Monday, January 7, 2013

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie

Cover of A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
As some of you may remember, Miss Marple is one of my favorite fictional detectives. I love reading Agatha Christie, in general, but for some reason, I find Miss Marple more entertaining that Hercule Poirot. I think that part of it may be because Miss Marple is more self-effacing. Others toot her horn more than Miss Marple does. I’ve randomly read her novels over the years, and it’s been quite some time since I read A Caribbean Mystery. This is one of the later books of the twelve Marple novels, published in 1964. The book was made into a movie with Helen Hayes, which is also very enjoyable.

In A Caribbean Mystery, Miss Marple was vacationing in the Caribbean as a treat from her nephew, Raymond West. Miss Marple had been feeling poorly, and a vacation in a tropic area was just the ticket for recovery. Miss Marple found herself involved in murder when a fellow guest, Major Palgrave was murdered after offering to show Miss Marple the photograph of a man who had murdered a couple of wives. Of course, Christie explained to the reader that people just don’t listen to the repetitive stories of the elderly. As Miss Marple tried to get a glimpse of the photo and get the authorities to confirm if Major Palgrave died due to natural causes, another housemaid turned up dead. An investigation showed the Major Palgrave was poisoned, and the housemaid must have known who did it. Miss Marple knew that the way to catch the murderer was to figure out who was the murderer in the photograph. As Miss Marple explained to the rich, crotchety Mr. Rafiel, the person in the photo must have been planning another murder! There were plenty of suspects, but with the help of Mr. Rafiel and his manservant, Jackson, Miss Marple saved the day.

Although this book is one of the later books, the story wasn’t as rambling as some of the other books. We did get to see things more from Miss Marple’s perspective than we have in other novels. Usually, the teller of the story was someone else, and Miss Marple was a supplemental character. I think that having the story from Miss Marple’s viewpoint allowed Christie to give some perspective on old age. Miss Marple realized that she wasn’t as mobile as she was. Christie also complained about the eagerness of doctors in prescribing medications and finding health problems with people. We have that same problem today. Doctors are quick to prescribe antibiotics for colds and a variety of pills for the most routine ailments.

Of course, the most interesting interaction was between Mr. Rafiel and Miss Marple. Miss Marple took the role of Nemesis. Hence the title for the succeeding book Nemesis, where Miss Marple looked into a mystery for Mr. Rafiel as a request from his will. I really enjoyed reading A Caribbean Mystery. It wasn’t the best of the Christies, but it had a good mystery and interesting characters. As Mr. Rafiel said to Miss Marple at the end, “Ave Caesar, nos morituri te salutamus.” Christie, I salute you!

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