Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Murder at the Vicarage

I first read The Murder at the Vicarage 30 or so years ago, but I don't think I've read it since.  It's been 28 years since I saw a high school production of the play.  As with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, I remembered only bits of the story but the memories that came back were more personal than plot related.  I remember the pink blood on the "victim's" white shirt and joking with my friends Michelle and Vicky (the stage managers for the show) afterwards, even what I was wearing.  I don't remember the plot.

Maybe it's because the plot is more mechanical than distinctive.  Someone calls vicar Leonard Clement away on a fake call for last rites; he returns home to find Colonel Protheroe dead in the vicarage study.  There are half a dozen or so likely suspects (including the vicar who'd tactlessly expressed how little his overbearing parishioner would be missed after death), and of course those with the strongest motives have the strongest alibis.  Those alibis are no match for Miss Marple's logic, though.  She's actually a minor character (the book is written from the vicar's POV), the most self-aware of a Greek chorus of gossipy old ladies who annoy the vicar's much younger wife.  In her first outing, she's not quite the sweet natured old lady who sees parallels between every crime, big or small, and a long-ago event in St. Mary Mead.  She's a bit cattier, and rather than solving the mystery on her own, she directs the vicar towards the solution.  I recently read Christie's autobiography and she claims that The Murder at the Vicarage had "too much plot."  She's right, but it's still a worthy introduction for the iconic character.

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