The Murder at the Vicarage is Agatha Christie’s first mystery to feature the beloved investigator Miss Marple—as a dead body in a clergyman’s study proves to the indomitable sleuth that no place, holy or otherwise, is a sanctuary from homicide.
Miss Marple encounters a compelling murder mystery in the sleepy little village of St. Mary Mead, where under the seemingly peaceful exterior of an English country village lurks intrigue, guilt, deception and death.
Colonel Protheroe, local magistrate and overbearing land-owner is the most detested man in the village. Everyone–even in the vicar–wishes he were dead. And very soon he is–shot in the head in the vicar’s own study. Faced with a surfeit of suspects, only the inscrutable Miss Marple can unravel the tangled web of clues that will lead to the unmasking of the killer.
This is actually the first Agatha Christie book that I’ve read. Thanks very much to Jay’s Agatha Christie readathon this month to finally getting me to read one. It should come as no surprise that I enjoyed it quite a lot.
I was surprised to realise that the darling Miss Marple is not in fact the central character of this story, but rather a supporting character who is the real brains behind the investigation into who murdered Colonel Protheroe. The vicar, Mr. Clement, is the central character through whose perspective the events are related.
I admit I was not overly fond of the vicar or his seemingly flighty wife, Griselda, for some parts of the story. However, by the end, I grew to like them quite a bit and look forward to coming across these characters in subsequent Miss Marple stories. Such is the beauty of Agatha Christie’s writing, that the characters are delightfully brought to life and the reader can get a very good feel for them in the quaint, small countryside town in post WWII England.
Inspector Slack is hilariously written. Despite being a bit pompous and brusque, I actually found the poor hard-working police officer to be quite unfairly disliked by his townsfolk. Colonel Melchett seems to be a bit better liked, though he too fails to match the dedication and cleverness of dear Miss Marple. While the local police may be a tad resentful of Miss Marple’s superior skills, there is very little animosity between the force and the amateur sleuths.
The list of suspects is a long one! Miss Marple indicates that there are seven on her list, though, at first she won’t name any names. Each suspect has a clear motive, the means and the opportunity in which to commit the murder. Almost every one of them is just at the point of being deemed guilty by the reader, when plot twist(!) a new secret or event is revealed. It’s a terrific ride.
There are a few subplots which add to the intrigue and allow readers to get to know various characters from the neighbourhood. One or two are easily deduced and the rest are tied up by the end.
As a quick aside, it was funny to read the off-hand, disparaging comments about women bandied about by the men of influence. Because you know, women, in general, are so high strung, unreliable and in need of a gentleman’s steadying influence. I think Agatha Christie was having quite a good laugh at the men of her time for their backward views on women; and found a clever way to poke fun at them through her own writing.
Overall this was a very entertaining read. And I’d highly recommend that anyone looking for the classic whodunit, give this one a whirl.
4.5/5 espresso shots.