The Murder at the Vicarage (5 stars):
The first Miss Marple mystery that showcases a different Miss Marple. I am realizing that for the most part, most Miss Marple stories have another person as the narrator with someone else giving us their thoughts/opinions on Miss Marple. In the first mystery Miss Marple is shown as nosy/gossipy and kind of mean spirited it felt a few times. She comes into her own in the end though when she reveals who the murder(s) are in this one and we have the narrator, the vicar called Leonard Clement who ends up in what I would call a grudging admiration of Miss Marple. Christie in my opinion definitely softens Miss Marple in subsequent books. She is definitely about seeing the murderers in her books brought to justice, though as some of you pointed out, she did take on a Poirot type of sentiment in some of her books.
Taking place in St. Mary's Mead, we have the whole village on pins and needles when someone murders the most despised man that lives there, Colonel Lucius Protheroe. The Colonel is nasty and mean spirited. When the Colonel is found dead in the Vicar's study, everyone quickly starts to suspect the other. Things get even more confusing when two separate people confess to the murder.
The narrator in this story as I already said was the vicar, Leonard Clement. He his married a woman named Griselda who he seems to have some worries over since it appears she may be having an affair. When the vicar starts his own investigations he keeps running into one of the residents, Miss Jane Marple. Slowly but surely we work through the village and wonder which one of them killed the Colonel.
What I loved about this book was that the only one who figured out what was going on was Miss Marple. A lot of people had ideas and there are a lot of red herrings to throw things off, but the final solution I found very enjoyable to read. When I first read this years ago I had no idea who had done it. At one time I suspected about every character that we are introduced to.
What is great about this first book is that we get introduced to characters we are going to see again in future Miss Marple books such as the vicar and his wife. I am trying to recall if Dr. Haydock shows up again. I do know that Inspector Slack shows up in The Body in the Library.
I did enjoy that my version included a layout of the vicar's study and home so you have to wonder how did someone enter and exit without being seen. I don't know if this one rivals my favorite Christie books "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" and "Murder on the Orient Express." but it's definitely in my top five Christie books.
After this readers should read "Thirteen Problems" if you want to go in order of the Miss Marple series.
The Body in the Library (5 stars):
The reason why I suggested readers should read "Thirteen Problems" next is that you are introduced to two characters who figure prominently in "The Body in the Library." When retired Colonel Arthur Bantry is wakened he and his wife Dolly are told there is a dead body in the library. They investigate and find a dead young woman in his library at Gossington Hall. The police show up and everyone starts to suspect Colonel Bantry in being behind the murder. Even though many will not come out and accuse him, the appearance of impropriety is enough to cause the Bantry's to lose their place in society.
Dolly calls up her old friend Jane Marple to help. What is nice is that Dolly calls back to Miss Marple solving all of the mysteries put before her in "Thirteen Problems." So you have one character who is aware that though Jane looks like a spinsterish older woman who is called "Victorian" by her pain in the butt nephew, she could put Sherlock Holmes to shame.
What I loved about this book is that it takes you down a really long winding path to get to who is the dead girl and why was she placed in the colonel's library. Eventually the dead girl is revealed to be a missing dancer named Ruby Keene from the nearby Majestic Hotel. We have Miss Marple and Dolly going off to figure out, who at the hotel could possibly want Ruby dead.
We get introduced to a lot of memorable characters in this one and honestly I have to say that I had no idea who did what to who and when all is revealed I went, oh that's so clever. I recall watching the most recent BBC adaptation of this one and wish that they had left it alone. I liked the original ending and thought that the latest Miss Marple's tried to be too sensational with things.
I did notice in this one and the next Miss Marple, Miss Marple likes to set a lot of traps. So there is one difference between her and Poirot. Poirot was all about telling a room full of people who the guilty party was, Miss Marple always brought in the police to ensure a confession. So she was like Brenda Leigh Johnson in the Closer.
The Moving Finger (3.5 stars):
This one ended up not working for on a lot of levels. I think it's cause I didn't really like the narrator for this, Jerry Burton. Jerry and his sister move to Joanna move to the village of Lymstock in order for Jerry to recover from the injuries he suffered from a plane crash. As soon as the siblings move in, they receive a poison pen letter accusing them of being lovers and not siblings. Apparently the whole town (just about) has received nasty letters accusing them of some nefarious thing.
Jerry finds himself growing fond of (or something) of the local solictor's step daughter named Megan Hunter. Megan is dealing with the fact that she is not wanted at her home now that her mother has remarried and had children with someone else. Her mother, Mrs. Symmington is a hard woman and doesn't seem to know what to do with Megan. Megan also puts the awkward in socially awkward.
When Megan's mother is found dead by her own hand after receiving a letter accusing her of an affair that resulted in the birth of one of her sons, Jerry becomes more involved and he does a not great investigation into who could be behind the letters. When the Symmington's maid is found dead, it seems that perhaps the poison pen writer has decided to cover his/her tracks.
I don't know, maybe it's just me. I found Jerry and Joanna both to be off-putting. Joanna decides she's in love with the local doctor, and Jerry all of a sudden realizes Emily is attractive when she gets new clothes and her hair cut. It's definitely a "She's All That" moment and it made me hard cringe.
Also I am going to complain here, there's not a lot of Miss Marple in this one. One of the characters (the local vicar's wife, no not the one I talked about earlier) calls up Miss Marple to help out. She meets Jerry in one scene and it just felt very long. We just quickly go back to Jerry and his suspicions and that's it.
Also when you get behind the why of things I had a hard time with the premise. It seemed quite far-fetched to me that someone would go to all these lengths for what is revealed by Miss Marple. But then again I have been watching a lot of Forensic Files and there apparently a lot of people who murder each other for like $10,000 so what do I know.