2020-08-28

Agatha Christie 100 - A Caribbean Mystery

No village mystery for Miss Marple in this one. Instead she ends up in the Caribbean where she investigates a suspicious death in a holiday resort.


Miss Marple has been treated to a holiday on Caribbean island St. Honoré by her nephew, Raymond West. While there, she enters into a conversation with the somewhat long-winded Major Palgrave. He asks her whether she wants to see a picture of a murderer, but just as he's about to show it to her, he changes the subject and puts the photo back in his wallet. And when he is found dead the very next day, Miss Marple's suspicions are raised...

I wondered in my last blog post if there were any later Christie stories that would approach the excellence of After the Funeral, and I suppose I got my answer here. While this novel is not quite as good, this might actually be Christie's last really good mystery. I won't swear to it as there are several titles that I still haven't re-read yet, but from what I can remember of them, I think that's a safe statement. (Again, discounting the two novels that she wrote earlier and then published at the tail-end of her career.)

While this story takes place in the Caribbean, Miss Marple never seems out of place, mainly because there's very little made of the setting. To be honest, it could have been set at almost any hotel with only minimal changes to the story. On the other hand, that means that Miss Marple never seems out of place, and she manages to get the support from the likewise elderly (and super rich) Mr. Rafiel in her endeavours to sniff out the truth.

The killer is fairly well-hidden, though the misdirection used - how one of the characters is looking very intently in a certain direction - is one we've seen before. Though Christie handles it deftly and with some variation here, and I don't think that the reader ought to see through it just because he or she has read her other variations on this theme.

A strong, solid mystery by Christie, and I'll rate it a 65 out of 100.

1965 1968 1979
1984 1990

This novel got a literal translation of its title. A fair amount of Swedish editions for this Marple mystery, even though it's one of Christie's later works.

The first cover features an ugly depiction of Mr. Rafiel. I'm not going to argue with the idea of using him as the poster boy, but they really could have been a bit more charitable in the drawing of his features.

I have the Delfinserien edition from 1968, which means that I'm quite used to the cover. Were I not, I probably wouldn't like it much. The depicition of Miss Marple isn't much better than the one of Mr. Rafiel on the first cover. At least the flowers give it a whiff of Caribbean-ness.

In 1979 we got a book club edition, and it's not too bad, to be honest. The artist's impression of Miss Marple doesn't really correspond with mine, but that's artistic licence for you. And the rest of the image looks fine - even featuring a more pleasant depiction of Mr. Rafiel in the background.

Leslie Quagraine painted the cover for the 1984 edition. Not one of his most distinguished contributions, but at least it does convey the idea of the setting. Meanwhile, the 1990 cover is as stereotypical a cover as you can find. Man, the only thing missing is Baron Samedi. Bleh.

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