The murder of Colonel Protheroe--shot through the head--is a shock to everyone in St. Mary Mead, though hardly an unpleasant one. Now even the vicar, who had declared that killing the detested Protheroe would be "doing the world at large a favour," is a suspect--the Colonel has been dispatched in the clergyman's study, no less. But the picturesque English village of St. Mary Mead is overpopulated with suspects. There is of course the faithless Mrs Protheroe; and there is of course her young lover--an artist, to boot.
Perhaps more surprising than the revelation of the murderer is the detective who will crack the case: "a white-haired old lady with a gentle, appealing manner." Miss Jane Marple has arrived on the scene, and crime literature's private men's club of great detectives will never be the same.
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William Morrow Paperbacks
April 02, 2002
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Excerpt from The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
It is difficult to know quite where to begin this story, but I have fixed my choice on a certain Wednesday at luncheon at the Vicarage. The conversation, though in the main irrelevant to the matter in hand, yet contained one or two suggestive incidents which influenced later developments.
I had just finished carving some boiled beef (remarkably tough by the way) and on resuming my seat I remarked, in a spirit most unbecoming to my cloth, that anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe would be doing the world at large a service.
My young nephew, Dennis, said instantly:
'That'll be remembered against you when the old boy is found bathed in blood. Mary will give evidence, won't you, Mary? And describe how you brandished the carving knife in a vindictive manner.'
Mary, who is in service at the Vicarage as a stepping-stone to better things and higher wages, merely said in a loud, businesslike voice, 'Greens', and thrust a cracked dish at him in a truculent manner.
My wife said in a sympathetic voice: 'Has he been very trying?'
I did not reply at once, for Mary, setting the greens on the table with a bang, proceeded to thrust a dish of singularly moist and unpleasant dumplings under my nose. I said, 'No, thank you,' and she deposited the dish with a clatter on the table and left the room.
'It is a pity that I am such a shocking housekeeper,' said my wife, with a tinge of genuine regret in her voice.
I was inclined to agree with her. My wife's name is Griselda - a highly suitable name for a parson's wife. But there the suitability ends. She is not in the least meek.
I have always been of the opinion that a clergyman should be unmarried. Why I should have urged Griselda to marry me at the end of twenty-four hours' acquaintance is a mystery to me. Marriage, I have always held, is a serious affair, to be entered into only after long deliberation and forethought, and suitability of tastes and inclinations is the most important consideration.
Griselda is nearly twenty years younger than myself. She is most distractingly pretty and quite incapable of taking anything seriously. She is incompetent in every way, and extremely trying to live with. She treats the parish as a kind of huge joke arranged for her amusement. I have endeavoured to form her mind and failed. I am more than ever convinced that celibacy is desirable for the clergy. I have frequently hinted as much to Griselda, but she has only laughed.
'My dear,' I said, 'if you would only exercise a little care - '
'I do sometimes,' said Griselda. 'But, on the whole, I think things go worse when I'm trying. I'm evidently not a housekeeper by nature. I find it better to leave things to Mary and just make up my mind to be uncomfortable and have nasty things to eat.'