Agatha Christie 100 - They Do It With Mirrors

The pace of Miss Marple novels starts to pick up here, with this novel being published just two years after its predecessor, A Murder Is Announced.

Miss Marple is asked by an old friend to look in on the latter's sister, Carrie Louise Serrocold, because her friend feels that there is something wrong at the mansion where Carrie Louise and her husband are working with juvenile delinquents, though she is hard pressed to put her finger on what the trouble is. Miss Marple agrees, and not long after she has arrived, there is a violent argument between Carrie Louise's husband Lewis and one of the youths at the clinic. Luckily, no one is hurt, but just a few minutes later it turns out that Carrie Louise's half brother has been killed in the study where he was sitting alone while the argument took place.

Although the 50s is the decade where Christie slowly, slowly became a "regular" mystery writer after having been untouchable for up to two decades, this is still a strong novel in many respects. The main puzzle is well done and while the misdirection is on the obvious side to a seasoned mystery reader - Christie has done variations of these things before - it's still very well written.

The problem appears with the follow-up murders, which take place almost entirely off-stage. It seems very offhand by Christie after having featured the bragging youth and the reflections of Alex Restarick to just announce their death without much sympathy.

Miss Marple does well here, though perhaps she is just a bit too easily taken in by the main misdirection here. For someone who suspects everyone and sees the bad side of everything, she is quite willing to put her faith in one person's words.

It's interesting to see a new policeman here as a foil to Miss Marple - he and his team almost immediately sees the value in the elderly lady's musings, and allow her to take part of the investigations.

I remembered almost everything about this one - the murderer is quite memorable - though I was actually surprised that it turned out that Edgar was an actor. I always remembered him as the genuine article...

Anyway, this was a good read, though not without certain problems. I'll rate it a 71 out of 100, most Christie fans should have a good time with this one.

1954 1958 1973
1990 2000 2014

The British title is one of my least favourites. "They" who? Why should I care about "them"? In Sweden, the publishers chose to stay with the mirrors theme, but adjusted it slightly. A literal translation of Trick med speglar would be Tricks With Mirrors, which I find a much better title.

The first cover above is generally fine. The lurking shadow is suitably sinister. I just wish that they had used the entire front page area for the image instead of just half of it. For once, the Zebra edition might be the worst of the bunch. It's the one I have, and even with a physical copy in my hands I can't really guess who that big head is meant to belong to.

Where's the Fontana cover, you wonder? It's right there, on the 1973 edition, looking all sinister with the gun and the mirrors making it look like a whole bunch of them. Tom Adams had a hand with covers. 1990 brings us the centenary edition, which always had some similarities with the contemporary British edition, though with some variation in what it depicted. This one is okay, not much more.

The 2000 edition is interesting, though perhaps not entirely successful. I think those are supposed to be pocket mirrors, which fits in with the title, though not really with the contents. And then we have the latest edition from 2014 which seems like a missed opportunity. The design of this edition really lends itself to having some mirror images, but for some reason they chose not to have any. A pity.


  1. I enjoyed the musings on the delinquents in this one -- some of the thinking advanced about the treatment of wards of the state, or of young women relying on their looks for an easy life, feel markedly ahead of their time. The mystery hasn't stuck with me, but that aspect really has.

    As for the eponymous "They"... I suppose a lot of English idioms rely on an arbitrary sense of something being generally observed. "It was all done with mirrors" typically implies general trickery rather than specific use of a mirror -- and is, in English at least, a more awkward phrasing. At least, that's how I interpret it...

    1. Understood. It's just that that can be expressed without even invoking the redundant "they". "Done with mirrors", for example, or the literal translation of the Swedish title, "Tricks with mirrors".

      A minor detail, all things said. :)