A Christmas Tragedy – Agatha Christie (Short Story)

This is another short story featuring Miss Marple and the second that is taken from her book The Thirteen Problems. Sir Henry Clithering asks the ladies present, Miss Jane Marple, Dolly Bantry and Jane Helier that they must have a story the could tell, and that so far it has only been the men that have entertained.Step forward Miss Marple and her observations on human nature.

Miss Marple’s knack of working out who people really are is put to the test whilst she is staying at a Hydro as she tells the story. She knows what some people (mainly men) think about these places, where idle women gossip. but as shr rightly says “How often is tittle-tattle, true!”.

Here she meets Mr and Mrs Sanders, and Miss Marple knows that Mrs Sanders is in danger not from an outside source but from her own husband. She is convinced that Mr Sanders is going to kill his wife. How could she Miss Marple with no proof help Mrs Sanders, or inform the authorities what could happen? She tries but it is too late when Mrs Sanders is murdered and Mr Sanders has an alibi, could Miss Marple have got it wrong? she was with him when they found the body and witnessed first hand his grief.   Is her trust in her own initial instincts wrong?

Then rather cleverly Agatha Christie, after making us believe that Miss Marple is wrong, shows that perhaps the alibi is not necessarily watertight and that perhaps there is something different about the body, that when Miss Marple is questioned by the police, her observations are actually very astute and the real truth is revealed and Miss Marple should never have questioned her belief.

There is a slightly moral element to this tale, Mrs Sanders went to her death not really knowing what her husband was like and perhaps it was better that she was happy in ‘ignorant bliss’ then knowing the truth about the man she so obviously loved.

Interesting enough this story was originally titled The Hat and the Alibi which is a much better title, than the subsequent one which I feel is rather misleading and Christmas is only referred to in passing. This is the second short story I have read in recent weeks. Having enjoyed this and the previous one, please look out for more throughout the year.