Sunday, July 10, 2016

Review: Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories

by Eric

So where's Mary today?

Since she reads faster than she writes reviews, I offered to ease the burden by contributing an occasional GAD review myself. Unfortunately, she took me up on it!

The first book I want to talk about was an antidote to a recent Best Mysteries of the Year collection which featured one or two actual mysteries among twenty noir crime stories. It was enjoyable enough but badly mislabeled. I'd wanted mysteries!

So I turned to Agatha Christie. Where else?

Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories was published posthumously in 1979. Presumably the six cases are "final" in that they were the last ones left to be collected at the time. None of the stories suggest that the end of Miss Marple's career is at hand.

The six mysteries include a man dying of a bullet wound in a church who utters a mysterious last word, a woman found dead in a closed room, and a maid framed for theft. They all contain fairly clued puzzles.

Amazingly I fingered the killer in The Tape Measure Murder.

"It must have been a weak story," Mary observed, having long since taken the measure of my powers of ratiocination.

It's true, I rarely figure out whodunit. The only other time I can remember it was not because of the clues but the way the story was constructed: i.e. a character who appeared to have no function in the story whatsoever, unless he was the villain.

Being a sucker for treasure hunts, I particularly liked Strange Jest wherein an eccentric great uncle's legacy is hidden somewhere on his estate. Only a cryptic deathbed clue marks the spot. The two bright young things who are directed to Miss Marple for help are dubious about the seemingly dotty old lady's abilities, until she finds the treasure after recalling her own dear old Uncle Henry who had a similar sense of humor to the deceased.

I suppose if I knew as many odd people as Miss Marple my own ratiocinative abilities would be better.

The "Two Other Stories" are supernatural, The Dressmaker's Doll is perhaps the best in the book. A vaguely malevolent doll appears out of nowhere, although no one can recall when, and gradually takes over a dressmaker's establishment. Creepy!

I've yet to read an Agatha Christie book I didn't like. This is a enjoyable little collection for those who of us who still crave a bit of mystery in the classic style.

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