When I was young, despite the fact that I used to love mystery novels (Blyton's Adventure Series and Famous Five series, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys being my favorites) I was quite opposed to Agatha Christie, having tried to read but failed at reading the only Christie novel I could find easily in my house, namely Elephants can Remember. As a eleven-year old it is easy to get bored by a chapter on the hats a lady owns, and I never went very far into the book. However, since then I've finished Elephants Can Remember, and read a few more of her books, like N or M? and They Do It With Mirrors, and I really enjoyed them, so when my brother brought back this book from the library, I was looking forward to reading it.
It was about this time that I read Tennyson's Lady of Shalott in school and realized where Agatha Christie had gotten the title:
Out flew the web and floated wide-
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott
These four lines have a significance again and again in the book, and so do these lines, whose significance does not become apparent until the very end:
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."
This is not the only thing that makes me call this book poetic, even though it is a major reason. It is just the way this book is structured, and the way it is filled with the life and love of the small town and its residents, and especially the ending, that give this book a poetic resonance for me. In this book, you will see why Agatha Christie is often called the queen of mystery - because of the way she can blend tragedy with beauty, mystery with the ordinary, and base human passions with larger ones.
Yes, I loved this book.
Here's why - well written, compelling characters, including Ms. Marple, who is now vying with Poirot for the top spot in my favorite-detectives list, mostly because of how sharp and fun and sweet she is. Despite being old (very old) she's not beyond 'unraveling' a mystery, and anyone in the town will tell you that 'she's as sharp as needles' and 'I'll believe she's gotten soft when I see her'. She's very progressive. She's the kind of old lady who ditches her nurse and goes for a random walk into the 'Development' (only to get mixed up in a mystery) and stubbornly refuses to call the taxi service anything but the 'Inch' much to the puzzlement of anyone but an old-timer. She's seriously fun to read about.
A basic premise of this story? Well, the whole town's abuzz where Mariana, an old film-star, decides to buy a house in the town. Suddenly, at a party at her house soon after the arrival, silly Heather Badcock is murdered by a lethal overdose put into her glass. About twenty people could've done it easily, but the question is, who would've had a reason to kill the poor lady? Of course, things become quite tangled when people start to suspect that it was Mariana the killer meant to kill, and it's up to Ms. Marple, the town's resident detective, to unravel the tangles and figure out who killed Heather - and what exactly made Mariana's face look like the Lady of Shalott.
Final thoughts: Amazing plot, great writing, very believable characters. Christie does it again, and again, and again. And then once more for good measure. Go read this book.