15) Agatha Christie — The Complete Miss Marple Stories
Does what it says on the tin – every short story about Miss Marple, collected into a single volume. We have here the collection “The Thirteen Problems”, the six Marple stories from “Miss Marple’s Final Cases and Two other Stories”, and “Greenshaw’s Folly”. Twenty short stories in total, and in my edition there is also an introductory essay by Stella Duffy, which is well worth reading.
I think that reading all of these in one or two sittings would be a bit much; they would seem too formulaic. And in fact I listened to some of them in audiobook format read by Joan Hickson, and then read the others on and off over a period of a couple of weeks. But taken 2 or 3 at a time, the formula can become an asset to the story-telling, particularly in the Thirteen Problems collection. You have the same set-up in each story (a group of friends telling each other stories in the evening, and trying to guess the solution), and then the fun of watching the different approach each character takes to telling his or her story for the others to try to solve. Christie has created distinctive personalities for each of her recurring characters in these stories, and uses various quirks in their personalities to present and hide clues.
They’re short stories, so by their nature they can’t have the depth of the novels. But each story is an engaging puzzle, with the sharp observation of human nature, wittily told, that is Christie’s trademark. The quality varies from story to story, but as a whole this is a collection well worth reading.