Kaion's Reviews > A Caribbean Mystery

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
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Aug 06, 2012

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bookshelves: mystery, series
Read in August, 2012

"I've been wrong about her," said Mr. Rafiel with characteristic frankness. "Never been much of a one for the old pussies. All knitting-wool and tittle-tattle. But this one's got something. Eyes and ears, and she uses them."
I think Agatha Christie is a writer with whom I'm always going to be more acquainted through adaptations than her writing itself (in fine company with Jane Austen*). I do particularly enjoy the Miss Marple adaptations when I catch them. Miss Marple's such a lovely creation, all nice nattering old lady fluff on the outside, all astute and deadly accurate observer of human nature on the inside. That's really the key image of A Caribbean Mystery: in the middle of the night, a Caribbean bungalow, and Miss Marple there in the moonlight as the goddess Nemesis, wrapped in pink wool.

It is in fact so key, it's a bit of a waste it doesn't happen until near the end of A Caribbean Mystery, which is why I suspect Agatha Christie revived it for, well, Nemesis, along with Miss Marple's very intriguing friendship with the rich crochety old Mr. Rafiel. It's an alliance bordering on a romance**, at any rate, a zesty relationship as Chrstie clearly enjoys bouncing the two old-people archetypes off one another as both a subversion and a celebration.

Nothing else in the book, however, is quite as interesting. Certainly not any of the other characters populating the story, and I found the mystery rather indifferent (though I admit that I am by default indifferent to mysteries). There's more than enough of Miss-Marple-ness to keep the engine chugging along though-- too much to catalogue, but uniformly delightful, whether it be her very British annoyance that the tropical weather is so consistently nice to make a piss-poor conversation topic, or this, on "modern" novels: "Sex" as a word had not been much mentioned in Miss marple's young days, but there had been plenty of it--not talked about so much--but enjoyed far more than nowadays, or so it seemed to her. Though usually labelled Sin, she couldn't help feeling that that was preferable to what it seemed to be nowadays--a kind of Duty.

Or this: "He said he knew a murderer," said Miss Marple. "There's nothing really special about that," she added in her gentle voice, "because I suppose it happens to nearly everybody".

Oh Miss Marple. Rating: 3 stars

*Sorry Jane Austen. I know I haven't gotten around to reviewing P&P or Persuasion yet, but your SENTENCES and your plotting, and sometimes your morals, I can't.
**Yeah, I said romance. Christie starts the book talking about hot, un-enumerated sex and later there's "pussies" and stuff. This isn't even reading between the lines, people.

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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Kienie I like your evaluation. And I agree, though I haven't actually read Caribbean Mystery. I've seen the adaptation. I think the whole subversion of the old lady is what makes Miss Marple work. She knows exactly what she's doing, she's good at it, but she's also aware what the world thinks of old ladies-so she uses it to advantage. I'd love to see something about Miss Marple's career prior to retirement. She wouldn't have been a fem-fatale, but rather an invisible but brilliant agent. Or maybe the back story in the book is true, and she spent her life studying human nature from her windowsill. Who knows.

message 2: by Kaion (last edited Aug 08, 2012 06:58PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kaion I don't know about Miss Marple's characterization though. Sometimes Christie plays way too hard on the "I don't know what I'm doing" thing, which pop ups even in Miss Marple's own internal monologue. This is #10 in the series! No one's fooled. It starts to be a bit of a fake humility/ unattractive low self-esteem thing. I know this is just Christie's style that the characters are mostly opaque (I'm guessing we *never* learn anything about Poirot even half this important), but it's a little frustrating she's writing only for types, not characters, even in her flagship ones.

Kienie I guess it's more consistent in the adaptations. I always got a sense of personality from each actress who portrayed Miss Marple. Maybe Christie wrote Miss Marple over a period of time, and probably approached each story separately. There are recurring characters and themes, but it doesn't really feel like a progressive series. I still enjoyed Murder at the Vicarage.

Kaion I've only seen the Geraldine McEwan and the Julia McKenzie interpretations (I like them both: McEwan so devilish and McKenzie more compassionate). Also, imdb-ing, I did not know there were so many different notable Miss Marples. Angela Lansbury, Margaret Rutherford, and Helen Hayes!

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