In Praise of Miss Marple

We just watched Joan Hickson as Miss Marple in The Mirror Cracked, and once again I’m in awe of Agatha Christie’s creative genius. Nor does it hurt that these English productions starring Hickson are as faithful to Christie’s plots as humanly possible, and that Christie herself chose Ms. Hickson to play Miss Marple–quite a few years before Hickson was old enough to do it. She is absolutely perfect in the role: Miss Marple to the life.

But think of it. You don’t want it to be just another detective story, seen one, seen ’em all. But you don’t want it to be outlandish, either–nothing like a seven-foot-tall sleuth from Manchuria solving crimes by dipping strips of specially treated bacon into the suspects’ drinking glasses.

So you come up with a detective who is physically incapable of violence, physically unable to run away if she’s in danger, and outwardly the most harmless of all creatures–a little old lady who’s lived in a country village all her life, but has, in the words of one police superintendent, “a mind like a meat cleaver.”

How did Christie ever think of this? There’s never been a more believable detective than Miss Marple in all of crime fiction: this sweet little Christian lady who does her devotionals every morning before she gets out of bed, and yet has such a penetrating insight into the sinful human heart. It sounds unbelievable when I write it down like that; but she’s perfectly believable when you read the novels, or watch Joan Hickson bring her to life.

Wonderful artistry. Just wonderful.

8 comments on “In Praise of Miss Marple

  1. Along with the best blog, you certainly write great reviews, Lee. Makes me even more anxious to start reading your Bell Mountain Series. I just received notice that the ones I ordered should arrive Wednesday 🙂

    Hopefully, I’ll be able to start reading soon, but some serious family issues have arisen. Please keep us in your prayers, kind sir.

  2. I never tire of watching Joan Hickson play Miss Marple in all the series on Public TV. She was a remarkable actress and was made for the part, pure genius of directors. I did not know if she did all the mystery books or not, but just a masterful performance.

  3. I was introduced to Miss Marple via public television’s Mystery Theatre back when I lived in Philadelphia. From the beginning I was hooked. One of the murder mysteries was a two-parter. I think it was The Body in The Library. Anyway, we would have company the evening I wanted to watch the second of the episode. They stayed until nearly midnight, too. I have a friend who’s really into Sherlock Holmes and I asked him hoping that he also liked Agatha Christie. I needed to know the outcome and, thank God, besides having all the Sherlock Holmes mysteries he also had every one of Ms. Christie’s Miss Marple books! I was relieved. Don’t remember if it was Joan Hickson who was in that series. This was back in the 1990’s.

Leave a Reply