As a detective protagonist, like Agatha Christie herself, I prefer Miss Marple to Hercule Poirot, and among all of the Miss Marple books, this is one of my all-time favorites. Needless to say, this was a (well, actually my umpteenth) repeat visit, courtesy (also on repeat) of Richard E. Grant’s narration as part of the trio of Miss Marple books recently recorded with him (the others being The Murder at the Vicarage and The Moving Finger).
This is classic Christie territory: a country house — euphemistically denominated as a “Lodge”, much to the disgust of the investigating inspector, who actually has been brought up in a lodge and knows what it’s supposed to look like –, complete with shallow trophy wife, a family whom the live-in housekeeper has no qualms describing, all and sundry, as “very unpleasant people”, shady financial manipulations, African gold mines (sans gold), an unlucky heiress, a madwoman (almost) off stage, a tennis pro gigolo and, of course, a fiendish murderer, who mocks the (not-so) grieving family and the police alike by using the nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence as the theme song for his series of murders. (Or does he? Miss Marple to the inspector’s rescue …) Oh, yes, and of course, there’s also a maid named Gladys — what would an Agatha Christie mystery possibly be without them?