Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Miss Marple’s Final Cases: Agatha Christie, December 4—11, 2016
My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊
In the interests of full disclosure, I am not a fan of short stories, and especially not Agatha Christie’s. Even if that wasn’t the case before The Hound of Death, is is now.
Christie’s short stories generally fall into two categories: those so undercooked she couldn’t be bothered making a full story out of it, or those so condensed that she should have. She’s not great at coming up with stories that are, basically, very good short ones.
Guy rocks up at a church, asks for sanctuary, and dies. The vicar’s wife visits Miss Marple, asks who killed him off, and she produces quite a far-fetched explanation out of thin air. It’s your classic ‘here’s a premise, here’s the solution, can’t be bothered writing a book about it’. It’s more a précis of a story than an actual story in its own right.
The Strange Jest ♦◊◊◊◊
The premise: Randoms ask Miss Marple where their dead uncle hid his treasure.
The development: She tells them.
What else?: Nil
Tape-Measure Murder ♦♦♦◊◊
This one’s a bit better. A woman is found dead and it’s down to be her husband or the local eye candy she may or may not have been candying her eye with. Miss Marple gets herself involved and performs a hallmark Christie trick of turning evidence upside down. It’s the sort of move that would have worked wonders in a full length novel and this had the potential to be fleshed out into one. As it stands, it’s a bit anemic.
The Case of the Perfect Maid ♦♦♦◊◊
It’s another classic Christie move in this tale of tracking down a treacherous help. The solution will come as no surprise to long-time fans, but it’s what she’s famous for.
Miss Marple Tells A Story ♦♦◊◊◊
…for ages. Actually, it was written by Dr. Haydock who, for some utterly unknown reason, decides to jot it all down as a novella instead of actually giving it to Marple herself. She solve sit in a flash, but it’s a bit weak. This is the last Marple of the collection.
The Dressmaker’s Doll ♦♦♦◊◊
A genuinely creepy supernatural thriller and probably the best of the lot. It’s probably the one that works best as a short story, in fact. It has just enough time to breathe and disturb you before coming to its chilling end.
In A Glass Darkly ♦♦♦◊◊
Another decent supernatural short story involving a man who seems to have a premonition about a stranger’s murder. Christie makes you think you know what’s going to happen but has an ace up her sleeve. Another fine example of a story designed to be short and a piece of t he ideal length. Nothing left out, and nothing left unfinished.