Overview from www.bn.com: The first Miss Marple mystery, one which tests all her powers of observation and deduction.
“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 favor!”
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—when the Colonel is found shot dead in the clergyman’s study. But as Miss Marple soon discovers, the whole village seems to have had a motive to kill Colonel Protheroe.
The overview right above sets the story up perfectly, especially when it mentions the parson’s careless yet realistic statement about Colonel Protheroe, who, as you might have guessed, eventually becomes the murder victim in this novel. It also introduces us to our narrator, Len. And what do we know about him other than the fact that his outrageous first statement immediately makes him our first suspect (before the murder actually takes place I might add)? He is a middle-aged clergyman who lives in a parsonage with his young wife Griselda- he tells us right off the bad that they are twenty years apart, and his nephew, Dennis who has the same habit of falling for the wrong girl.
Dennis warns him that his statement may later come back to haunt him when the old colonel is found murdered and it turns out that he is right. Although not a chief suspect, when his nephew rats him out later to the police, there is a time when his name is added to the list of possible suspects, but then again, nearly everyone in this town without a decent alibi is suspect since the colonel was not well-liked.
I know at some time in the past I have read this novel before though I could not recall it for the life of me. When the murder was revealed by our dear Miss Marple in the first of many of Christie’s novels featuring this amateur sleuth, I was still taken by surprise.
I was equally surprised by the shocking statements that I found in the novel beginning with the first one that I mentioned earlier. I confess that I have not read any Agatha Christie novels for a while now and I didn’t remember her abilities to surprise her readers with more than just the name of the murderer. For example, also at the beginning of the book, we start to see what the vicar means by his statement that clergymen are better off being celibate- equally surprising when you consider that he is Anglican and not Catholic. (Somehow I don’t think King Henry would approve.) He tells that he proposed to his wife after a mere 24-hour acquaintance which he admits was a mistake. He also states that she is not the ideal candidate for a minister’s wife and I can see why after this statement of hers regarding the possibility of her husband being guilty of murder.
“”Nobody would suspect you of anything, darling,” said Griselda. “‘You’re so transparently above suspicion that really it would be a marvellous opportunity. I wish you’d embezzle the S.P.G. funds. I hate missionaries- I always have.” p. 9
We also learn later that Griselda also dislikes our dear Miss Marple. She sees her as just another church busybody/old maid type which of course she is but as one later learns, in this first introduction to her, she is so much more. Furthermore she not like other old maids of her age range. She not only knows the town gossip and goings-on in her community, but she also has a sharp mind that can put two and two together but most of all she understands human nature very well. It is fortunate indeed for the police that she solves their murder for them and for the parson that he doesn’t underestimate her.
This one is a lot like the Georgette Heyer novel that I review a few weeks back and it was written about the same time period but despite that similarity, this one was harder to figure out. In fact, I never did, even at the very end. I would recommend it highly to anyone who likes sarcasm mixed in with a little mystery. And, of course, it is available as an e-book.
Contains: Murder, adultery, and some scary elements.