Warning - spoilers
It's been a rough few weeks, so I pulled another frequently read Christie off the shelf. I don't read The Mirror' Crack'd from Side to Side as often as, say Sparkling Cyanide, but I've read it often enough to nod familiarly at several passages.
The 1960s have come to St. Mary Mead, bringing a suburban development and a supermarket to the edge of the quiet village. They've also brought frailty to Jane Marple, and the indignity of a paid companion who believes that mental decline accompanies (or precedes) physical decline. Needless to say, Miss Marple is much sharper mentally than the clucking Miss Knight, and manages to slip away from the younger woman's smothering attention for a brisk walk through The Development. She's busy confirming her view that human nature doesn't change - those tough-looking boys are posing and will grow up to be steady young men; that young woman cannot trust her fiancé - when she trips over a rough piece of pavement and is "rescued" by Heather Badcock. We've all known a Mrs. Badcock - she's always the first to volunteer for a committee, works tirelessly, and annoys the world with her generosity. Kind-hearted but so single-minded that she cannot see whether her help is needed (or wanted), she "comforts" Miss Marple with a cup of over-sweetened tea and the somewhat rambling story of how she left her sickbed, slathered on makeup, and met her favorite star (and current resident of Gossington Hall), Marina Gregg.
A few weeks later, Heather meets Marina again, launches into the story of their prior meeting, and then dies after drinking a daiquiri meant for Marina. Luckily, the detective sent by Scotland Yard knows Miss Marple and keeps her appraised of the investigation. No one can see either motive or opportunity for the attempt on Marina's life, or a source for the threatening letters which follow. And yet, there must be a plot because two murders (of the butler and of Jason Rudd's secretary) follow. Miss Marple puts together Heather's illness, Marina's frozen look, and an indeterminate pronoun and realizes that Heather was the intended victim. When they'd met a dozen or so years earlier, Marina had been pregnant and Heather ill with rubella. Marina had contracted the illness, and the subsequent damage to her child had led to a breakdown from which he had never fully recovered. Since the debut of Sherlock, I've looked at Christie's novels with an eye towards modern-day adaptations. Sadly, with the rise of the anti-vaccination movement, I can see The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side fitting into the 21st Century quite well.