Published by Fontana
Publication date – 1975
Source – own copy
’Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe,’ declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, ‘would be doing the world at large a service!’
It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come back and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later. From seven potential murderers, Miss Marple must seek out the suspect who has both motive and opportunity.
It all has to begin somewhere. And for Miss Marple, it all begins with the murder of Colonel Protheroe, found shot dead in the study at the Vicarage.
Narrated by the resident vicar, we are introduced to the inhabitants of St Mary Mead, where net curtains twitch and secrets abound.
The mystery is engaging. There are a limited number of suspects, and as those are discounted through one reason or another, it looks like the police are running out of options. Reverend Leonard Clement is determined to find out the truth, partly for justice, partly so that the peace of the village can be restored and partly because he feels responsible given the murder occurred in his study. Ruled out as a suspect himself, he is allowed to aid the police in their enquiries. His opinion of Miss Marple is not flattering, viewing her as one of the interfering elderly ladies that reside in the village. Slowly however, he becomes aware that Miss Jane Marple is far more astute than she first seems. She knows that her appearance lulls people, there is little harm in an old woman, almost invisible if not faded into the background. But she sees more than people realise, surreptitiously let into people’s secrets, and her experience of human nature allows her to have insights and ideas that allow the culprit to be unmasked.
Now I can remember this story from the TV adaptation but as always, there is a new pleasure to be found in reading the original words. Hunting for clues allows us to be armchair detectives, the murder perhaps all the more chilling because of the bucolic setting.
I had huge fun curling up with The Murder at the Vicarage. I have heard of people describe Agatha Christie as comfort reading before and I can see why. There is something appealing, and indeed comforting, about being transported to quaint English village between the wars but where everything is not quite as it seems.
I loved my visit to St Mary Mead and my re-introduction to Miss Jane Marple. I’m just pleased I have many more chances to return to Agatha Christie’s murderous ideas.