An updated Marple
BOOKS | Queen of Crime gets a progressive makeover
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AGATHA CHRISTIE, the Queen of Crime, died 47 years ago, but her literary estate has given her most popular detectives a new lease on life. Since 2014, bestselling author Sophie Hannah has written four novels featuring Christie’s Hercule Poirot. And now, for the first time, Christie’s publisher has released a collection of new stories about her beloved amateur detective, Miss Jane Marple.
Marple: Twelve New Mysteries (William Morrow 2022) contains contributions from 12 female authors. Each short story gives Miss Marple an opportunity to use her powers of observation and her keen knowledge of human nature. The crime is often murder, but Miss Marple unravels less consequential problems too. Some of the mysteries take place in her quaint hometown of St. Mary Mead, but she also becomes a globetrotter heading to New York, Italy, and Hong Kong.
Fans who have read Christie’s Miss Marple novels will notice callbacks to the originals in each short story. Miss Marple’s nephew Raymond West and his wife Joan feature much more prominently in these stories than they did in Christie’s novels. St. Mary Mead’s vicar Len Clement narrates one of the strongest stories in the collection—a nod to The Murder at the Vicarage, the book that introduced the world to Miss Marple.
The 12 writers all stick close to Christie’s relatively cozy tone. The stories don’t contain explicit violence, sex, or language. But the stories are uneven in quality, and some of the authors let their social commentary get a little predictable.
Miss Marple still knits and makes probing comments without seeming to pry, but in the hands of these writers she’s much more cosmopolitan and progressive than Christie’s Marple, who harbored distrust of foreigners and exhibited a decidedly conservative outlook. This new Marple fights racism, applauds Britain’s National Health Service, and befriends communists.
None of these stories allude to Jane Marple’s old-fashioned piety, and we never once see her read her little book of Christian devotion, something Christie’s Marple did every day.