"To me, re-reading my favorite books is like spending time
with my best friends. I'd never be satisfied to limit myself to
just one experience each with my favorite people."
C.S. LEWIS, as seen on Goodreads
I have loved Agatha Christie’s mystery novels since my teens. Many of them now live on my bookshelves and have done so for decades. During those long ago youthful days, my good friend Ruth and I haunted used bookstores, scouting for titles we didn’t have, often focusing on our favourite mystery-suspense writers—which for me included writers like Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Georgette Heyer, and others such as Wilkie Collins, Sir Conan Doyle, and G.K. Chesterton. I eventually widened my circle of other mystery/detective writers and through the years discovered new favourites, which include authors like Josephine Tey, Julie Kaewert, Louise Penny, Donna Leon, Charles Todd, to name a few. I prefer thrillers which are written with fewer gory details. Miss Marple remains a firm favourite.
Over the years, my mystery collection grew into a motley mix of various editions both hardcover and paperback. I ended up with a few creepy covers because I couldn't find nicer copies at the time. I recall the horrid 1975 cover with the sketch of a man's head and its glaring glass eye nestled in a circle of hibiscus flowers heralding A Caribbean Mystery (as if the flowers could soften the goriness). And there was that ghastly 1978 cover for Murder at the Vicarage with its headless vicar, books and Bible still tucked under one arm, with a tennis racquet sticking out from the shoulders where the head should have been.
As time passed, I read the Christie novels less and less, especially when in the 1980s and ‘90s, I fell in love with the wonderful British films that started coming out, which included actors Joan Hickson and David Suchet, who remain my favourite portrayers of Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot, respectively. I began to prefer watching the stories play out on a screen rather than just inside my head. And where I had vague images of how certain characters and scenes should look, the films with their definite faces soon peopled my inner imaginary gallery. I loved that.
A fun little aside. When I read novels these days, there are occasions when I see certain actors in my mind's eye. And I say to myself, if I was turning this novel into a movie, I'd select So and So for that role... he fits the character, or she would portray that role to a tee.
I'm in a new season again. During the Covid lockdowns and those two years where we stayed close to home, Rick and I watched so much on Netflix, BritBox, Acorn, etc., including all the mystery and police detective shows that came up. Until the day arrived when we realized we were done - we'd reached the point of saturation. Our eyes ached from the hours of binge-watching dozens of series—favourite and otherwise—that we didn’t want to watch one more episode of anything.
Turning off the television, we cancelled our streaming subscriptions, and turned our attention once again to the gentler pursuit of reading books. Which brings me, at last, to the reason for this post.....
"Few and far between are the books you'll cherish,
returning to them time and again, to revisit old friends,
relive old happiness, and recapture the magic of that first read."
MICHAEL A. STACKPOLE, as seen on Goodreads
Back in November or so, I caught sight of a newish Miss Marple paperback collection by American publishers William Morrow. Miranda Mills was showing us what she'd been reading on her book vlog—which happened to be the novel 4:50 From Paddington. I was immediately drawn to its bright and colourful cover with the fresh floral design.
After Christmas, with holiday gift cards in hand, I went to see what the local bookstore had in stock. They had two shelves chockful of these paperbacks. My plan was to only get my favourite titles; after all, I had copies of these novels on my shelf. I came away with At Bertram's Hotel, A Murder is Announced, Murder at the Vicarage, Nemesis, The Body in the Library, and 4:50 From Paddington. Bitten, as they say, I went back a few days later for a couple more, and then a couple more. The selection at the store quickly dwindled—other readers were obviously smitten as well. I still wanted to get the last two I was missing: A Caribbean Mystery and A Pocketful of Rye. . . well, my birthday is coming up later this spring, so, fingers crossed I can still find them. As I understand, there are twelve Marple novels in this collection, plus the complete Marple short story edition.
So yes, the old Marple novels have been packed up to be given away or taken to the thrift store. And my shelf is sporting this delightful new set.
Now, isn't this a far less creepy cover than the poor headless vicar? Snowdrops hints the season in which the story takes place—now is a perfect time to read it. And the discreetly placed handgun reminds the reader this is a mystery book. If you look closely at the cover above, you might find the silhouette of the author's face somewhere. Each cover includes such a puzzle. These books make me smile every time I look at them. Somehow the floral designs seem fitting for an English village mystery series. The books open nicely and hold well in the hand, making them a comfortable read.
"A classic is a book which with each rereading offers
as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading."
ITALO CALVINO, as found on azquotes
I’m slowly reading the set. Taking my time and savouring the details. Trying to recapture the magic of those long ago first readings. Enough time has passed for them to be fresh again. Sure, I remember the storylines and most of the endings, but there are many other details - both domestic and societal - to discover as I reacquaint myself with Agatha's stories that are mostly set in a post world war English village.
Although not in this set, there is a little biography of Miss Jane Marple that goes nicely with the Marple books. See, she is real (wink). I wrote about that slim volume by Ann Hart HERE. You can just see the book on the right side in the top photo.
"There is, as Miss Marple would say,
a lot of human nature in all of us."
Miss Marple remains one of my favourite people. Even though she is a fictional character, she is so real to me. Although I never learned the comforting craft of knitting from her, I believe she helped me to become more observant of the world around me. I like her because, while kind and gentle in many ways, she also has a strong sense of what’s right and wrong, and of not letting evil get the last word.
I'll end this chatty post with these lines I love from the 1987 movie Nemesis, where Miss Temple and Miss Marple talk about Verity, the girl who died. Miss Marple's reply resonates with me:
Miss Temple: There was something in her nature.
Miss Marple: Perhaps it was goodness.
Miss Temple: Do you believe in such things?
Miss Marple: Oh yes...yes. I believe in evil, in everlasting life, and oh, yes, goodness...yes.
Here's wishing you a beautiful day,