Goodreads: A Pocket Full of Rye
Series: Miss Marple #7
Age Category: Adult
Businessman Rex Fortescue is found dead in his office after drinking a cup of tea. But why does he have a pocket full of rye? Only the mind of Miss Marple is keen enough to realize the significance of the action, and how it ties in to a decades-old wrong.
So far I have enjoyed my read through Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books immensely. Christie’s shrewd mind not only routinely provides readers with unexpected plot twists and seemingly unsolvable mysteries, but also offers keen observations of human nature. Sadly, however, though I found A Pocket Full of Rye a perfectly serviceable book, I do not think it one of Christie’s finest. I prefer mysteries that readers have a sporting chance of solving, but A Pocket Full of Rye ends abruptly with information discovered off-page by our amateur sleuth. The mystery thus starts out in a promising manner, but may leave readers ultimately unsatisfied.
Many of Christie’s mysteries seem to follow the formula of one murder begetting multiple murders, and A Pocket Full of Rye proves no exception. However, Christie’s trick is to take an old formula and so something new with it. In this case, the police (with the aid of Miss Marple) must figure out the connection between a pocket full of rye and a dead man. More clues emerge, but Miss Marple’s explanation still puzzles the police. Where is the method in the madness? I admit I could not figure it out and still think it a conceit that was created merely for novelty, and not because it makes a lot of sense in the story.
The characters sadly are almost all rather disagreeable, so there are few figures for readers to sympathize with or cheer on. Miss Marple and Inspector Craddock, of course, prove the exception, as the ones attempting to bring the murderer to justice. But the reality is that, once a person knows how this book ends, I am not sure if there will be enough to bring them back for a second read. Christie is a masterful storyteller with incisive prose, of course, but there is just no joy to be found in spending time with the characters here.
The ending itself is rather disappointing. Miss Marple seems to make several leaps of logic to scenarios that are highly implausible–but that turn out (of course) to be correct. Normally, a good mystery should give the reader an aha! moment, a sense of satisfaction and completion. A Pocket Full of Rye does not really do that because the solution seems to come from nowhere. The ending feels like it needs more lead-up, as well as a bit more to tie up the loose ends.
A Pocket Full of Rye is a solid mystery, certainly one worth reading by any fans of Agatha Christie’s. I do not, however, see myself prioritizing it for a reread in the future.
2 thoughts on “A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie”
I agree with you, if I don’t get a satisfactory ending in mystery, it ruins the charm of the story no matter how good it was. Great review!
I agree with you, I thought the central idea was clever. Miss Marple actually made the conclusions she did based on character study and yes, the off page discovery, which was disappointing. But still I liked the book.