Sammy's Reviews > They Do It with Mirrors

They Do It with Mirrors by Agatha Christie
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's review
Oct 02, 2010

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bookshelves: mystery

At a delinquents’ home, Jane Marple investigates an unknown threat, at the behest of an old friend.

Watching the Joan Hickson adaptation of "They Do It With Mirrors", I was struck by how many of the notable elements – the number of underage characters, the theatrical menace – struck me as rather un-Christie. Not surprisingly, reading the book shows that – as with many stories that venture outside characters she was familiar with – things begin to fall apart. "They Do It With Mirrors" is not a Marple highlight, but it’s an easy read. The strange setting – a country house doubling as an institution for troubled youths – is not very well realised, but the perennial upper-crust characters shine through in what is (intentionally or otherwise) a light examination of changing social mores.

Miss Marple’s hawk-eyed, gossipy personality is – of course – perfect for an amateur detective. Far more than any of the other amateurs Christie offered over the years, Jane Marple’s ruthless cunning can ultimately unravel any thread of mystery. (Unlike Poirot, I don’t think she ever gets things wrong, which can, unfortunately, make the occasional climax – "A Pocket Full of Rye", notably – seem wantonly reckless.) However, these books can often lack anything regarding a thrill – one can’t help feeling that a more active detective might have provided this. It’s no surprise that the best of the Marple novels either unite her with a co-detective (officially or narratively) or at least see the spinster knuckle down on some true investigation. There’s nothing wrong with "They Do It With Mirrors", but it’s one of the least memorable Marples.

[The U.S. title was "Murder with Mirrors". Perhaps they just wanted a title that assured you of the book's genre? Or perhaps, like me at eight years old, finding it on the library shelf, they found "they do it with mirrors" to be giggle-worthy. Puerile sort, perhaps?]

Marple ranking: 10th out of 14

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