<<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:
3) The world is made up of a whole heap of cray-cray…
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.’
‘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.)
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