Archive for ‘Miss Marple’

June 29, 2020

A Caribbean Mystery

 

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I’ve never been to the Caribbean, but I’ve been keen to go since I was about twelve and read an article in Modern Bride magazine about the best places to honeymoon. In fact, I’m pretty excited to go just about anywhere considering I’ve been in my house for roughly 104 days.

The beach, any beach, is my favorite place to be. I don’t think Miss Marple was feeling quite the same way, however. Instead of enjoying the vacation arranged by her devoted nephew, she resumes the same activities she enjoys at home in England, knitting and meddling.

We are given very little information about the sunny beaches, and balmy breezes, but learn a great deal about how tourist love their exotic tropical drinks with umbrellas. There’s plenty going on here, wife swapping, drug taking, an abundance of drinking, and people trying to escape who they are or might become.

Agatha Christie is superior at capturing the essence of her time. As Miss Marple goes along through the years, she embraces the changes around her. Though the format of the books remain the same, which is basically a locked room mystery, the stories are great commentaries on their times. You can read a Marple book and will be able to tell the era without checking the publication date. 0223201237

I must admit I prefer the books that has Miss Marple in her beloved village of St. Mary Mead, but I certainly can appreciate how her world expands over time.  However, that being said, this novel was the first I’ve read of hers where I felt she cheated a little bit. In the end where Miss Marple gives her summary, she reveals a clue that was not known to the reader until that moment. And, of course, it was that exact clue that helped her to identify the murderer. I was disappointed in that.

If you enjoy mysteries and like to dream of sunny islands and fruity tropical drinks, you may enjoy a series called Death in Paradise. It’s an enjoyable show with beautiful scenery. If you watch a lot of shows on BBC you may recognize some of the guest stars. The ninth season has aired and can be seen on Amazon Prime.

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My happy place and a good spot to read 

The next Agatha Christie book we will be reading is  At Bertram’s Hotel.

Stay safe and enjoy the week!

June 15, 2020

Return After Reading

 

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I am sitting here among the dust, staring up at the widening hole above me. Once there was a ceiling, but that was before my husband thought he could fix the plumbing problem himself. Much to my relief, a plumber – a professional plumber – has been called in and soon all will be right with the world again. Well, at least all will be right with my bathroom and ceiling. I only have so much influence!

This week we were to have discussed the ninth Miss Marple novel A Caribbean Mystery. And, we would have had the online library not removed my book. The day before it was due, I sat down with my tea [because I find you must have tea when reading Miss Marple] and scrolled my iPad to the Cloud Library to finish the last sixteen pages of the book. Much to my surprise, the book had been returned. I immediately went to renew it, but found I had a fourteen day wait.

How horrible to read an entire book, a mystery at that, and have it snatched away just when the murderer was to be revealed! A few friends suggested I just read a summary to discover the culprit. Obviously they are not readers, otherwise they would have known that it’s more than just seeing the outcome, a true reader wants to experience the words, every clever one.

It seems then our discussion will be delayed. In the meantime, please tell me what other books you’re reading. I am in the middle of an interesting one. Truly, Madly, Guilty is the fourth book I’ve read by Liane Moriarty. She definitely knows how to write a page turner. You are drawn in by the first sentence.

“‘This is a story that begins with a barbecue,’ said Clementine.'” How’s that for an opening line? You are immediately drawn in. What barbecue? What happened? And still, as I’m in the middle of chapter 13, I don’t know what happened yet at the barbecue, but I’m anxious to find out. Her chapters alternate between present day and what happened months ago at this event. It’s a very clever way to keep a reader interested.

I hope everyone is staying well, wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

Happy reading!

June 8, 2020

Truly Miss Marple

 

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Last night I was switching between Amazon Prime and Netflix trying to decide what to watch when I came across a documentary entitled Truly Miss Marple: The Curious Case of Margaret Rutherford.

As I’ve said before, though I love the Marple books, there’s not been a film version that I’ve liked.  However, I’ve never seen Margaret Rutherford portray the character. I don’t know that I’d ever heard of her before last night.

The documentary was interesting for many reasons. It made me feel as if a member of a family just started interviewing people and recording it. At one point a person being interviewed stops to take a telephone call and the cameras keep rolling. If you have Amazon Prime and any interest in Miss Marple, this show is definitely worth your time.

Margaret Rutherford was a fascinating character. Her  young life was full of scandal and tragedy. Agatha Christie could have written it! When Margaret was very young her father suffered a breakdown. After being released from the hospital, he went and murdered his own father who was a clergyman. Not long after, while living in India, her mother committed suicide. Margaret was sent back to England to live with her aunt.

In 1961 Margaret starred in Murder She Said, her debut as Miss Marple. It was rumored that Agatha Christie had chosen her for the role, but that was untrue. Christie was not very pleased with the way MGM handled the adaptations of her books. She held no ill-will against Margaret, though, and dedicated The Mirror Crack’d Side to Side to the actress.

The next two films were based on Poirot novels, but the studio rewrote them to suit the Marple character.Murder at the Gallop was released in 1963 followed a year later by Murder Most Foul. The last film, Murder Ahoy was not taken from a Christie novel, but instead written by two screenwriters.

I’m now anxious to see these films. I understand in them Miss Marple receives not just one, but two marriage proposals and she can be seen doing the twist. I think to watch them, though, I’ll need to pretend she’s not the actual Miss Marple.

This week I’m still reading A Caribbean Mystery and enjoying it a great deal. What are you reading? I’m always looking for more good books to read!

June 1, 2020

The Mirror Crack’d – Part 2

 

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“Times change. That is a thing which has to be accepted.”

– Miss Marple, The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side

 

Last week I talked about women and aging. This week I’d like to take a look at the characters in this wonderful and insightful book. The main characters of our story are Jane Marple, of course, the fading Hollywood actress Marina Gregg, Chief Inspector Craddock, and the tragic Heather Badcock.

When I read a book, I cast every part as if it were going to be a movie. I have watched many episodes of Miss Marple on Mystery, and though I’ve enjoyed the story lines, I feel they’ve never quite chosen the correct actress for the part of Jane Marple. In the 1980 film version of The Mirror Crack’d it is Angela Lansbury who tries on the role. I love Angela Lansbury, but must tell you she was my least favorite Miss Marple. She came off as much too stern and not anyone I’d want to spend time with.

The entire movie seemed miscast. In an attempt to get some big names they lost sight of the characters. An interesting fact is that Rock Hudson is cast as the handsome husband of the actress Marina Gregg [in the book it is noted more than once how ugly he is] and Rock Hudson was born in 1925, the same year as Angela Lansbury.  So at the age of 55 Miss Lansbury was portraying an elderly spinster while Mr. Hudson was still a dashing leading man.

Elizabeth Taylor plays the part of Marina Gregg and Kim Novak as her rival Lola Brewster. The acing was over the top and lost any of the meaning the book held. It reminded me of the show Dynasty.

I have thought long and hard over which actress might do justice to the multi dimensional character of Jane Marple and I believe Helen Mirren would be fabulous. She’s an older woman who would be easily mistaken as frail, but is strong and intelligent. I think she could portray this character the way Christie envisioned her.

In my movie Jennifer Aniston is Marina Gregg with Tommy Lee Jones as her older, less attractive, director husband and the beautiful, younger Kat Graham as her rival Lola Brewster. How wonderful would it be if the film stayed true to the book?

Carey Mulligan as the ill-fated Heather Badcock and Benedict Cumberbatch as her husband Arthur.  Julie Andrews would be the perfect Dolly Bantry, Jane’s best friend. And who better than Emma Thompson as the overbearing Miss Knight? I would love to see Eddie Redmayne reunited with Felicity Jones as Miss Marple’s housekeeper Cherry and her husband Jim. The best part would be Matthew Goode as D I Craddock. I watch everything he’s in!

In 2010 another version was made with Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple. I haven’t seen this one yet, though I’m interested to discover if they are more loyal to Christie’s story.

If you have read this book, who would be in your movie? Who do you see as the perfect Miss Marple? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Let me know what you’re reading. It doesn’t have to be a Christie book. Who are you casting as the characters in your book?

Next week we’ll take a look at A Caribbean Mystery. I hope you will join me then.

May 25, 2020

The Mirror Crack’d Side to Side

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I’m sure many of you are experiencing the same time warp as I am. All the days seem to crunch together leaving me asking nearly every day, “Is today Monday?” The calendar tells me today is most certainly Monday and my blog schedule shows me I am, once again, neglectful in posting about our beloved Agatha.

The Mirror Crack’d Side to Side is, thus far, my favorite Marple mystery and I have quite a lot to say about it. I think it is the first of the Marple books that really explores the town of St. Mary Mead more than just a setting for a murder. Christie has a commentary on how the world has changed and that the village is now overshadowed by newer housing developments. Miss Marple, though intrigued by the modern homes, worries how their little local businesses will stay afloat now that a super market has been opened.

The story, published in 1963, shows that St. Mary Mead faced many of the problems we still have today. Large companies pushing out small businesses, newer developments designed to imitate the very small towns the development has destroyed, and the way the old is shoved aside to make way for the new, not just buildings, but people, too.

Miss Marple has been recovering from a bout of sickness. Her beloved nephew has hired a companion to assist his aunt. Though thinking she is acting out of kindness, Miss Knight, the new companion, treats Miss Marple is a demeaning way as if she were a simple-minded child. We all know Miss Marple is rather clever and far from foolish.

Christie never gives us Miss Marple’s age, but I estimate she would have been about sixty-eight years old in 1963. We know Jane Marple was a young woman during WW1, so I added it up as if she were twenty in 1915. Sixty-eight is not really elderly. In today’s world most people are still working at that age.

Miss Marple tells us that though she may look old, that’s not how she feels. She’s tired of being served soft food and reminded to take naps and not to get herself worked up. To me, the theme of the book is age, specifically women aging. In addition to Miss Marple we have the fading actress Marina Gregg. The mystery revolves around the actress and one of her fans, a middle-aged house wife. Marina, though struggling with an anxiety problem, worries she will be replaced by a younger actress if she can’t complete the movie. How easily these women can be shoved aside. Haven’t we all had that moment of feeling totally invisible?

Reading this book brought my grandmother to mind. My grandmother, Nana as we called her, was middle-aged and working as the lead dietitian at McCormick’s when I was born. She was roughly the age I am now. When I was about ten years old there was a handyman who came to our house to handle odd jobs.  I always knew when Mr. John would be coming to our house because Nana wore a nice outfit instead of her housecoat. She put on lipstick. She smiled a lot. It was obvious my grandmother had a crush on Mr. John. I was mortified. Wasn’t she too old to feel that way?FullSizeRender (50)

Now, here I am, all these years later, in the same stage of life she was in. What would I have thought if she had a cut out of Benny Goodman sitting on her desk as I do of Dave Grohl? Or if she’d turned up the radio and rocked out to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy like I did this afternoon when The Clash came on with Should I Stay or Should I GO?

I suppose we always visualize people at the age they are when we first meet them. My mom doesn’t seem much different to me and I think it’s because I’ve watched her age and didn’t just meet her at 55. In my head I’m a sixteen year old masquerading as an adult. With the exception of my knees cracking when I stand up, I feel very little about me has changed. Why is this a lesson only learned once we age?FullSizeRender (48)

I said at the beginning I had much to talk about regarding this book. Join me next week when we talk about the characters. If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear which celebrities you would cast in the movie version. I watched the movie that was filmed in 1980. We can talk about that next week, too.

Please comment and let me know what you are reading in addition to the Christie books.

Have a good week and stay safe!

 

May 4, 2020

A Pocket Full of Rye

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Most mornings my breakfast looks like the photo above. Sometimes I vary it a little and have oatmeal or cheese toast, but one thing I never add is taxine. Poor Rex Fortescue wasn’t as lucky. I suppose if you live in a place called Yewtree Lodge you might expect your poison to come from nearby.  Taxine is a toxic chemical that comes from  Yew berries, needles or bark.

“Give me a decent bottle of poison, and I’ll construct the perfect crime,” is believed to have been said by Agatha Christie. Who would doubt it? She seems to use this method of murder more than any other in her novels. Her work as an apothecary’s assistant in the First World War in the local hospital dispensary gave her the knowledge she would later use in her mysteries.

This book is also the first of four titles that refer to nursery rhymes, this being the only one which features Miss Marple. Two other books are in the Poirot series and the third is a stand alone. She also uses nursery rhymes to title some short stories as well such as Three Blind Mice. I think that’s interesting considering most nursery rhymes aren’t as innocent as they seem.

I’m working my way through the seventh Marple mystery, 4:50 From Paddington, this week. No one has been poisoned… yet, but it does involve a train, something else that is frequently used by Miss Christie.

I had hoped to read one Poirot novel and one Marple a week, but things are not working out that way. I think I’m going to complete the Miss Marple series first then pick up the Poirot mysteries where we left off. I hope some of you are able to check out the mysteries on film if you’re unable to read the novels.

Keep reading and stay healthy!

April 27, 2020

The Name Game

 

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I love to learn about names. What they mean, why they’re chosen, it all fascinates me. My name is Kimberly, chosen by my mom because she had never known of anyone named Kim except for the actress Kim Novak. That was up until she met her room mate in the maternity ward at Bon Secours Hospital. It had been decided my name would be Ann Elizabeth, but Mom changed her mind and when it came time to fill out the birth certificate I became Kimberly Anne, much to my dad’s surprise. At least it wasn’t Robin, another of Mom’s choices. “She won’t be named after no damned bird,” said Dad. And he was right, instead I was named for a woman Mom never saw again.

My mom’s name is Frances, she’s named after her aunt, my grandmother’s sister. Mom always said she felt fortunate she had been born in the parlor at Aunt Frances’s house and not one of her other aunts. Elsie, Lottie, and Desi were not names that appealed to Mom, though both my sister and I considered the name Lottie for our own children. My daughter ended up with the name Monica, but the protagonist in my supernatural stories is named Lottie, a nickname for Charlotte.

Naming characters in stories is fun. I think Agatha Christie found great enjoyment in this process. Many times she uses names to keep the reader on their toes, such as in A Murder is Announced with the names Lottie [who knew it was so popular?] and Lettie. Was this merely a slip of the tongue or were Lottie and Lettie two different people? I hope by now you’ve read that book and know the answer.

In They Do It With Mirrors, Miss Marple agrees to stay with her old friend Carrie Louise Serrocold. When she arrives at Stoneygates, she soon learns that she is the only person who refers to her friend as Carrie Louise. Mr. Serrocold, her friend’s husband, calls her Carolyn, while the secretary says Cara, and to Gina, the granddaughter she is Grandmam. Miss Marple makes note of this, but nothing more is mentioned about it throughout the book. I wonder was there a point for the names originally that just got lost or if it was a commentary by Christie on how we are seen by others.

I am mostly called Kim by just about everyone except for my financial adviser who insists on calling me Kimberly.  My mom never called me Kimberly even when I was in trouble. My cousins call me Kimmy, which is not my favorite. When my sister was a toddler and just learning to talk she called me Day because my grandfather would call me Kimmy Kay. She had a habit of only saying the end parts of words and that’s how it came out for her, Kay was Day. That was pretty cute.

Our names are important, they’re our identity and, many times, say a lot about us. For example, the name Kim means chief of war. It also written that people [because Kim can be used for both girls and boys] named Kim tend to be sensitive, eager to please and outgoing. It also says they can be perfectionist, strong-willed, and artistic.  I think I was named appropriately.

Think back to some of your favorite characters in books. Their names conjure up a certain image. Would James Bond be as dynamic if he were called Ralph Thomas? You’d expect Dorothy Gale {get it?} to be swept away in a mighty wind, but maybe not Patty Jones. Jane Marple is a plain, unassuming name. We can visualize her at once and believe that she is an elderly spinster. Hercule Poirot also tells us what we can expect from this character. Hercule, which is much like Hercules, means strong and refined. Hercule Poirot’s strength is in his little gray cells.

Are you named for anyone in particular? Do you know the story behind your name and why it was chosen? I would really like to hear your stories.

In the meantime, I have begun to read A Pocket Full of Rye, the next novel in the Miss Marple series. What are you reading? Let me know.

Stay well and have a lovely week!

April 13, 2020

In Isolation With Agatha Christie

 

Agatha House 6How is everyone doing? It’s been thirty days since I’ve left my house. You would think I could have read a number of books in that amount of time, but the truth is I’m just finishing up A Murder is Announced and have only begun They Do It With Mirrors.

I’ve been thinking a lot how Agatha Christie lived through the flu pandemic of 1918 and how similar that was in many ways to what we are experiencing now. She  must have felt very isolated. There wouldn’t have been Face Book to update her status or post selfies, and absolutely no Face Time or Zoom meetings.

In 1918, Agatha would have just been settling in with her husband Archie at their flat in London. He had been reassigned there in 1917. I have not yet read her autobiography, but given her nursing experience in the war, I wonder if she also used those skills to help others during the pandemic.

What is everyone doing to help themselves through this time? In addition to reading, I’m working on a short story that is due the end of June. I’m also hooked on a show on Acorn called 800 Words. I’ve been walking a mile or two most days and meditating and doing Qi Gong daily. It has really helped in keeping up my spirits. IMG_20180227_072116834_HDR

I’d love to hear what everyone is up to, whether you’re reading Christie or not, and how you are passing these sometimes endless days.

Until next week, I hope you all stay well and keep reading!

March 30, 2020

A Murder is Announced

 

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Well, it’s official. The Governor here in Maryland has proclaimed an executive order for the next three weeks. I don’t think the libraries will be opening anytime soon and I’m pretty sure book stores haven’t been deemed essential businesses. However, we can all still continue reading our Agatha Christie novels. A little murder will take our mind off the world outside.

This week for Marple Monday we are reading A Murder is Announced. Imagine opening up your newspaper, or even reading on Facebook, that a murder was to take place at your house later that very day! Just as the residents of  Chipping Cleghorn assumed, we also would believe it to be a game or, at the very least, a joke. It was no joke when the townspeople gather at Little Paddocks that evening expecting a mystery game only to find themselves witnesses to a real murder.

Christie, in this novel, shows again her fascination with names. Pay close attention. Her characters seem often to share similar sounding names which is sometimes part of her plot, but I think mostly she is trying to mislead her reader. It leaves us thinking, “Is this important? Is this a clue?”

I am relieved to see Miss Marple makes a much earlier appearance in this book than last week’s selection. I’m still interested in seeing if The Moving Finger is part of the Miss Marple series on television. I wonder if it will play out better on screen than it did on the page. I have a feeling the racist remarks would be removed. At least I’d hope so.

I am enjoying this book much more than I did the last one. The further I read, the more sure I am that I’ve read this book before, though I don’t recall what happens. It seems I’ll have plenty of time over the next few weeks to catch up on all my reading!

Please let me know what you’re reading, even if it isn’t an Agatha Christie book. Let’s get some conversations going and keep each other company. Next week we will read They Do It with Mirrors.

Wishing you all a happy day and good health!

March 23, 2020

The Moving Finger

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Today marks Day 9 of my social distancing. I’ve only been as far as my mailbox since last Saturday. How is everyone handling things out there? I haven’t been bored, that’s for sure! I have plenty to read and numerous shows I would like to catch up on. Since last week I’ve been watching Unforgotten on Amazon Prime. It originally was on PBS, but I missed it. If you are looking for a fabulous show with brilliant writing and an engaging cast,  and I can only assume you all enjoy mysteries, then you must give this show a look.

This past week I’ve been reading The Moving Finger and, I’ll admit, I’m not finished yet. I had a hard time getting into the story and had a really, really hard time with the racist comments. And where’s Miss Marple? I’m on page 92 and her name hasn’t even been mentioned yet.  It’s disappointing. I like Miss Marple and want her to be a part of this story. The Burton siblings aren’t that interesting. And I find it curious that the house they are renting is owned by a Miss Barton. Why are their names so similar? Will that play a part later in the story?

I’m very interested in other opinions about this book. Are you all offended by the way she refers to the Chinese? If you were unfamiliar with Christie’s work, would this cause you to not read further? I don’t think this particular book is going to rank among my favorites.

I don’t have many more pages to go before I’m finished with this one, and I hope it is more engaging for me as it goes on Next up is A Murder is Announced. Until next week, stay well and stay home(if you are able)!