Reading the Detectives discussion

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Group Challenges > The Thirteen Problems - SPOILER Thread

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message 1: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
This is actually the second published Miss Marple volume and is a collection of stories published in 1932. This will be an 'extra' read for February.

Please feel free to post spoilers in this thread.


message 2: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
Now it is February proper, I will try to introduce a story at a time, so everyone can chip in.

The book opens with, "The Tuesday Night Club," in which Miss Marple, Raymond West (her nephew), Joyce Lampriere, Sir Henry Clithering, Dr Pender and Mr Petherick are talking about unsolved mysteries.

Sir Henry Clithering, the retired Commissioner of Scotland Yard, is first to begin and tells the story of three people who sit down to a supper of tinned lobster. Two become ill and one dies... Everyone puts forward a theory, but it is Miss Marple who solves the puzzle, with her village comparison.


message 3: by Judy (last edited Feb 02, 2017 09:57PM) (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8236 comments Mod
I was mystified by the lobster story, as I admittedly was by all of them - certainly didn't see the solution coming! I'm not sure if Christie drops many clues in these short stories, or if you have to be Miss Marple to solve them?

After just refreshing my memory of that first story, I never would have guessed anything from the mention of "hundreds and thousands" - though I do remember enjoying trifles topped with them as a child! The whole idea of the murder being committed by calculating who is likely to eat what is extremely clever and I have a feeling it might have been copied in other books?


message 4: by Lesley (new)

Lesley | 383 comments I know without doubt I've never read a book of short stories written by Christie such as this one, yet I keep getting the feeling I know the stories. I'm currently reading Blue Geranium and I can see the bunches of pink flowers on the wall and one with a blue flower in the middle. So, from this I am wondering have stories, or elements of them, been included in the longer novels.


message 5: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
I know that happened with Dead Man's Folly, so I suspect she did enlarge other short stories into novels. I suppose short stories usually appeared in magazines then, so readers were less likely to keep hold of them and later compare plots?


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1068 comments Susan wrote: "I know that happened with Dead Man's Folly, so I suspect she did enlarge other short stories into novels. I suppose short stories usually appeared in magazines then, so readers were less likely to ..."

Some short stories do have hints or look like shorter versions of the full-length novels but I haven't serious ever compared them- one had traces of Evil under the Sun too-the painting one.


Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1068 comments Judy wrote: "I was mystified by the lobster story, as I admittedly was by all of them - certainly didn't see the solution coming! I'm not sure if Christie drops many clues in these short stories, or if you have..."

In the ones I've read so far, I haven't noticed any clues- perhaps she did reserve those for the full length books, or I haven't been paying enough attention.


message 8: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 2449 comments Mod
While I enjoyed the stories they aren't my favorites. The mystery is presented, Miss M ponders and gives the solution. I enjoy the hunt and I didn't see many clues. However I really enjoyed the characters in the group and their interaction. It also takes me a long time to read short stories as I don't like to go immediately from one to another. Of course I start another book, but then I forget to return to the stories. So, worse case, I get a story read in between books. I listened to these and that helped.

Regarding an earlier comment about Blue Geraniums: I remember that wall paper very clearly from one of the TV adaptions.


message 9: by Lesley (new)

Lesley | 383 comments Sandy wrote: "While I enjoyed the stories they aren't my favorites. The mystery is presented, Miss M ponders and gives the solution. I enjoy the hunt and I didn't see many clues. However I really enjoyed the cha..."

So, was the Blue Geraniums story woven in as part of another of he full length mysteries, Sandy? I have a feeling it wasn't a Miss Marple one though. Can't say why I feel that.

Also agree with you on not reading the short stories one after another. These short stories are more an exercise in telling the story and detecting the 'flaws', and to my mind, a vehicle for introducing future characters.


message 10: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
I think the short stories helped Christie develop Miss Marple's character, more than anything else. They probably appeared in magazines at first, with a good time gap between them, so readers would have noticed the similarities less.


message 11: by Sandy (last edited Feb 04, 2017 12:58PM) (new)

Sandy | 2449 comments Mod
Ella's Gran wrote: "Sandy wrote: "While I enjoyed the stories they aren't my favorites. The mystery is presented, Miss M ponders and gives the solution. I enjoy the hunt and I didn't see many clues. However I really e..."

I remember the TV episode hving the name Blue Geranium, much the same ending and it was a Miss Marple though I can't remember what part she played other than explaining the solution. I think the litmus paper discovery was the ending, so don't think it was part of another story.


message 12: by Lesley (new)

Lesley | 383 comments Sandy wrote: "Ella's Gran wrote: "Sandy wrote: "While I enjoyed the stories they aren't my favorites. The mystery is presented, Miss M ponders and gives the solution. I enjoy the hunt and I didn't see many clues..."

Well, maybe they did make a TV programme of the short story! And since Miss Marple only appeared at the end to explain the solution, might be the reason I didn't think it was one of her mysteries. It also says the programme was pretty much true to the short story too!
Thanks, Sandy.


message 13: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
The next story in the collection is The Idol House of Astarte House.

This tells the story of a house near Dartmoor and is narrated by Dr Pender. It is an involved tale of a property purchased by Sir Richard Haydon, who he knew from college. He is invited to a house party where a death occurs during a fancy dress party. There is a mysterious grove of trees, the Grove of Astarte, and a summerhouse has been built in this place of Sacred Rites. However, Miss Marple finds a very human reason for this murder.

This was not one of my favourites in the book, but perhaps it was yours?


message 14: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1068 comments Susan wrote: "The next story in the collection is The Idol House of Astarte House.

This tells the story of a house near Dartmoor and is narrated by Dr Pender. It is an involved tale of a property purchased by S..."


Not my favourite but I did enjoy the somewhat supernatural atmosphere of the story- I wondered about the actress though (can;t remember her name)- was it all an act, but then it would have been too obvious.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 589 comments Susan wrote: "The next story in the collection is The Idol House of Astarte House.

This tells the story of a house near Dartmoor and is narrated by Dr Pender. It is an involved tale of a property purchased by S..."


I liked it - some of Christie's older works seem quite heavily influenced by Conan Doyle & Poe. I guessed the solution quite easily, but I liked the writing so 4★


message 16: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
The Idol House.... did have a very old fashioned style - a bit like Conan Doyle, I agree.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 589 comments Hi is it OK if I move on with these short stories. I've read four and I'm already starting to forget them. I can use spoiler tags if you like. :)


message 18: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
Yes, of course! I know some people have still not started, but let's move on to story three and four.

So, we have Raymond West's story, "Ingots of Gold," about his visit to John Newman in Cornwall.

Then we have The Bloodstained Pavement, which is Joyce Lempriere's effort. That is set in a Cornish fishing village. This was one of my favourite stories in the book.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 589 comments Susan wrote: "Yes, of course! I know some people have still not started, but let's move on to story three and four.

So, we have Raymond West's story, "Ingots of Gold," about his visit to John Newman in Cornwall..."


Cool! Sorry to be so pushy! Ingots (view spoiler)

The Bloodstained Pavement. (view spoiler)


message 20: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
Not at all, Carol. You don't need to use spoiler tags in this thread and you are welcome to post comments on all, and every, story. I am just posting the titles to help the conversation flow, but feel free to jump ahead, or back, as you wish :)


message 21: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
I was interested in your comments about Ingots. It was convoluted, but my knowledge of Cornwall is nil (I've never even been there in fact), so I'm not sure my being British helped much... However, it is a good point - she, presumably, was writing very much for a home market at that point. Do you think this is something that helps, or hinders authors. Not just Christie, but also modern authors?

Next story is Motive V Opportunity, which is Mr Petherick's offering. Like so many Christie stories, this revolves around a will.


message 22: by Lesley (new)

Lesley | 383 comments In the Bloodstained Pavement, probably about half way through, I suddenly 'saw' the ending in my mind. It just seemed so clear who, and why.

Ingots was rather convoluted. Seemed to go into too much detail, but I thought that's because he, Raymond West, is her nephew.

As has been said before, often short stories were serialised in weeklies, which I felt she may have been using the stories to test the waters, as much a vehicle to introduce and develop future characters, and to gauge who of them might be more popular among readers.


message 23: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
Absolutely agree, Ella's Gran. I think the short stories were author's bread and butter and a good testing ground for trying things out.


message 24: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1068 comments Bloodstained pavement was a lot like Evil under the Sun. I haven't looked up the publishing dates but I'm assuming this was a prototype. I also remember another short story with similarities to Evil under the Sun but not whether it had Miss Marple.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 589 comments Lady Clementina wrote: "Bloodstained pavement was a lot like Evil under the Sun. I haven't looked up the publishing dates but I'm assuming this was a prototype. I also remember another short story with similarities to Evi..."

That's what it reminded me of!

Short stories were a way a lot of these early 20th century authors made a quick buck (or pound!) Heyer is another author of the era who worked their short stories into either other stories or books.


message 26: by Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ (last edited Feb 13, 2017 01:17PM) (new)

Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 589 comments Susan wrote: "I was interested in your comments about Ingots. It was convoluted, but my knowledge of Cornwall is nil (I've never even been there in fact), so I'm not sure my being British helped much... However,..."

Oh you must go! A long time ago but I loved Cornwall.

A good question. It would be hard to imagine that she would become the Queen of Crime & that a lightweight short story would still be read 80 years later!


message 27: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
I can imagine that if you were writing to support yourself, you would want to get as much as you could out of each story. If it could have two outings, that would obviously be ideal.


message 28: by Judy (last edited Feb 13, 2017 01:10PM) (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8236 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "Then we have The Bloodstained Pavement, which is Joyce Lempriere's effort. That is set in a Cornish fishing village. This was one of my favourite stories in the book."

I thought this one was very clever - I definitely didn't see the twist coming. One of my favourites in the book too.


message 29: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 51 comments Carol ♔Type, Oh Queen!♕ wrote: "Lady Clementina wrote: "Bloodstained pavement was a lot like Evil under the Sun. I haven't looked up the publishing dates but I'm assuming this was a prototype. I also remember another short story ..."

In Busman's Honeymoon Harriet wrote several short stories to pay for her wedding gift to Peter.


message 30: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
Yes, well remembered, Ellen. So she did.


message 31: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 540 comments Judy wrote: "I was mystified by the lobster story, as I admittedly was by all of them - certainly didn't see the solution coming! I'm not sure if Christie drops many clues in these short stories, or if you have..."

I'm half-way through them, but so far I think she's been fair in giving us all the information we need to solve the mysteries, but does a masterful job of making the important seem irrelevant and the irrelevant seem important.

I did solve several of them. In the Idol House of Astarte, I realized early on that it had to be Haydon, though I didn't get the detail of his hiding the dagger back in his costume. But it was clear that he was the only one in a position to stab Sir Richard. I also recognized the dual role of the real wife (though I thought she was just the lover he was getting rid of his wife to be able to marry) in the murder process. And I also got the invisible ink from the clue of the pen being in the wrong drawer.

I almost never solve mysteries, so that I could solve several of these is, I think, a testament to two things. One, Christie really does give us all the information we need if we know how to dig it out of the text. And second, the short story format means that there is much less information to have to dig through to find the meaningful information. In a full length book it is easy to hide the important but related points in places hundreds of pages apart, and it's easy to throw in lots and lots more red herrings, making it much more challenging to solve the mystery. So I'm finding that I really like these shorter stories because they do give me a much better opportunity for success.

And they're different from, say, Sherlock Holmes short stories because there we often do not get all the necessary information to unravel the mystery. Christie does play far under the classic rules.


message 32: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 540 comments Carol ♔Type, Oh Queen!♕ wrote: "Susan wrote: "The next story in the collection is The Idol House of Astarte House....

I liked it - some of Christie's older works seem quite heavily influenced by Conan Doyle & Poe. I guessed the solution quite easily, but I liked the writing so 4★."


I also liked the atmosphere, and also guessed the solution easily. I'm surprised none of the others in the group were able to, it was so obvious.


message 33: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 540 comments Carol ♔Type, Oh Queen!♕ wrote: "Hi is it OK if I move on with these short stories. I've read four and I'm already starting to forget them. I can use spoiler tags if you like. :)"

Definitely. As long as the title is in the post, people can skip it and come back if they aren't there yet.


message 34: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 540 comments Susan wrote: "Absolutely agree, Ella's Gran. I think the short stories were author's bread and butter and a good testing ground for trying things out."

Also, at the time, much easier to get published. There were many mystery magazines that ate up stories by the hundreds -- to name just a few, there were Detective Story Magazine, Dime Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen's, and many, many others. If you have the imagination to create short stories, at that time it was much easier to sell thirty short stories of 2,000 words each than a novel of 60,000 words.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 589 comments Motive vs Opportunity

I thought this one was both clever & played fair. 4.5★

The Thumb Mark of St Peter.

interesting & more character development of Miss Marple. Quite witty. Mabel's actions were bizarre though 4★


message 36: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
I also found The Thumb Mark of St Peter a slightly darker story. It does enlarge on the theme of the novel we read this month - about suspicions about an innocent character affecting their life if a crime is not solved.

Next up is the second part of the book. Colonel and Dolly Bantry are hosting a dinner party for their guest, Sir Henry Clithering and he is asked who he would like as a sixth guest for dinner. Dolly Bantry is surprised that he asks for Miss Marple. So, this time we have:
Sir Henry, the Bantry's, Dr Lloyd, Jane Helier (an actress) and Miss Marple.

Mrs Bantry encourages her husband to tell his 'ghost story' in the first story - The Blue Geranium. So, we have a sensible nurse, a difficult, invalid wife and a psychic...


message 37: by Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ (last edited Feb 27, 2017 10:33AM) (new)

Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 589 comments The Blue Geranium

I liked this story which I felt played fair. I remembered enough high school science to guess the method, but I had the wrong person pegged as the murderer. 5★


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 589 comments The Companion

Clever & I'll bet this was an innovative murder at the time. Didn't really like the conclusion but will wait till more people have posted to say why. 4.5★

So far the stories from Part 2 seem stronger.


message 39: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1068 comments Carol ♔Type, Oh Queen!♕ wrote: "The Blue Geranium

I liked this story which I felt played fair. I remembered enough high school maths to guess the method, but I had the wrong person pegged as the murderer. 5★"


I remembered the how only after it was explained and no I didn't guess the murderer.


message 40: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1068 comments Carol ♔Type, Oh Queen!♕ wrote: "The Companion

Clever & I'll bet this was an innovative murder at the time. Didn't really like the conclusion but will wait till more people have posted to say why. 4.5★

So far the stories from Pa..."
This was a prototype of sorts of one of her books, I wont say which in case someone hasn't read it... But I enjoyed it- the solution at least.


message 41: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
The Companion is Dr Lloyd's story and is set in The Canary Islands. I sort of guessed this one but, of course, it was more involved than it first appeared!

Then, Sir Henry Clithering gave us The Four Suspects about a German secret society named the Swartze Hand - lots of blackmail and terror. I really enjoyed this one.

Miss Marple's offering was A Christmas Tragedy set at the Keston Spa Hydro (very popular in those times!). This is Miss Marple in familiar territory, seeing a married woman and feeling her husband has terrible intentions towards her.

Now, one of the things I found really interesting about the Miss Marple story was that, at the end, Sanders (the husband) was hanged and Miss Marple remarks, "And a good job too." No Wimsey soul searching here! Was that the character, or the author, talking I wonder? No reason, of course, why it should have been the author and could have just been how she viewed Miss Marple seeing the world, but interesting, nonetheless.


message 42: by Wend (new)

Wend (wends) | 12 comments Sandy wrote: "While I enjoyed the stories they aren't my favorites. The mystery is presented, Miss M ponders and gives the solution. I enjoy the hunt and I didn't see many clues. However I really enjoyed the cha..."

It is the characters I like in the series of short stories. With hindsight I may have been better reading a story a day rather than approaching the book as a complete novel.


message 43: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
Next up is The Herb of Death which, as you would expect, is Dolly Bantry's story. It involves the 'Business at Clodderham Court' with 'Old Sir Ambrose Bercy,' and a good dose of old-fashioned jealousy.

Then there is The Affair at the Bungalow, which is the story of young actress, Jane Helier. Again, Christie presents actresses as rather empty headed and silly.

Last in the book is a slightly different story. This is a stand alone called Death by Drowning. It again involves Sir Henry Clithering staying with the Bantry's and Miss Marple involving him in the death of a young girl suspecting of drowning herself.

Overall, I think this is a good collection of stories and would be interested to hear any favourites.


message 44: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8236 comments Mod
I think that last story was my favourite - it's the one that has stuck in my mind the best. Maybe because it is more immediate, with Miss Marple solving a mystery more as she does in the novels?


message 45: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9214 comments Mod
Yes, it was longer too and I think that helped.


message 46: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1068 comments Susan wrote: "Yes, it was longer too and I think that helped."

Being a case at hand which she's actively solving certainly does make it far more interesting.


message 47: by David (new)

David Thompson | 7 comments The first story would have been easier to figure out without the language barrier between British and American English. I had to look up Banting and "hundreds and thousands". This is my first read of any of Christie's short story.


message 48: by Judy (last edited Feb 22, 2017 02:31PM) (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8236 comments Mod
That's interesting, David - Banting isn't a well-known phrase in the UK either nowadays, although I have come across it occasionally in older books.


message 49: by Martha (new)

Martha | 13 comments That's actually one of the reasons I love reading British novels! I enjoy picking up a new turn of phrase or singularly British expression, and then try to use it in everyday conversation. It often makes people do a double take.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 589 comments I didn't really enjoy the 4 suspects - I might reread tomorrow to see if missed something. So not assigned stars yet. :)


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