Christie’s identity as a “practicing Anglican” with a “strong religious sensibility.”) Alas, that is true of the stories commissioned for this volume. I very much wish that at least a writer or two with a strong sense of Christie’s faith and the way it informed her work had been enlisted for this project. ....

Part of what made Joan Hickson’s portrayal of Miss Marple for British TV so memorably compelling was her voice. It will probably sound very silly or odd to you, but now and then, out of the blue, I hear in my head Miss Marple’s voice as rendered by Hickson. Don’t worry, I’m not saying that I am hearing her voice as if addressed to me. But there is something about her voice (embodying a cluster of winsome qualities) that I find immensely cheering and grounded in the real. Strange but delightful. ....
John Wilson, "Miss Marple Returns," First Things, Sept. 16, 2022.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:28 PM

    She was the perfect Miss Marple.


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