Marple: Twelve New Mysteries (Miss Marple Mysteries)

Written by Alyssa Cole Dreda Say Mitchell Elly Griffiths Jean Kwok Karen M. McManus Kate Mosse Leigh Bardugo Lucy Foley Naomi Alderman Natalie Haynes Ruth Ware Val McDermid
Review by Trish MacEnulty

Even those who have never read Agatha Christie surely know the character Jane Marple, the seemingly innocuous elderly woman around whom murders happen with alarming frequency. She may be knitting quietly in the corner, but her keen eyes miss nothing, and before you know it, she’s solved a murder, using little more than observation and common sense. For this collection, twelve well-known contemporary writers, including Lucy Foley, Ruth Ware, Jean Kwok, Leigh Bardugo, and others, pay homage to Christie with their own spins on the iconic sleuth.

In Lucy Foley’s “Evil in Small Places,” the first story, Miss Marple visits an old schoolfriend in a “respectable” village. When a murder happens on the way to choir practice, Miss Marple ferrets out buried secrets and exposes the horrid truth. Her ingenuity is tested again on a visit to Manhattan with her nephew—a loving but pompous novelist—and his wife when a Broadway actor suffers a curious accident. While on a boat to China, she solves the murder of her dance partner. In Italy, her vacation at a lovely villa appears to be disrupted by yet another murder, but it’s actually a resurrection. While all the stories do an admirable job of capturing Christie’s sly wit and recreating her ingenious plots, my favorite was Leigh Bardugo’s “The Disappearance,” which showcases not only Miss Marple’s brilliant mind, but also her wise soul. In this story, her gardening expertise is rivaled only by her insights into the human heart.

Agatha Christie fans will welcome this addition to the Marple oeuvre, while newcomers may be inspired to seek out the originals. Although the original stories take place in the 1920s and 1930s, some of these stories range into the mid-20th century and deal with more contemporary topics such as racism and sexual harassment. Wherever she is, however, Miss Marple remains timeless.