3 October 2013

Review: Miss Marple short stories: The Solving Six, Agatha Christie

I have already reviewed the six short stories that I am going to talk about here in my review of the short story collection called THE THIRTEEN PROBLEMS.

But when I read those I hadn't really understood that the first 6 stories in the collection were the first appearance of Miss Marple, and that when they were published in the USA some of them were re-titled to reflect their connection to "The Solving Six".

These six stories were all published 1927-1928 whereas Jane Marple's first appearance in a novel was in MURDER IN THE VICARAGE in 1930. The stories have recently been individually republished as e-books by Harper Collins, and it is these that I have read most recently.

Illustration by Gilbert Wilkinson of Miss Marple
(December 1927 issue of The Royal Magazine)
A group of friends are meeting at the house of Miss Marple in St Mary Mead. As well as the old lady herself, there is her nephew - the writer Raymond West - the artist Joyce Lemprière, Sir Henry Clithering (a former Scotland Yard commissioner), a clergyman called Dr. Pender, and Mr Petherick, a solicitor.

The conversation turns to unsolved mysteries; Raymond, Joyce, Pender, and Petherick all claim that their professions are ideal for solving crimes. Joyce suggests that they form a club; every Tuesday night, a member of the group must tell of a real mystery, and the others will attempt to solve it. Sir Henry agrees to participate, and Miss Marple brightly volunteers herself to round out the group.

At first only Sir Henry Clithering seems to have any intimation that Jane Marple might be the best sleuth amongst them.

The connecting thread of the 6 stories is laid out in The Tuesday Night Club, first published in the UK in December 1927, and in the USA as The Solving Six in 2 June 1928.

After the Tuesday Night Club is set up, the first story comes from Sir Henry Clithering.

Sir Henry, until recently Commissioner of Scotland Yard, tells a tale about tinned lobster that caused a fatal case of food poisoning.

 The second story The Idol House of Astarte was first published in the UK in January 1928 and in the USA as The Solving Six and the Evil Hour in 9 June 1928.

The story, told by the clergyman Dr Pender is a strange and tragic experience from his youth.

Years ago, a murder was committed on the night of a costume party thrown by Sir Richard Haydon, a man who was a rival of his cousin Eliot for the affections of the lovely Diana Ashley. Sir Richard’s estate contained the grove of Astarte, which held a mysterious stone summer house. The summer house was rumoured to have been the site of numerous sacred rites in years long past, and in a surprise act, Diana enacted the role of Astarte, startling Sir Richard who stumbled and fell. When the others reached him body, he was found dead of a knife wound to the heart.                                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ingots of Gold, first published in the UK in February 1928, and in the USA in 16 June 1928 as The Solving Six and the Golden Grave, comes from Raymond West.

Raymond West approaches the Tuesday Night Club after his visit to John Newman, a friend who is searching for the Spanish ship Otranto which was shipwrecked off the coast of Cornwall. When John Newman disappears for days, upon his return he claims that he had been abducted by the thieves who had stripped the Otranto of its gold, and that the local pub landlord had worked with them.


The Blood-Stained Pavement was first published in the UK in March 1928 and in the USA as Drip! Drip! 23 June 1928.

I found it interesting that The Solving Six has disappeared from the US title.

The story is told by Joyce Lempriere. It is something that happened five years before and has haunted her ever since. She was vacationing at a small inn on the Cornish coast. She was painting a picture of the front of the inn, including details of wet bathing suits drying on the balcony of Denis and Margery Dacre, when she realised she had included blood stains on the pavement. A few days later Margery is found having drowned and the Club are called to solve the mystery.

 Motive v. Opportunity was first published in the UK in April 1928 and first appeared in the USA as Where's the Catch? on 30 June 1928. Again The Solving Six link is missing.

Attorney Mr Petherick relates an incident involving the late Simon Clode, a wealthy client. Obsessed by his granddaughter’s death, despite the presence of his young niece and nephew, Clode turns to spiritualist Eurydice Spragg to contact his granddaughter in the afterlife. Clode then decided to write a new will, leaving Eurydice as the benefactor excluding his family. To everyone’s surprise, when the envelope containing the will is opened, the paper is blank.

The final story is Miss Marple's.
The Thumb Mark of St. Peter was first published in the UK in May 1928 and then in the USA as The Thumb-Mark of St. Peter on 7 July 1928.

Fifteen years ago, Miss Marple’s niece, Mabel Denman was accused of murdering her husband. Mabel’s marriage had been an unhappy one, as Geoffrey had been abusive and violent. Can Miss Marple clear her niece’s name and reveal the true perpetrator?

So here are 6 very early Miss Marple stories. You can pick them up individually from Amazon or Harper Collins for your e-reader or look for a copy of THE THIRTEEN PROBLEMS.

Well worth the hunt.

You might like to check The Thirteen Problems on Wikipedia.

My rating: 4.5.


Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - A great review of some under-rated stories. I think Christie was so skilled at the short story format.

Irene said...

I've just discovered these stories in Tape, yest tape deck stuff, had to haul out my old recorder. It is titled the Tuesday Night Murder Club.

vicki (skiourophile) said...

That one about the bloody pavement has remained in my mind ever since I first read it about 30 years ago - it really is a mini masterpiece.


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