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review 2020-11-03 01:25
The Thirteen Problems
The Thirteen Problems - Agatha Christie

I (re)read this book for two reasons:  I belong to a group reading Agatha Christie's oeuvre in order of publication, and it fit a Halloween Bingo prompt - 13.  Either one of those reasons would have been a good enough excuse to read this charming little collection of Miss Marple showing everyone up.


13 short stories: the first 6 of which share a common tie of being stories told at the Tuesday Night Club, an impromptu gathering where each person tells the tale of a mystery that went unsolved at the time.  The next 6 stories are tied together in a similar way, as stories all told around the dining table one evening.  The last story is a 'stand-alone' although it relies on the friendship established in the previous stories between Miss Marple and Sir Henry Clithering.


Without exception, each story is excellent.  Some are more excellent than others; in my opinion, The Blue Geranium is the absolute stand-out, though Motive vs Opportunity comes close.  The weakest was probably the last, for me, Death by Drowning.  It's solid, but in comparison, duller than the previous 12 stories.


I have a confession to make about Agatha Christie's books:  I dislike both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.  I find that in the longer books Miss Marple tends to natter on a bit too much and plays the "old spinster" and "aww shucks" hands a little too strongly.  Hercule Poirot is just ... an amalgamation of the worst traits of Holmes and Dupin is as close I can come to a description.  I don't find him as comical as most.


However, these short stories offer the perfect dose of Miss Marple: for almost all the stories, her participation is relegated to the end, so the simpering is contained.  I also really tried, while reading these, to re-imagine Miss Marple in my mind by remembering the subjectivity of the descriptor 'old' and the stereotype of 'spinster'.  Yes, Miss Marple has white hair and knits, but I know many a 50-60 year old that has white hair and knits.  I don't recall her age ever being mentioned in the books I've read so far, so perhaps I dislike Miss Marple because of popular portrayals, combined with current attitudes about the adjectives that Christie used 100 years ago, when they covered broader spectrums.


I was partially successful; it was a struggle.  Ingrained conceptions die hard.  Fortunately I have a lot of books ahead of me to use for mental re-programming.  Now if only I could figure out a way to like Poirot...

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review 2019-10-24 17:03
Short Stories Featuring Miss Marple Overall Delight
The Thirteen Problems - Agatha Christie

I bought this book in paperback a while ago and though I had started some of the stories, I never got around to finishing it in one good. Not because I didn't love it or anything, I just got busy with other books. I thought this was an overall great short story collection featuring Miss Marple and some familiar characters like her nephew Raymond West and her close friend Mrs. Dolly Bantry. 


The overall book is about how a group of people who get together every Tuesday night will tell a true story of a crime with people guessing who dun it and why. Initially Miss Marple is dismissed by her nephew and others, but of course us long time Miss Marple fans know that she's quite shrewd and is one of the best amateur sleuths out there! Then the collection shifts to another night where mysteries are told with the last story taking place in the "present" with Miss Marple figuring out who killed a young girl with Sir Henry assisting. 


The Tuesday Night Club (5 stars)-There is a gathering of people at Miss Marple's home in order to meet her nephew, Raymond West who is a writer. Raymond brings a long a lady friend, Joyce who is also an artist. The other characters are Sir Henry Clithering ( former Scotland Yard), Dr. Pender (who I think or recall is a clergyman), and Mr.  Petherick who is a solicitor. As I said above, the group starts discussion unsolved mysteries with all of the participants (except for Miss Marple) saying how well they would do at solving crimes. They all agree to meet every Tuesday to tell a real mystery to each  other while others will try to solve it. Raymond is quite dismissive of Miss Marple and saying how her mind is like a sink. 

The first story is told by Sir Henry who discusses how a married woman fell ill after eating and now there is a question of whether she was murdered or not. Sir. Henry lays out all of the facts and after everyone guesses (wrongly) Miss Marple is the only one to figure out who did it. 


The Idol House of Astarte (4.5 stars)-This one I thought was a bit confusing though I liked the solution. This story is told by Dr. Penders and involves going to a house party of a friend of his after he bought a home. It becomes apparent that Dr. Penders friend Richard is infatuated (I am going to use that word) with a young society woman named Diana. After they all dress up and go off to an old temple that is left on the grounds. A man somehow is struck down and killed though no one touched him. Dr. Penders leaves the solution to the problem to the group. Miss Marple knocks it out of the park again.


Ingots of Gold (4 stars)-This was my least favorite story. Probably because Raymond is the storyteller in this one and he honestly irked me. That and this story is a long time going before anything interesting happens. To cut to the case, a man is found tied up and there's a question of who tied him up and who was behind smuggling some supposed Spanish gold in the area. I do have to love how Miss Marple figured things out (a gardener plays a part) and Sir Henry backs her up since he knows something about the case. 


The Blood-Stained Pavement (5 stars)-Joyce is the storyteller in this one and I really enjoyed it. Joyce goes to Cornwall and happens to come across a couple and another woman. What I liked about this one is that this story involves a painting and Joyce not realizing what she is seeing at the time. When a body is washed up later there's a question of who it is and who did it. Miss Marple again figures out the solution and I loved how it was solved. 


Motive v. Opportunity (4.5 stars)-So I don't know about this one, especially since it involves some rich people gaining an inheritance through trickery. Either way it was a pretty solid story told by the character of Mr Petherick who goes into him dealing with the writing of a will of a client of his. Pretty much the client had three grandchildren who should inherit, but he started to become involved with a spiritualist. There's a question of a hidden will and what happened to it in this one. Miss Marple strikes it right again. 


The Thumb Mark of St. Peter (5 stars)-The last story is told by Miss Marple and rightfully no one figures it out. I liked how the story involved a niece of hers who is being accused of murder.


The Blue Geranium (5 stars)-This is the beginning of stories not told in the club. We have Sir Henry return in this one and is visiting with familiar characters most Christie fans should know, Colonel Arthur Bantry and his wife, Dolly. What made me laugh is that readers know how close these two and how often Dolly appears, but in this one Dolly doesn't want to invite Miss Marple to a dinner she is throwing, but does after Sir Henry insists. Other people are invited, an actress named Jane and a Dr. Lloyd. Colonel Bantry has a mystery he wants solved and once again Miss Marple figures it out while everyone else struggles.


The Companion (5 stars)-I liked this story told by Dr. Lloyd but really hated the ending. I like the bad guys to get some comeuppance though the murderer did in the end, I just hate why the victim was killed and that Dr. Lloyd kept his own counsel. Anyway the story involves a time when Dr. Lloyd was staying on an island and came across two women. One of them ends up dead. And then months later the only surviving woman dies as well. At this point you should realize Miss Marple figures out the solution to the mystery. 


The Four Suspects (5 stars)-This one was really good and another story told by Sir Henry. He has four suspects in a murder case with him realizing that three of them have to be innocent and it's causing all of them to be under suspicion and to not trust one another. He wants to figure out who killed a man in order for at least three of his suspects to move on. 


A Christmas Tragedy (5 stars)-Miss Marple tells this one about her coming across a married couple that felt wrong to her in some way. It ends in tragedy, but no one else is able to guess how the wife of the married couple ended up murdered and by who.


The Herb of Death (5 stars)-This is another good one and Dolly Bantry tells this one. A story of an older man whose ward is poisoned after she ingests foxglove. There's a question of whether it was an accident or not. The young woman's fiancee marries another woman who was known to both of them so there's a question of did he do it, or did his now wife. I loved the solution to this one a lot!


The Affair at the Bungalow (5 stars)-This one had me howling. Jane (the actress) tells this one and had everyone ready to throttle her in the end. I did love though how neatly Miss Marple realizes what is going on and clues Jane into things. 


Death by Drowning (5 stars)-The last tale in this collection and it's not a story. Instead Sir Henry comes back to St. Mary Mead and finds out that a young girl was found drowned. There's a question of suicide or did the young man who had "gotten her into trouble" have something to do with it. Though Sir Henry is retired, Miss Marple reaches out to him to investigate based on who she thinks did it and why. 



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review 2018-09-19 18:48
The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie
The Thirteen Problems - Agatha Christie

I am not a fan of short stories, but these Marple stories were outstanding and thoroughly enjoyable. It was great to get a bit better acquainted with some of the characters in the novels, including the Bantry's, who are the primary focus of The Body in the Library, and Sir Henry Clithering, who is mentioned frequently in the Marple canon.


Some of the stories are better than others, but all of them were entertaining and show cased Miss Marple's curious method of crime solving. It was great fun.

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review 2017-04-27 20:54
The 13 Problems
The Thirteen Problems - Agatha Christie

The first Miss Marple short story collection, in which a group of people, Miss Marple among them, decides to tell stories of crimes and mysteries to each other. Will the listeners be able to solve the mysteries?


It´s been really fun to read about Miss Marple and her exceptional ability to outwit all the other people in the room. However, I don´t think that Agatha Christie excels at writing short stories. They were fun and I liked reading them, but the stories in itself were not memorable. But it was really nice to be with Miss Marple again and I´m beginning to like the old gal.


(I was allowed to choose any book I want).




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review 2016-07-30 17:56
The Tuesday Club Puzzles
The Thirteen Problems - Agatha Christie

"Miss Marple insinuated herself so quickly into my life that I hardly noticed her arrival," Agatha Christie wrote in her posthumously-published autobiography (1977) about the elderly lady who, next to Belgian super-sleuth Hercule Poirot, quickly became one of her most beloved characters. Somewhat resembling Christie's own grandmother and her friends, although "far more fussy and spinsterish" and "not in any way a picture" of the author's granny, like her, she had a certain gift for prophecy and, "though a cheerful person, she always expected the worst of everyone and everything, and was, with almost frightening accuracy, usually proved right."

Although Christie herself considered Miss Marple her favorite creation – preferred even over the prim and proper Belgian with the many "little grey cells," of whose exploits she occasionally tired and whom she brought back again and again chiefly because of her audience's undying demand – there are only twelve Miss Marple novels and twenty short stories: while no small feat in any other author's body of work, just over one tenth of the lifetime output of the writer justifiedly dubbed The Queen of Crime.

This compilation unites the twenty short stories revolving around St. Mary Mead's elderly village sleuth, beginning with the canon of originally six and, after an expansion for republication in book form, later thirteen stories which, in addition to the novel A Murder at the Vicarage (1930) introduced Miss Marple to the world; a series of unsolved problems told by her guests one Tuesday night, to be followed by six further problems narrated during a similar gathering at the home of village squire Colonel Bantry and his wife Dolly, about a year later.

In attendance on those two nights are a number of people who make recurring appearances next to Miss Marple; first and foremost her doting nephew - thriller novelist Raymond West – and retired Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir Henry Clithering, as well as village solicitor Petherick, and of course the Bantrys (who will move center stage, much to their embarrassment, in A Body in the Library, 1942); furthermore Raymond's new flame, artist Joyce (later reincarnated as his wife Joan), a doctor, a clergyman, and a well-known actress. Of course, all the stories also feature Christie's usual cast of other unique characters, many of whom could just as well figure in one of Miss Marple's "village parallels," those seemingly unimportant events summing up her knowledge of life, on which she unfailingly draws in unmasking even the cleverest killer.

Avid Christie readers will doubtlessly, moreover, recognize individual character types, plot snippets, settings and other features here and there; for Dame Agatha was known to draw repeatedly on devices she found to have worked before, and she tended to use her short stories as mini-laboratories for elements later expanded on in novels. Caveat, lector, of premature conclusions, however, for Christie was equally known to throw in a little extra twist in such cases: what is a real clue in one instance may well be a red herring in another and vice versa, and one story's innocent bystander may easily be the next story's murderer.


The following are the thirteen problems recounted in this collection:


* The Tuesday Night Club: Sir Henry Clithering opens the evening with the case of a woman's mysterious poisoning by arsenic.

* The Idol House of Astarte: A man inexplicably dies after a costume party's nightly excursion to a pagan temple.

* Ingots of Gold: Raymond West tells about a treasure hunt, sunken ships and murder on the Cornish coast.

* The Bloodstained Pavement: Joyce and the case of a drowned wife in a Cornish watering place called Rathole.

* Motive vs. Opportunity: Mr. Petherick's tale of a will that mysteriously vanishes from its sealed envelope.

* The Thumb Mark of St. Peter: Miss Marple's story how she quashed rumors about the sudden death of her niece Mabel's husband.

* The Blue Geranium: Opening the second round of mysteries, Colonel Bantry's narration about a prophecy involving death and three uncharacteristically blue flowers.

* The Companion: Two English ladies go on a holiday in Tenerife, but only one returns home alive.

* The Four Suspects: Sir Henry Clithering's account of the murder of a retired secret agent.

* A Christmas Tragedy: Having failed to prevent a murder, Miss Marple is all the more eager to unmask the murderer.

* The Herb of Death: Mrs. Bantry's gifts as a storyteller, a serving of sage and foxglove, and a charming young girl's unexpected death.

* The Affair at the Bungalow: Double-dealings, charades and mischief on stage and off, just outside of London.

* Death by Drowning: A village girl "in trouble" finds a desperate solution – or does she?

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