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From the PublisherArthur P. Livingston, Contributing Editor, Gilbert Magazine - I admit not being thrilled about the prospect of dragging myself to read a book about the bakers’ dozen confections that comprise the Miss Marple place on the shelf, because I had assumed the sole possible delight in going through them rested with solving the puzzles, and I only rarely like to dawdle by solving puzzles. Isabel Anders has convinced me I was quite wrong.
She has revealed a Christian dimension in Agatha Christie, the Miss Marple stories in particular, I had not previously suspected; the old lady detective emerges as a small village saint, made of stern stuff, replete with the holy armor of knitting needles and brains.
A literary critic really performs two genuine duties—to elucidate the subject for those who have read a work, or to tease the unprepared to enter into what is presented as an habitable world. I have just made arrangements for my local library to obtain a copy for me of The Murder at the Vicarage, the first Miss Marple novel, because Miss Anders has made it sound like instructive delight, to paraphrase Dr. Johnson.
She also provides questions and topics for group discussion (or private meditation). Remarkably these questions even further illustrate a subtle theological acumen in all three—the fiction writer, the fictional sleuth, and she who writes about them. That village snoop may well be the supreme character invented by the most popular author of the twentieth century. And without a guide as good as Isabel Anders, I might have missed out on the fun altogether.
As with every contribution to our understanding worthy of the name, we ask ourselves why we hadn’t thought of that before, in this case being aware that the Miss Marple books must be saying a great deal to large numbers of people, and that must be worthy at least of a reader’s consideration; and what we learn from Isabel Anders is the sheer goodness of Miss Marple and the books she inhabits.
Arthur P. Livingston
Gilbert Magazine, Outlining Sanity (American G. K. Chesterton Society magazine)