which order is the best to read Miss Marple novels?



  • edited January 2016
    Tommy, you are not to be blamed for being confused - so was Helen! SPOILER: She originally agreed to marry Fane, who she didn't love, just to escape her brother. Then she fell in love with the colonel, and refused Fane, knowing that he loved her and feeling it would be unfair to marry him when she didn't love him. Then she met Gwen's father. He needed a wife to take care of Gwen, he was still in love with Gwen's dead mother Megan (another Megan!), so Helen and he felt that marriage would be a fair deal for both of them - they didn't love each other but they liked each other and were open about what they could and couldn't give each other (it is never stated whether the marriage was consummated, but they seem to have been happy together). When Helen met the colonel again, when he and his wife came to stay at a hotel nearby, she sent him away - she didn't want to take him from his wife, and she was committed to her marriage. However, her brother interfered, drugging her husband, and she wanted them to move far away from her brother. That was when, tragically... but you remember the rest.
    It is important to remember that at that time, a marriage of convenience, with or without consummation, was not considered immoral or deviant. Leonard and Katherine Wooley (the models for Louise and Eric Liedner in "Murder in Mesopotamia") married so that she could stay at the archaeological dig he was heading and help him, a thing that would have been impossible at the time for a single woman. A condition of the marriage (demanded by Katherine) was that it would not be consummated. So that a happy and stable marriage of convenience between Helen and Major Halliday would definitely make sense at the time. 
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    Don't you think a bit of her sent the Colonel away because she knew if she didn't she would be tempted to break Gwen's Father's heart by leaving him?
  • Definitely, Tommy. But the whole point of the book is that unlike the false image of Helen created by her brother - that of a flighty, flirty, shallow woman, who flits from man to man, disregarding her responsibilities, The true Helen was a caring, moral woman - she parted from the major (I just checked, he was a major and not a colonel - my mistake) after the boat journey to India because she didn't want to break up his marriage, she refused to marry Fane because she knew he loved her while she loved the major, so she couldn't give Fane what he wanted, she agreed to marry Halliday because it was an even marriage - they both loved someone inaccessible (he his dead wife, she a married man) and did her best to make it a good marriage, taking good care of little Gwen and suggesting they move away so that they would be free of her brother's influence, and parting from the major - again - when he came after her.  According to the Major's account of their last parting, she sent him away brusquely, with no sentimental farewells. Definitely a feeling that she was afraid if he didn't go away quickly she might weaken.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    Yes, You are right, she is a very decent woman isn't she?
  • That is what creates the tragedy - not only does she lose her life, but her reputation as well.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    That had never occurred to me.
  • Miss Marple points it out at the end. When Gwenda says Helen was "a little sex crazy" MM. answers: "No. .. That is one of the wickedest things about this crime. Dr. Kennedy didn't only kill her physically... the only evidence for Helen's being... nymphmanic came actually from Dr. Kennedy himself. I think, myself, that she was a perfectly normal young girl..."
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    Yes I had forgotten that.
  • RDOwensRDOwens Millville, USA
    As for the order in which to read, I would have thought chronological as well.  The thing is, on the Agatha Christie web site there is a list of the order in which it is suggested to read.

    It is pointed out that "Sleeping Murder" should be read after "Moving Finger" as it was written during WWII despite being published in 1976.  Yes, that makes sense.

    I am heading into "Nemesis" now and for the life of me can't figure out why "They Do It with Mirrors" and "A Pocket Full of Rye" were suggested to be read after "A Caribbean Mystery" and "At Bertram’s Hotel".  Miss Marple has changed and then all of a sudden is more lively.

    I kept thinking there was a reason behind the suggestion, but it is lost upon me.
  • @RDOwens - if you found the list on this site, that would explain the confusion.  The people who run this site don't demonstrate much knowledge about Agatha Christie and are unlikely to have read the books.  You are correct that the order suggested makes no sense.  I'm suspect that whoever compiled it is unaware that Caribbean Mystery and Nemesis are related.
  • The obvious advantage of reading the books in the order that they were written is that the side characters develop naturally - Earlier we meet Colonel and Mrs Bantry, then in a later book he has passed away and she scaled down her living quarters; first we meet Griselda as the Pastor's young wife, at the end of that book she's pregnant, in the next book we see her playing with her toddler, and in a later book the son is a teenager with a fascination with maps, and so on. However, each book is a complete and independent story, so it's not crucial. 
  • Great point @taliavishay-arbel! I love the interconnectedness and the world that Agatha Christie brings to the Miss Marple stories and she beautifully uses and develops these characters. I think she uses Griselda's son (as a teenager) in 4:50 From Paddington when Miss Marple and Mrs. McGillicuddy tries to find out where the woman's body could have been thrown off of the train.

  • Right you are, ChristieFanForLife!
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    The advantage of not reading them in order is that she doesn't get frail at the end of the series of books and if you didn't read the books in order you could have Dolly's time last longer and if you liked Bunch more than a MM book without her in you could read AMIA afterwards and cheer yourself up, but I start with Murder At The Vicarage and finish with Sleeping Murder so I don't do what I preach do I?
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom

    Just to explain bI love Sleeping Murder but Caribean Mystery comes after A Murder Is Announced which of course I read sometime before Nemesis.
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