25 August 2014

Review: NEMESIS, Agatha Christie

  • first published 1971
  • this edition published in the Paul Hamlyn Agatha Christie Crime Collection 1972
  • 200 pages
  • source: my own collection
Synopsis (Agatha Christie site)

Miss Marple is the recipient of an unusual bequest. Mr. Rafiel, an old acquaintance, has left instructions for her to investigate a crime after his death. The only problem is he has failed to tell her who was involved, or where, or when the crime was committed... She must follow the clues across England to discover the truth of his bizarre request.

Mr Rafiel first appeared in A Caribbean Mystery and struck up a begrudging alliance with Miss Marple in order to solve a multiple murder case. This transformed to respect, which carries on through to Nemesis, despite the fact that it isn’t a sequel. They are partnered novels which complement each other. Written in her eighties, Nemesis is a testament to Agatha Christie's enduring skill at mystery and deception. It was in fact the last novel Christie wrote featuring Miss Marple, although not the last to be published.

My Take

At 81 years, Agatha Christie (1890 - 1976) is nearing the end of her writing life - in fact she will write only two more novels after NEMESIS although four will be published, the last one posthumously.
  • 1971, NEMESIS - Miss Marple
  • 1973, POSTERN OF FATE (Last novel Christie ever wrote) - Tommy and Tuppence
  • 1975, CURTAIN (Poirot's last case, written about 35 years earlier)
  • 1976, SLEEPING MURDER (Miss Marple's last case, written about 35 years earlier)
The novel begins with Miss Marple sitting in her front room, no longer able to venture into the garden. The emphasis is on how much she has aged, as well as how times have changed.
It takes her some little while to identify the name Rafiel that she reads in the death notices, and then things come flooding back about the holiday she spent in the Caribbean and the mystery she became involved in there. (See A CARIBBEAN MYSTERY).
Mr Rafiel, in his bequest gives her the option of staying at home and continuing to do her knitting, or of undertaking a little task on his behalf, in her role as Nemesis, the harbinger of Justice. However she needs to discover for herself what injustice has been committed.

When Miss Marple joins a Famous Homes and Gardens bus tour, ticket organised and paid for by Mr Rafiel prior to his death, she discovers she is one of sixteen passengers. She immediately notices that there are four other "elderly ladies", two in their seventies, more or less her age, and two in their sixties. As I am older than these two I was somewhat amused. Anybody who has been on a similar bus tour will enjoy her observations about the other passengers. Her categorisation of retired people being middle-aged seems a little inconsistent with modern terminology.

There are times in NEMESIS when Jane Marple seems a bit "slow off the mark" but I think Christie does a good job in summarising why Miss Marple has had so many murders fall into her lap. I presume that Christie here had an image of her female sleuth as being just a little younger than herself, although for much of her writing life Jane Marple was actually older. In fact she was old when she first came on the scene, and seems not to have aged that much at all. The question of how old Jane Marple really is, is always an interesting contemplation.

I don't think I have actually ever read this novel right through. I have seen various televised versions, but none quite matched the actual plot of the book. There is a lot of Christie's philosophy about the nature of sin, whether there are any truly unredeemable characters, whether there is a detectable miasma of evil. I came expecting to be a little disappointed with the quality of the writing, expecting Christie to write as an old person who maybe had "lost her marbles", but came away satisfied. Perhaps it did stretch the limits of credibility a little - Mr Rafiel seemed to have thought of everything - but it was a nice swan song for Jane Marple.

My rating: 4.4

I read this as part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. I've now read 63 novels out of an expected 67, mainly in the order in which they have been written.


Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - I think this one is rather philosophical isn't it? And although there might be a few things that ask for some suspension of disbelief, that didn't bother me. And usually it does.

Ryan said...

I'm looking forward to this one.


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