Miss Marple has stepped away St Mary Mead and has branched out with her sleuthing skills abroad. Of course she is meant to be there for a rest at the insistence and expense of her nephew Raymond West. But where Miss Marple goes there is bound to be the odd body or two. But all she meets are a rather interesting collection of people. A rather highly strung wife and worrying husband who run the hotel, couples who seem to have an interest in tropical birds and walking, a vicar and his rather gossipy sister, a crotchety old man who is confined to a wheelchair with an assistant and a male nurse to attend to his every need and an old Major, still living his early army days with the stories he likes telling to anyone that will listen.
One of those people happens to be Miss Marple and when, Major Palgrave confides in her that he has a photograph of a murderer and that perhaps that person is on the same island as them – her interest is piqued. But then Major Palgrave can say no more to help her as the following day he is found dead, natural causes and no-one seems very perturbed at his death. Apart from two people, Miss Marple and the crotchety old man; Mr Rafiel. Although not always is Mr Rafiel as right as he may think “In this assumption, as Miss Marple could have told him, he was wrong. But she forbore to contest his statement. Gentlemen, she knew, did not like to be put right in their facts.” Between the two of them they dissect and put back together what they think is the right version of events. But will they be able to get to the bottom of it before anyone else seemingly dies of natural causes?
I think this is not one of Christie’s stronger Miss Marple stories, it has the red herrings and the twists of plot but actually somehow if you take Miss Marple out of her normal setting – traditional English villages or seaside towns it rendered it slightly less believable for me.
I fancied some Christie and I know this is being remade (I think actually already filmed) for the ITV series of Marple with Julia McKenzie so I wanted it fresh in my memory for when it is eventually broadcast. I remember the Joan Hickson one and had a vague recollection of whodunnit but was not 100%.
Not one of the better books for me but I think this was to do with reading it on my kindle – an American version where they had changed the name of Mr Rafiel to Mr Rafter and that some of the text was missing. I had a quick late night call to my mum to dig her book out so I could check and make sure I had not missed anything – it was a rather vital bit in explaining the relationship between some of the characters. What also struck me was some of the descriptions of the natives – I don’t think you could get away with writing this nowadays?
“They’ve both worked like blacks, though that’s an odd term to use out here, for blacks don’t work themselves to death at all, so far as I can see. Was looking at a fellow shinning up a coconut tree to get his breakfast, then he goes to sleep for the rest of the day. Nice life.”