53) Agatha Christie — A Caribbean Mystery
Miss Marple’s nephew has paid for her to have a holiday in the Caribbean as part of her convalescence after a bad bout of pneumonia. The setting is very different to St Mary Mead, but the behaviours on display amongst the ex-pats are only too familiar. As the novel opens, Miss Marple is listening to the hotel bore, or at least making a polite show of same. She starts to pay more attention when the Major tells a story about a friend having accidentally taken a photo of someone who was almost certainly a serial murderer, but doesn’t it take it seriously until the the Major starts to pull a copy of the photo out to show her — and then sees someone and hastily puts it away. When the Major dies in his sleep that night, Miss Marple thinks there may be more to it than high blood pressure. Of course, nudging the local doctor to check whether the major really did have a prescription for blood pressure tablets is only the start. There are several potential suspects to be investigated as only Miss Marple can.
There are some nice characterisations in this book, not least being Miss Marple herself. There was some fairly acid internal monologue from Marple in the previous book (The Mirror Crack’d) about the young not having invented sex, and it continues here. On the second page:
“Sex” as a word had not been mentioned in Miss Marple’s young days; but there had been plenty of it–not talked about so much–but enjoyed far more than nowadays, or so it seemed to her.
And there’s more in that vein. This is not an unworldly spinster, whatever the world may think.
I spotted the murderer straight off, which diminished none of the pleasure of reading the book; not least because I realised who, but not why, which is neatly concealed in a shoal of red herrings. Not my favourite Marple, but still an entertaining way to pass a few hours.