The Thirteen Problems

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Contents

by Agatha Christie (1933)
Slapdash Review

This is a collection of 13 short stories, featuring Miss Marple prior to her rise to fame. It was originally published in 1933 and is also known under the alternative title The Tuesday Club Murders.

That's what makes the collection especially interesting: whereas in later Christie novels everyone more or less expects Miss Marple to be the cleverest person around when it comes to solving mysteries – here she baffles everyone with her perspicacity.

I would rate this collection to be a seminal Agatha Christie book, better than many full-length Miss Marple novels. My rating for this collection would be an A on a scale from A+ to F-.

If anyone would simply like to learn what the Miss Marple hype is all about – give them this collection to read. It highlights the basic truth thanks to which Miss Marple is capable of solving so many mysteries: people are basically the same anywhere on earth. There is little originality in the world, and so, once you have observed human nature at close quarters, like Miss Marple was able to do throughout her life that she had spent in the quiet little village of St Mary Mead – this gives you all the knowledge you'll ever need to judge human beings, and pose hypotheses about their past or future behaviour, anywhere in the world, at any time in humankind's history.

"Human nature is much the same everywhere" is the operative quotation to understand Miss Marple's character – and it is to be found in two of the stories in this volume: ›The Thumbmark of St Peter‹ and ›The Herb of Death‹.

My favourite story out of the 13 is perhaps the last one, titled ›Death by Drowning‹. It's the only one in the collection that is happening in real time rather than as a narrative of a past mystery. It's one of several Miss Marple stories to feature a sexual motive for the crime: a recurrent theme in Christie's stories that seemingly take place in the highly moral atmosphere of a Victorian village. It's one of the delights of Miss Marple stories to see how Miss Marple demasks that myth, showing that the “Victorian” psyche, despite its outward high morals, was really “as dirty as the kitchen sink”.

--Faterson 21:11, 11 February 2007 (CET)

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