“Everybody in St. Mary Mead knew Miss Marple; fluffy and dithery in appearance, but inwardly as sharp and as shrewd as they make them.”
4:50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie
When Agatha Christie wrote a short story featuring Jane Marple in 1927, she didn’t think the character would have sustainability. It wasn’t until three years later, with The Murder at the Vicarage that she wrote the first Marple novel, “for a bit of fun,” her grandson Matthew Pritchard notes, and then she concentrated on Hercule Poirot and didn’t write another Marple mystery until twelve years later.
Yet Jane Marple proved to be a favorite of readers and many writers, myself included, with an enduring quality about her. I have always loved Miss Marple and her wry humor and retiring manner, and I’m not alone. Richard Osman of the Thursday Murder Club series notes she is his inspirational protagonist, and so it would seem, do many of the leading crime writers of today.
Forty-five years after the last Miss Marple mystery was published, William Morrow’s new book, MARPLE, is a collection of twelve new Miss Marple stories written by such crime writing luminaries as Val McDermid, Elly Griffiths, Ruth Ware, and Lucy Foley.
Each author exhibits a new take on Miss Marple, and while Elly Griiffths has her visit Italy, Alyssa Cole takes her to Manhattan. Yes, Miss Marple visits New York! But while their settings and the age of Jane Marple may vary, what doesn’t is the spinster’s ability to read people who remind her of the inhabitants of her small village of St. Mary Mead. Each story brought Miss Marple back to life for me, and I had great fun reading the these stories.
Agatha Christie’s estate has had author Sophie Hannah write new Hercule Poirot novels. The Mystery of Three Quarters is the most recent. Hannah captures Poirot’s voice and his mincing mannerisms, carefully bringing Hercule to live another day. I was delighted to see that while these authors each have a different take on Jane Marple, she does indeed, live again for another day in a very recognizable way.
While actresses such a Helen Hayes, Geraldine McEwan, and even Angela Lansbury played Jane Marple at different times, Margaret Rutherford’s take on the role over four films gives viewers a touch of nostalgia when seen today.
But Christie has said Jane was based on her grandmother and that woman’s cronies, and admitted that of all the actresses who played Miss Marple over the years, her favorite was Joan Hickson, who fit Christie’s visual image of a “bird-like and slightly twittery” spinster, and she is my personal favorite, too.
Jane Marple’s endurance perhaps comes from her as a symbol of “Britishness,” of country life that seems tranquil until it’s applied to murder. With one of my own series set in England, she remains a constant to turn to while evoking another era, a source of comfort as readers know at the end of it all, Miss Marple will figure out who is the murderer and justice will be served.
When I bought a Mini Cooper a few years ago, I had to name it for their marketing department to find in their computer. They then send you hilarious emails as it’s being made and shipped across the ocean.
I couldn’t think of a better name than Miss Marple.
Readers, what are your thoughts about an icon being resurrected in this way with new authors? Do you think you’d enjoy this story collection?
Ad many thanks to to the Miss Demeanors family for their warm welcome~