Welcome to the final Mondays with Marple post for 2014. I’ve enjoyed Marpling along with you all this year and it’s been fun to explore the world of Jane Marple to such an extent. This final offering for the year was quite a satisfying puzzle, which is a relief since the last few Marples I picked were less than stellar. Today we will explore Christie’s misdirection and sleight of hand in They Do It With Mirrors.
Miss Marple is coerced into visiting an old school friend at her home, Stonygates – a Victorian mansion that has been repurposed to include a boarding school for delinquent boys – after a mutual friend’s insistence that something isn’t right with Carrie Louise Serrocold. On her arrival, Miss Marple can find nothing obviously amiss, but traces the threads of a few patterns that give her cause for disquiet. When Carrie Louise’s stepson (from her first marriage) – Christian Gulbrandsen – arrives unexpectedly, Miss Marple manages to overhear a conversation that leads her to believe that something important is being kept from her dear friend. An alarming incident involving Carrie Louise’s current husband – Lewis Serrocold – and one of the young delinquents draws all eyes in the mansion, and shortly after this Christian Gulbrandsen is found murdered. The murder sends the occupants of the house into a flurry of suspicion. Any one of them could have been responsible for the shooting of Gulbrandsen, and as they are all intimately connected, nobody knows who to trust.
The Usual Suspects:
This is a bit of a convoluted story where characters are concerned – there’s grande olde dame, the quiet, sweet-hearted, trusting Carrie Louise, her third (and current) husband, Lewis, her daughter Mildred, her granddaughter (from her adopted eldest deceased child) Gina; Gina’s American husband Wally; the two grown-up sons of Carrie Louise’s second husband, Steven and Alex; Carrie Louise’s elderly stepson (from her first marriage) Gulbrandsen, Carrie Louise’s brisk and competent companion, Jolly; Edgar Lawson, a troubled young man from the boarding school, and a few assorted psychiatrists and juveniles.
Level of Carnage:
Low for most of the book. There are a few secondary murders that take place in a rather violent fashion, and a few extra deaths to round out the reveal.
Level of Wiley-Tricksiness:
High. Obviously the title hints that there will be a bit of misdirection going on here, but as even Miss Marple gets tricked by this initially I don’t feel too bad about falling for certain red herrings.
Four knitting needles for the tangled family relationships involved
It was a relief, after a few hit-and-miss Marples, to pick up a standard, old-fashioned pyschological puzzle. This is Christie at her typical high quality. The action happens in one place, there’s plenty of opportunity for readers to make a stab (pun intended) at the murderer/s and the eventual reveal is pretty satisfying. It’s not a “blow you away with it’s brilliance” novel, but it’s a lot better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. A lot less painful too. Not to mention less messy.
Next year I will be moving on to a broader review program that encompasses the works of more writers of murder mystery. Christie’s work will, of course, be included in this program, but I will also branch out to include others such as Dorothy L. Sayers and …. others, who I haven’t discovered yet. Feel free to suggest some good murdery tales and you may find them featured in my 2015 review series: Monday is for Murder!
Until next time,