Book Critique – Murder With Mirrors (Miss Marple #6)
For review of all Books written by Agatha Christie and that were made into TV Shows and Movies, go here.
Stars: 3 / 5
My Recommendation: One of the very few books of Christie's that you actually figure out the mystery before she reveals it. If you love Miss Marple and her creator Christie you will be partial to this book.
Murder With Mirrors is a detective fiction novel by Dame Agatha Christie first published in US in 1952. It was released as They Do It With Murders in UK the same year. The plot features Christie's female amateur detective Miss Marple.
A dear friend of mine, Patty, found an article in the local newspaper and knowing how much I love books, she shared it with me. The article highlights the fact that October marked 100 years since Agatha Christie released her first book The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920. The very first book introduced one of her main protagonists - Hercules Poirot - the readers. Her other well loved protagonist, Miss Marple, doesn’t appear at least 10 years later in the 1930 book The Murder at the Vicarage.
Christie had entertained us with her detective fiction, setting a bar to all future authors. With her last book, Sleeping Murder, in 1976, she had given the readers a total of sixty-six novels and fourteen short-story collections. Her books still garner attentions; still get adapted to film and TV; and still keep readers captured, as I have been.
For this centennial moment I chose to read this less famous book of hers, Murder With Mirrors. And here is my review.
Miss Jane Marple is tasked by her long-time friend Mrs. Ruth Van Rydock to check on her sister, Caroline "Carrie" Louise Serrocold, and alleviate her suspicions that there is nothing wrong in her sister's household as Ruth had suspected. All does indeed doesn’t seem to be as too goody as the Serrocold's try to project at Stonygates and Miss Marple lands smack in the middle of a murder.
After reading the book I see why it is considered as Christie's lesser works. We don’t get to see Miss Marple's usual sleuthing skills as much; and instead we see more of the law enforcement trying to unravel the mystery. Although Christie does credit Miss Marple to finally reveal the mystery. Yet it felt a little paler than her usual works.
Despite that you still will be left with a well-framed and well-written murder mystery plot with all the typical Christie's elements woven through. Every page reveals something and keeps you intrigued and interested.
In the earlier years of Dodd, Mead & Company publishers, they added an imprint of "Red Badge Detective" to their books, up until they were into late 1960s. The badge was usually used for upcoming and newer authors as a way of a stamp to affirm that that book would be a really good mystery book.
That is why perhaps you don’t see Christie's books from 60s and 70s with this imprint. However this current book, Murder With Mirrors, was published in 1952 and carries the distinctive "Red Badge Detective" imprint on the title page of the book.
Christie has her own fictional creations in the book - for instance, the dress that Mrs. Ruth Van Rydock tries on is a Lanvanelli Creation, but there is no such designer in reality;
And Ruth actually is shocked at the fashion that Christian Dior is making them wear in the name of skirts. If only Ruth saw how 2020 fashion is. :P
Some of the elements from this plot were adapted into the 1964 film Murder Ahoy!, in which Margaret Rutherford had started as Miss Jane Marple. Recently when TCM aired the three of the four Rutherford films aired, I had the pleasure of watching her as Miss Jane Marple, a slightly different version than what Christie envisioned her.
Inspection Curry sums the entire plot in just a few statements -
"The illusion is in the eye of the beholder not in the set itself. That, as I say, is real enough, as real behind the scenes as it is in front".
One of the very few books of Christie's that you actually figure out the mystery before she reveals it. If you love Miss Marple and her creator Christie you will be partial to this book. However, I have to say that this is indeed least mysterious and least interesting of her books. Read at your own leisure and get the entertainment and intrigue out of it.
1. Book Trivia and Plot Reveals:
a. Several adaptations of the novel have been made on Film and TV - 1985 TV film Murder With Mirrors; one of the episodes of the 1991 BBC Series Miss Marple; for the fourth season of ITV series Agatha Christie's Marple in 2010.
b. Ruth Van Rydock's entourage, family & friends: Stephanie, her maid; sister Carrie Louise;
c. Carrie Louise family:
i. Through first husband Eric Gulbrandsen: Christian and two step-sons from Gulbrandsen's first marriage; adopted daughter Pippa & her husband Marchese Guido San Severiano, a child Gina; their own child Mildred Strete; Gina is married to Walter Hudd;
ii. Through second husband Johnnie Restarick: step-sons Alexis and Stephen "Steve";
iii. Through third husband Lewis Serrocold:
iv. Staff & Servants at the Serrocold's home & others closely associated: Edgar Lawson; Dr. Maverick; Miss Juliet Bellever, Carrie's personal maid; Dr. Baumgarten & Mr. Lacy, occupational therapists; Dr. Galbraith, the Bishop of Cromer; Mr. Gilfroy, trustee; Mr. Birnbaum;
d. Miss Jane Marple's family and friends: nephew Raymond West; Sir John Stillwell;
e. Law Enforcement: Inspector Curry; Sergeant Lke; Superintendent Blacker; Police Constable Dodgett;
f. Media, Books, Cooking references:
i. The Charge of Light Brigade and The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet by Alfred Tennyson;
2. Grammatical / Character / Plot / Geographical / Historical / Mythological Errors:
a. On Pg. 58, Line 19, shouldn’t it be "…I don’t think you should take it…"?
b. One of the characters, Baumgarten, is sometimes is addressed as "Dr." and sometimes as "Mr."
c. On Pg. 132, Line 4 from bottom, shouldn’t it be "…Never heard of him…"?