2020-08-04

Agatha Christie 100 - The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side

This is probably Christie's last really well-known title - at least if you discount the two novels that finish Poirot's and Miss Marple's careers respectively - and was Christie's first 60s Marple novel.



Famous actress Marina Gregg has moved to St. Mary Mead and bought Gossington Hall, which used to belong to Miss Marple's friend Dolly Bantry. The latter is invited to the manor along with many other celebrities. At the reception, one of the guests is handed a drink that is poisoned and dies soon after. Since the drink was given to her by Marina Gregg, the police are soon investigating who could have had cause to murder the actress.

While I read this one, it felt as if the main misdirection of this novel was something that Christie had used over and over again and should be picked up by the reader, but looking through her previous novels, there are really only two other stories that use variations of this plot mechanism - Peril at End House and A Murder Is Announced.

By the way, isn't it just a bit of a coincidence that there should be two(!) prospective blackmailers in this novel? It's also a bit annoying that one of them is hardly featured as a character in the story - it really robs the murder of him of any reader interest.

Miss Marple is clearly older in this novel, having to put up with a live-in caretaker/busybody, though the old girl is still fairly spry whenever she puts her mind to it. It's interesting that she falls for the misdirection in this one since she should remember the events in Little Paddock.

Otherwise, Christie has opportunity to discuss the progress of the world and seems to accept them as inevitable and not necessarily bad either. Not only has St. Mary Mead grown with newly built areas, but we're also treated to a description of Gossington Hall's trials and tribulations over the years.

A nice enough read. Unfortunately, there's nothing really new here, but Christie still manages to craft a good mystery plot. The fate of the murderer is quite affecting. 72 out of 100.

1963 1965 1974 1981
1987 2001 2014

A fair amount of Swedish editions for this novel, which got to keep a literal translation of the British title. Since it's one of the better known of the Marple stories I guess it's not too surprising...

The first cover is fine, in my opinion. As I've mentioned, I'm not too fond of the very angular drawing style, but otherwise, this is a fitting cover. The Zebra cover from 1965 is somewhat similar, but looks like a cheaper dime novel. With this edition, I've always liked that there is a small extract of the text from the novel on the front page.

The 1974 cover is from the British Fontana edition, and is for me the quintessential cover. It catches the imagination beautifully and draws the reader in. Which is just the opposite of the 1981 cover (which is also extremely similar to a second Fontana cover). It's so very grey and dull. Unfortunately, it's the one I own.

The mid 80s cover by Leslie Quagraine is fine. As usual we get a small skull, this time instead of an olive in the drink, which is an amusing detail. The red dots are kind of a spoiler, as they are almost certainly a reference to rubella, but I think it's so obscurely done here that I'm almost impressed.

The cover from the turn of the century is all right, I suppose. A spilled out drink glass and some pills. It does tell the reader that this is going to be a mystery. But again, a bit too grey... The final cover here is quite representative of this particular edition. Lots of small triangles? prisms? everywhere, and a few drops of blood. Nothing that connects to this particular title, really. And this time there's not even any playing around with the typography.

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