Miss Marple is back - a review

If you love Agatha Christie and classic murder mystery stories, I highly recommend “Marple: Twelve New Stories.” In this recent collection of new stories by twelve different writers, the character of Miss Jane Marple is brought back to life.

When I lived in Pittsburgh, PA, I loved perusing the shelves of books in the Carnegie Library. One of my favorite shelves was where I first discovered Agatha Christie. I have read most of her books, all that were available in Carnegie’s collection, including her first book with the character, Miss Marple, titled, “Murder at the Vicarage.” At the time I was a seminary student and the thought of a murder in the Vicar’s home was intriguing.

In this new collection of short stories, one early title, “Second Murder in the Vicarage,” had me hooked. This story takes place in Miss Marple’s beloved English village, St. Mary Mead. The author, Val McDermid, does a wonderful job of capturing the sensibilities of life in the village. Likewise, Kate Mosse in “The Mystery of the Acid Soil,” and Natalie Haynes in “The Unravelling.”

The writers were given a strict rubric for these stories: the time period had to be the same that the original Miss Marple lived in, and they could not change her back story. They could include some original characters (such as Marple’s nephew, Raymond), but would have to stick to Christie’s portrayals. Christie’s Marple was an “old maid” in the classic sense. She was clever, witty, and incredibly astute. While some of the new stories have Miss Marple spanning the globe, including New York (Alyssa Cole, “Miss Marple Takes Manhattan”), Tuscany (Elly Griffiths, “Murder at the Villa Rosa”) and even a cruise ship (“The Jade Empress” by Jean Kwok) on its way to Hong Kong, they keep to the rubric.

In addition to the writers already mentioned, readers will also recognize contributors Ruth Ware, Naomi Alderman, Leigh Bardugo, Lucy Foley, Karen M. McManus, and Dreda Say Mitchell. Classic fans of mystery, especially of Agatha Christie and her Miss Marple, will not be disappointed in this new collection.


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