Agatha Christie: Marple – Twelve New Stories (HarperCollins Publishers 2022)
Miss Marple herself is like the neat little village of St. Mary Mead where she lives: calm, quiet and predictable on the surface, but full of life and surprises underneath it. Although many people only see her as the chattering old lady (which she doesn’t try to deny either), she sees through everyone with her gray-blue eyes and nothing escapes her attention. She knows all the frailties of human nature. Between 1927 and 1976, she appeared in 12 novels and 20 short stories by Agatha Christie. So far…
In the Marple: Twelve New Stories short story collection published this year, we can read original stories by 12 contemporary writers, in which Miss Marple investigates again. Each author reimagines the detective through their own unique perspective while remaining true to the original characteristics of the story and the protagonist. The authors include Leigh Bardugo (Ninth House, Six of Crows), Lucy Foley (The Guest List, The Paris Apartment) and Karen M. McManus (One of Us Is Lying, Two Can Keep a Secret).
Some of the stories take place in St. Mary Mead, but Miss Marple goes on many journeys: she also goes to New York, Italy and Hong Kong. As in the original Agatha Christie works, in some short stories the narrator is a character: a writer who is bored with his main character, Miss Marple’s niece or the already known priest Leonard Clement. Other well-known characters also appear, such as Dolly Bantry, or Miss Marple’s generous but somewhat condescending nephew, Raymond, who is also getting older: he already has a grandchild. Previous locations also appear, such as the vicarage, the Raymonds’ apartment in London, or Gossington Hall, the latter of which is also the setting for two short stories: in one of them, it is still occupied by the Bantrys, and in the other, it is owned by some people after the movie star Marina Gregg. As in the original novels, there are mentions of previously solved crimes, some of which appear in previous stories, and some of which are “fictitional”. Miss Marple also shows her openness: her good friend is a black lady she met at St. Honoré and she also makes Chinese friends on the boat trip to Hong Kong.
The stories remind me more of film adaptations, but it can be a good starter for those who want to immerse themselves in the world of the original novels. For me, the atmosphere of the old novels is best reflected in Miss Marple’s Christmas by Ruth Ware. My other favorite story is The Murdering Sort by Karen M. McManus, which has the author’s typical youthful tone and the main character is Raymond’s granddaughter, Nicola West. Surprisingly, this new youthful style suits Miss Marple just right.
It’s a shame that Agatha Christie didn’t write more Miss Marple stories, but I hope we can read more about her by other writers.