After publishing a few Hercule Poirot books, Agatha Christie decided to create a new character, that of an older spinster woman named Miss Marple. Against the objections of her publisher, who argued that no one would want to read a book about an old lady, Christie wrote a series of 13 stories that she named The Tuesday Night Club. In each, a group of friends of different backgrounds gathers to tell a real life mystery story that only the storyteller knows the answer to. The men challenge the women, and each person argues that his or her profession makes him or her most qualified to solve the problem. The first six stories involve a weekly club featuring Sir Henry Clithering, former head of Scotland Yard; Raymond West, Miss Marple’s famous writer nephew; Dr. Pender, a clergyman; Mr. Petherick, a solicitor; and Joyce Lemprière, a famous artist, besides Miss Marple. In the next six stories, Colonel and Mrs. Bantry (featured in The Body in the Library) host a dinner party for Sir Henry and are surprised when he asks them to invite Miss Marple. In addition, Jane Helier, an actress, and Dr. Lloyd round out the party.
The Tuesday Night Club — The group begins by asking Sir Henry to start off with the first story. He tells about a case where a married couple and the wife’s companion have dinner together, and the wife dies. Of course gossip leads to an exhumation, showing arsenic. Who is responsible for the murder?
Ingots of Gold — Raymond West tells of a trip with a friend to Cornwall where treasure is supposed to be hidden, but his friend ends up getting kidnapped and tied up. Who did that, and what happened to the treasure?
The Blood-Stained Pavement — Joyce Lemprière takes the next turn in telling about a case also in Cornwall where she was painting and saw a couple greet a friend. Somehow she finds that she has painted a patch of blood onto her canvas at the same time that the friend is found dead on the beach.
The Idol House of Astarte — Dr. Pender tells them of visiting a place of evil where a member of his tour group falls seems to get stabbed by a mysterious force when no other person is around.
Motive v. Opportunity — At Mr. Petherick‘s turn, everyone warns him not to confuse them with a legal case, so he tells about a man who decided to make his will in favor of a medium whom the solicitor is convinced is a scam. When the time came to open the will, though, the envelope contained nothing but a black piece of paper. What happened to the will?
The Thumb Mark of St. Peter — Miss Marple tells the last story of this section of the book in which her niece is rumored to have murdered her husband and summons Miss Marple in desperation for help.
The Blue Geranium — Dolly Bantree decides to see if Miss Marple can solve her husband’s supernatural mystery in which the flowers on a wallpaper changed colors according to the warning of a psychic, and the victim died the morning that the Geranium turned blue.
The Companion — Dr. Lloyd recounts a case where a rich woman and her companion went swimming at the island of Las Palmas, and the companion drowned. One witness suggested the rich woman drowned her, but why might a rich woman drown her poor companion?
The Four Suspects — Sir Henry Clithering pointed out that the greatest injustice to a crime is really the innocent person not cleared and left to be suspected. He asks Miss Marple for help in clearing three innocent people by pointing out the murderer.
A Christmas Tragedy — Miss Marple recounts a case when she recognized that a man was determined to kill his wife and almost got away with it.
The Herb of Death — Mrs. Bantry offers her own story in which she attended a dinner where they all got food poisoning from foxglove leaves but one person died. If she were intentionally killed, how did someone kill just one person?
The Affair at the Bungalow — Jane Helier takes the final turn in relating a story that everyone soon realizes is about herself. The story is actually rather convoluted, showing the state of Jane’s brain, and I just can’t describe it very well. I’ll leave it to you to read for yourself.
Death by Drowning — In an extra story, Sir Henry Clithering is visiting the Bantrys when Miss Marple comes up to him, worried because a young woman has just died and it looks like a black and white case against the killer. Miss Marple hands him a slip of paper with the name of the true murderer and begs him to see justice.
The book is available on audio narrated by the amazing Joan Hickson, who in my opinion, is the one and only Miss Jane Marple on television. In fact, many years earlier, she had appeared in a play of Christie’s A Murder Is Announced, after which Christie sent her a letter telling her that she hoped some day, the then-young woman would play her Miss Marple. Hickson did not live long enough to narrate all the Miss Marple books, but we are fortunate to have had her perform this and a few other books. She embodies the real Miss Marple better than anyone else.
This introduction to Miss Marple proved to be a big enough success to give us 12 novels and one other short story book featuring this detective. The book does grow a little tiring on the dozenth reading or so, but it’s worth reading especially for anyone who wants to know Agatha Christie and Miss Marple better. I give this book four stars.
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