Miss Marple comes to the aid of her friend from finishing school many years earlier in They Do It with Mirrors published in 1952 by Agatha Christie. In her late teens, Miss Marple had been one of a threesome during finishing school in Italy, along with American sisters Ruth Van Rydock and Carrie Louise Serrocold. During one of her quick visits across the pond, Ruth convinces Miss Marple to go undercover as a needy friend to Carrie Louise’s mansion, where she feels something is wrong without knowing what the issue is. Since Miss Marple has established a name as an amateur detective, she is the ideal person to sniff out the problems.
When Miss Marple arrives at Stonygates, she meets an eclectic cast of characters and learns that the Serrocolds have turned the attached college established in a trust by Carrie Louise’s first husband, the philanthropist multi-millionaire, Mr. Gulbrandsen, into a home to rehabilitate delinquent boys. Besides Carrie Louise and Lewis, the household consists of Carrie Louise’s daughter, Mildred; the daughter of her adopted daughter who died in childbirth, Gina; Gina’s American husband, Wally; and Carrie Louise’s companion and caretaker Juliet Belevere (Jolly). Further, Carrie Louise’s stepsons, Alex and Stephen Restarick, spend a lot of time at Stonygates and help out with the theater at the delinquency school. And then there is a curious young man, Edgar Lawson, who seems strange and talks about enemies and names different famous man as his real father to every person he sees.
Then one night, Edgar gets a gun and accuses Lewis Serrocold of being his real father, locking them into Lewis’s office. As everyone listens to a long tirade by Edgar, they are alarmed briefly to hear a shot but happily realize it did not come from the study, so they dismiss it. Then, a gunshot rings out from inside the study, scaring everyone. But when the door opens, fortunately, Lewis is safe, but only just missed being hit by the bullet. As everyone exclaims over the events, Jolly strides into the hall and announces that she has called the police because the visiting Christian Galbranson, the son of Carrie Louise’s first husband who is actually her age, has been shot and killed. In the typewriter where he had been working is a letter to a bishop who is a fellow committee member of the Galbranson Trust, and it states concern over how much to tell Carrie Louise because he has fear that she is being slowly poisoned.
It doesn’t take long before the police discover Miss Marple’s history of helping to solve crimes and enlist her help in protecting Carrie Louise. She keeps comparing the whole situation to a conjuring trick and takes yet another foray into the world of crime and deduction.
The title They Do It with Mirrors comes from the detail of Miss Marple’s connection of the case to illusions and the way that even a theater set is real in that it is made of real materials. This gives a hint to the solution of the book, yet even then I was taken by surprise the first time I read this book. The case is written cleverly and with fun details.
I was thrilled to get to hear Joan Hickson do the narration of this book. I love the performances that she gives her readings. Embodying Miss Marple in the BBC show, Hickson really knows how to make her books come alive. I love everything she does to narrate her books.
I particularly enjoy They Do It with Mirrors and the creative situation Miss Marple finds herself wrapped up in. While not in my favorite top three Miss Marple books, this book is not far from the top, and I give it five stars!
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