The Thirteen Problems

The Thirteen Problems - Agatha Christie From the first Miss Marple book, I loved her. But it was in this one, the second book and a short story collection at that, that I really fell in love with the character. So calm, so humble, and with a gentle smile as she reveals the twists and turns that "she's just sure they have seen as well."

The core conceit of the book revolves around a couple of dinner parties, in which the attendants amuse themselves by telling the unusual situations that have been in or observed, and challenging the others to solve the mystery. The characters telling the stories are themselves as amusing and well-drawn as those in the mysteries they tell - a particular favourite being Miss Marple's nephew, a writer of "particularly clever books" who is very impressed with himself, quite obnoxious, and sure that his aunt, stuck in a village all her life, couldn't possibly know anything about capital-L Life.

It is through these stories that Sir Henry, ex-chief of Scotland Yard, comes to hold great respect for Miss Marple, something that leads to her invitation into other mysteries, and allows her a certain sway above what is usual for a simple elderly village spinster, whose opinions would normally simply be ignored by those who "know better". A clever device for enabling her involvement in future crimes as well, I suspect in the following books to see a fair bit more of Sir Henry.

Likewise, the dinner parties mentioned are quite an entertaining way to present the core short mysteries, and in a way that doesn't necessarily require Miss Marple's attendance at every strange event.

Needless to say, and to the astonishment of the other guests, she unerringly solves every mystery - even the one that has yet to occur! - each time relating the crime back to a parallel event, some village scandal or village resident that just happens to point to the correct solution.

Highly entertaining, Agatha Christie doing exactly what she always did best.