The Murder at the Vicarage, by Agatha Christie

Book: The Murder at the Vicarage: Miss Marple Mysteries Book 1

Author: Agatha Christie, 2009

What role is played by members of society in resolving murder mysteries?

In, The Murder at the Vicarage, Agatha Christie brings into focus complications of solving a murder mystery, or any other mystery that occurs in a society where, “some people know things,” while other people are professionals at “knowing things.”

The author uses the Vicar of the Vicarage where the murder takes place to take readers through the intrigues of getting information and piecing pieces of information together into concrete evidence in the identification of whodunit.

At many a point, I thought I had pinpointed the culprit, then Agatha would bring in another suspect with enough evidence to be the culprit. By the time the novel ends, the lives and well-kept secrets of almost all the adults in St Mary’s Mead have been exposed. Professional institutions, including the police and the church, which are supposed to base their dealings on laid out guidelines, show some flaws.

What issues were brought to the fore?

  1. The place of women in the then society. Agatha uses the process of solving the murder mystery to expose how women were treated: were they considered of the same intelligence as men? Could a woman commit a crime such as a murder, could they be convicted of the same?

  2. The role of the police and detectives in solving a crime – did they use evidence from thorough investigations, or were conclusions reached based on their like/dislike for certain individuals, or competitions amongst themselves as professionals?

  3. Can professionals solve a mystery, especially of a murder, without involving non-professionals, including “regular” members of society?

  4. What is the role of institutions and individuals in the maintenance of law and order?

Agatha uses The Murder at the Vicarage to reveal well-kept secrets within the small community of St. Mary’s Mead. We get to know who lives where, who likes/dislikes who, who is married to who though they long to be married to a different person? Who keeps a neat house and who does not, and, who eats what type of food?

Reading the book helped me comprehend how far society has evolved, especially in respect to women. Also in the area of confidentiality - I cannot imagine a medical doctor in the 21st century sharing information of their patient with another person, or, a detective sharing what they’ve been told with another member of society.

The author’s style of writing caught my attention. The choice of words, descriptions of settings and characters engaged in day-to-day activities as they shared information on the case. I got so engrossed in the book that I had to stop at certain intervals, remind myself that I am in the now, not then.

The process through which Miss Marple solves the mystery teaches us something about being observant within our communities, and that everyone has a role to play in society, irrespective of what other members or the community have set as the criteria of “being important.”

I highly recommend The Murder at the Vicarage to anyone who can read, especially to professionals working in the field of law and order - the book tackles the larger issue of crime and justice in society. Do the real criminals get punished, always?

I gave the book five stars because Agatha used suspense very well, kept me guessing on whodunit until the end. The book is also well written, uses language appropriate to that century. It is well edited, thus, gives a reader no reason to pause from reading.

What is your take on the book?

Thanks for reading this book review. I endeavour to write a review on the books that capture my interest. Please recommend books for me to read.

Eileen Omosa.Comment