Goodreads: Tuesday Club Murders
Series: Miss Marple #1
Age Category: Adult
This book of thirteen short stories contains the first appearances of Miss Marple, the old maid who uses her life experiences in the small village of St. Mary Mead to draw parallels to tricky crimes that no one else can solve. The first six stories have as a framing device a game in which each member of a small gathering must tell an unsolved mystery for the other guests to solve. The next six employ a similar device at a small party, while the last story has Miss Marple ask for the help of her friend Sir Henry Clithering in saving the wrong man from being convicted of murder.
The Tuesday Club Murders is a short story collection in which Agatha Christie’s famous amateur sleuth Miss Marple first appeared. The device of having various guests at a party tell stories of unsolved crimes makes for satisfying and varied reading; readers can feel like they accomplished quite a lot in solving thirteen mysteries in such a short time! For my part, I enjoyed the variety of mysteries. Some I was able to solve and feel clever about. Some I wasn’t and I loved being shocked! Certainly The Tuesday Club Murders is a must-read for fans of Miss Marple and Agatha Christie!
Stories with framing devices always challenge me a bit because I tend to get immersed in the story-within-a-story and I resent being pulled back into the framing device–which is often more boring than the story being told. In this case, for instance, there are six people sitting around chatting in the framing device whereas the stories are being told are all about murder and crime! You see the dilemma in making one as interesting as the other. Christie, however, I must say, manages to pull this one off admirably.
Christie puts the bare minimum of writing into the framing device, basically just using it to set up the stories and then letting it go. I approve! However, she uses the small space she gives herself very effectively. Within a few sentences here and there in each short story, at the start and at the end, she not only manages to give very effective character portraits, but also manages to add in mini dramas such as an engagement and break up. The framing device thus proves interesting, but it never overwhelms the mystery-solving aspect. I even understood enough from it to get a good picture of all the characters for later Miss Marple mysteries!
The stories themselves have a good variety, so that even mysteries that seem similar to the others end up having unexpected or at least different solutions. Christie is clearly aware that readers may be catching on to her methods, and she tries to subvert expectations. A character in the framing device, for instance, will ask a question about motives that readers will probably be asking themselves once they have seen similar scenarios play out in a few stories. But the ending will not be the same in the future. Christie wants to keep readers guessing.
Altogether, The Tuesday Club Murders is a satisfying read. The only thing I really did not like was that Miss Marple has to expound on her famous village parallels in every story. But, we get it! She uses her observations of village life to extrapolate and make guesses because human nature is the same everywhere. Saying it once or twice would have been sufficient. Aside from that, however, I really enjoyed this one and intend to keep reading more Miss Marple!