The Tuesday Night Club, Agatha Christie (or the only bookclub I really want to join…)

<<TBR CHALLENGE: Jan 2017 >>

With the horror that is The Holidays (we capitalise it in our family) receding firmly into the past, I am once again ready to face the world…And this month’s TBR challenge (Bless Wendy of the Super-Librarian fame and her smart January Selection-ing) was Short Shorts.

My Short Shorts came in the form of the venerable Ms Christie’s Miss Marple Complete Short Stories

But I only read the Tuesday Night Club ones.

Because I ran out of time. They are superb though.

A nice mix of clever and obfuscating, Miss Marple ALWAYS knows the answers, and I can’t work out whether her mysteries are like the Beatles: the songs SEEM familiar because they are bred into your social subconscious…other whether I had actually read/watched these somewhere before.

Not the point; they are still really good.

There is a collection of useful friends, congregating around Miss Marple and her nephew, Raymond, the writer: The artiste, the lawyer, the Father, the detective, etc, they are all pondering the incalculable sneakiness of humanity, and, resolved to out do each other, start to tell tricky little stories about weird phenomena that they have each encountered in the midst of their specialist lives.

Each story is told as eyewitness from one of the character POV’s, and then afterwards, the others are asked to solve the conundrum.

They’re short, sweet and to the point. With little to no character development, they basically stand as a mechanism for showcasing Miss Marple’s peerless talent for problem solving and to contrast the litanies of big city living against small village life…

After reading this, you will realise:

1) there is really no difference between big city and little villages, human nature will always out.

2) People will rationalise away all sorts of s***t, when really they should be running a mile all the whilst saying:

nope

3) The world is made up of a whole heap of cray-cray…

you-know-who-does-that-crazy-people

None are amazing STAND OUT mysteries, but they all have nice twists that make you think twice.

The Idol House of Astarte – a suitably creepy start to the stories, with a manifestation of a goddess and a bloody murder.

Ingots of Gold – buried gold, mysterious gardners and a rose garden

The Bloodstained Pavement – beachside frolics, Evil Other Women and an awkward deja vu

Motive v. Opportunity – Wills, Psychics and disinherited families

The Thumb Mark of St Peter – fish, mushrooms and unexplained death.

They are all good and do a bang up job of combining mundane circumstances with murderous intent. Some of them are even a little unnerving, and one is downright creepy.

I also love just how PROSAIC the writing is. In between the hysterics and panic of murder, death and wilful bloodshed, Christie inserts these banal happenstances:

“I got a most hysterical letter from Mabel, begging me to come to her, and saying that things were going from bad to worse, and she couldn’t stand it much longer.

‘So, of course,’ continued Miss Marple, ‘I put Clara on board wages and sent the plate and the King Charles tankard to the bank, and I went off at once.”

It often feels like a murderous Enid Blyton, taking you from:

‘So I packed up my things and went off to a little beach that I knew of…I had a ripping swim there and I lunched off a tinned tongue and two tomatoes, and I came back in the afternoon full of confidence and enthusiasm to get on with my sketch.’

to:

‘I stared for a minute or two. Then I shut my eyes, said to myself, ‘Don’t be so stupid, there’s nothing there, really,’ then I opened them again, but the bloodstains were still there.’

in the space of a few paragraphs.

And whilst not any of them really SEEMED surprising (I cite previous reference to the Beatles…) When you think about the time they were written in; the disparity between it and our current day and age AND our access to the weird, strange and horrifying?

The fact that they can still manage to bring up a little bit of a nervous sweat?? Well, that cements it in the annals of quality writing in my opinion.

A short review, for the short shorts. (heh.)

Sincerely,

Valancy: Checking my tea for arsenic…because now I am worried about my cats conspiring against me….

🙂

Header Image: Adrian Van Utrecht, Still Life with Bouquet and Skull, 1642

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13 thoughts on “The Tuesday Night Club, Agatha Christie (or the only bookclub I really want to join…)

  1. Are you a Christie fan, or a Miss Marple fan, m’dear Miss Valancy?

    One of the few things I managed to read last year was the Complete Miss Marple stories (it was on sale a couple of years ago for something like $6.00USD, which means that, despite owing EVERYTHING Christie in print, I got the digital bundle). I had issues with some things that, while problematic in and of themselves, have grown so glaring as to interfere with my enjoyment of the stories.

    I still have fond memories of my reading marathons, and of frustrating my aunt N by using my birthday money to buy a dozen cheap paperback Christie novels, instead of the books she wanted me to read. Ah, well.

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    1. Ooh – to be honest, I was always a Miss Marple fan. I liked Agatha Christie…and I devoured all her books when I was (much) younger – but my favourites were ALWAYS Miss Marples.
      I used to buy them by the bagful from 2nd hand bookstores (for as little as 10cents each)
      In saying that though, I haven’t read her for years. And I completely understand the problematic issues that cropped up when you read them, and I too, have been hesitant to start any real kind of re-read…
      I guess I am unsure as to how much I would be able to set aside as ‘of the era’ and how much would intrude in my enjoyment.

      It is a definite issue with some more vintage books isn’t it?!
      Sometimes, the remembrances have to suffice….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The familiarity might be because Christie sometimes expanded short stories into novels.

    I always enjoyed the MM short stories more than the Poirot ones. Though I have a lingering fondness for some of the weird Harley Quinns…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes! That totally makes sense; although one can’t quite really blame her – if it’s a good story…it’s a good story right?!!

      I am definitely more a Marple than Poirot fan…I grew to like Poirot after watching the television (was it ITV??) series…and I blame David Suchet for that, because he become so much the ‘voice’ of Poirot for me, that I can’t really seperate one from the other.

      I remember reading in Christie’s autobiography that Quin was one of her favourite characters because she very strictly controlled how and when they were going to be used…which I find fascinating – underuse of a character making it one she liked best!?!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As I wrote over on my blog, I love Suchet as Poirot, but I dislike the ITV series, because they rewrote most of the stories in ways that, to me, diminished them. (For example, they made Superintendent Battle gay for their version of Cards on the Table, so that the victim could blackmail him…why????)

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        1. i sneaky peeked at your blog to refresh my memory re poirot, but got TOTALLY sidetracked by the Bertram’s Hotel post (SO GOOD!!!) and all the points you raised: so very accurate.
          And I find it so interesting that things I didn’t find hugely concerning when I was younger I now can’t really move past…I think that’s why I can’t indulge in a massive Christie reread…I don’t think I would like them anywhere near as much – and I think I’d prefer the fond memories.

          Apparently, absence really does make the heart grow fonder!

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  3. I’ve never read a Miss Marple (gasp!) I’ve read many Poirot’s though. I can’t even begin to tell you why. But the first Marple mystery is now on my TBR, which means that I will get to it… three years from now? (ha ha!) Enjoyed reading your review, though! Also, loved the Supernatural gif!

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    1. ZOMG – that is insane!!! lol.
      Miss Marples are my favourite of Christie’s…although there are (as others have commented), issues that are hard to lay aside.
      I think I still like them though.
      Don’t judge me.
      🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember finding, and reading a few Agatha Christie as a kid and then somewhere along the way I stopped? This definitely makes me want to explore some more of her stories! I mean “a murderous Enid Blyton” HAS to be worth exploring, right? Even if it IS murderous? 😛

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    1. Ha ha – The murderous-ness is part of the charm!
      I think particularly her Miss Marples are like that, because Miss Marple herself was (I am hypothesising at this point) probably an all girls boarding school attendee.
      She still has school chums she meets up with in various books, and is ALWAYS eating or cooking or making something in her books (including damson gin which sounds fabulous) and she has that intrepid ‘oh we’re rowing over to the haunted island to find the homeless man at midnight are we?? well don’t forget to bring snacks in a lunch pail…’ thing going on that completely appeals to me.

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