Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Review: The Complete Miss Marple Short Stories
This collection of Miss Marple short stories highlights many of the things I find interesting about Christie, as well as some of her weaknesses. Christie's strength lies in setting up complicated plots and drawing out rich characters in all of their particularities. The short story format, then, takes away Christie's greatest strength. What is left are bare-bones Christie-style stories.
Each story in this collection is a whodunit, usually featuring a murder. Everyone is either bewildered, or convinced that the wrong person is guilty, except, of course, for Miss Marple. Christie affords no energy to the set-up; most of these stories begin with a group telling each other stories. The solutions to these stories involve knowledge of all sorts of things with which the average reader will have little familiarity, such as the uses and results of certain poisons.
Perhaps most striking to me was just how weak the character of Miss Marple actually is. There's simply very little to her, except a conviction that young people are foolish. The introduction to the volume tries to argue otherwise, but I am not convinced.
Christie aficionados will certainly want to read this volume, but I would recommend one of Christie's novels to the uninitiated.
Agatha Christie, The Complete Miss Marple Short Stories (Folio, 2003).