14 November 2021

Review: THEY DO IT WITH MIRRORS, Agatha Christie

  • This edition from Amazon - read on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0046RE5H2
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins; Masterpiece Ed edition (October 14, 2010)
  • Originally published in 1952
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1232 KB
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 227 pages 

Synopsis (Amazon)

A man is shot at in a juvenile reform home – but someone else dies…

Miss Marple senses danger when she visits a friend living in a Victorian mansion which doubles as a rehabilitiation centre for delinquents. Her fears are confirmed when a youth fires a revolver at the administrator, Lewis Serrocold. Neither is injured. But a mysterious visitor, Mr Gilbrandsen, is less fortunate – shot dead simultaneously in another part of the building.

Pure coincidence? Miss Marple thinks not, and vows to discover the real reason for Mr Gilbrandsen’s visit.

My Take

I am re-reading this for a book discussion group that I have been leading all this year. We have now read the first 5 Poirot novels and the first 5 Marple novels. We have been looking for the development of both sleuths and watching Agatha Christie as she experiments with various plot structures.

Miss Marple is in this novel from the very beginning. It is the first time this has happened. In the earlier novels she appeared after the action was well underway.

While visiting her American school friend Ruth Van Rydock in London, Miss Marple learns that Ruth is seriously concerned for her sister Carrie Louise. She asks Miss Marple to visit Carrie Louise at Stonygates, her home in England. Miss Marple agrees to the visit. She is impressed by the size of the Victorian mansion, which now has a separate building for delinquent boys, the cause which engages Carrie Louise and her third husband, Lewis Serrocold. Carrie Louise has her family living with her, as her granddaughter Gina has brought her American husband Walter to England to meet her family. Daughter Mildred Strete moved back home after she was widowed. Stepsons Stephen and Alexis Restarick, now grown, are frequent visitors and are present during Miss Marple's visit. One of the first people Miss Marple encounters is Edgar Lawson, a young man acting as a secretary to Serrocold; Lawson shows clear signs of paranoid schizophrenia, but these are largely ignored.

Miss Marple learns that Carrie Louise has experienced health problems incidental to old age. Nevertheless, Miss Marple is pleased to see that Carrie Louise is still the sweet, idealistic, and loving person she has known.

One of the puzzles for the reader to solve is the meaning of the title. For a while, you read on, looking for mirrors, or at the very least, duplicates, but that is really a red herring.

There are a number of interesting themes. One is the economic and social features  of England post World War 2. The old customs and social barriers have been largely discarded. Old estates like Stonygates have largely been repurposed. Another is the attitude of Americans to what they see as the state of England.

In this novel Miss Marple is included in his investigation by the police Inspector Curry, who is impressed by her powers of observation.

We get a little more background to Miss Marple too. She and Ruth Van Rydock were friends nearly 50 years before, and had travelled to Italy.

A number of the characters are not actually what they seemed to be originally.

My rating: 4.4

My original review,  from 2012

The list of Agatha Christie novels I have read. 

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