“Agatha Christie proves that if you really are good enough, you can break all the ‘rules’ and still come up with a winner.”
Time Magazines Literary Supplement (London)
"Miss Marple was an old lady now, knowing that a scent for evil was still, in the evening of her days, her peculiar gift."
Times Literary Supplement (London)
“Miss Marple was an old lady now, knowing that a scent for evil was still, in the evening of her days, her peculiar gift.”
Read an Excerpt
In the afternoons it was the custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper. Two newspapers were delivered at her house every morning. The first one Miss Marple read while sipping tier early morning tea, that is, if it was delivered in time. The boy who delivered the papers was notably erratic in his management of time. Frequently, too, there was either a new boy or a boy who was acting temporarily as a stand-in for the first one. And each one would have ideas of his own as to the geographical route that he should take in delivering. Perhaps it varied monotony for him. But those customers who were used to reading their paper early so that they could snap up the more saucy items in the day's news before departing for their bus, train or other means of progress to the day's work were annoyed if the papers were late, though the middle-aged and elderly ladies who resided peacefully in St. Mary Mead often preferred to read a newspaper propped up on their breakfast table.
Today, Miss Marple had absorbed the front page and a few other items in the daily paper that she had nicknamed "The Daily All-Sorts," this being a slightly satirical allusion to the fact that her paper, the Daily Newsgiver, owing to a change of proprietor, to her own and to other of her friends' great annoyance, now provided articles on men's tailoring, women's dress, female hearthrobs, competitions for children, and complaining letters from women and had managed pretty well to shove any real news off any part of it but the front page, or to some obscure comer where it was impossible to find it. Miss Marple, being old-fashioned, preferredher newspapers to be newspapers and give you news.
In the afternoon, having finished her luncheon, treated herself to twenty minutes' nap in a specially purchased, upright armchair which catered for the demands of her rheumatic back, she had opened The Times, which lent itself still to a more leisurely perusal. Not that The Times was what it used to be. The maddening thing about The Times was that you couldn't find anything any more. Instead of going through from the front page and knowing where everything else was so that you passed easily to any special articles on subjects in which you were interested, there were now extraordinary interruptions to this time-honoured program. Two pages were suddenly devoted to travel in Capri with illustrations. Sport appeared with far more prominence than it had ever had in the old days. Court news and obituaries were a little more faithful to routine. The births, marriages and deaths which had at one time occupied Miss Marple's attention first of all owing to their prominent position had migrated to a different part of The Times, though of late, Miss Marple noted, they had come almost permanently to rest on the back page.
Miss Marple gave her attention first to the main news on the front page. She did not linger long on that because it was equivalent to what she had already read this morning, though possibly couched in a slightly more dignified manner. She cast her eye down the table of contents. Articles, comments, science, sport; then she pursued her usual plan, turned the paper over and had a quick run down the births, marriages and deaths, after which she proposed to turn to the page given to correspondence, where she nearly always found something to enjoy; from that she passed on to the Court Circular, on which page today's news from the sale rooms could also be found. A short article on science was often placed there, but she did not propose to read that. It seldom made sense for her.
Having turned the paper over as usual to the births, marriages and deaths, Miss Marple thought to herself, as so often before:
"It's sad really, but nowadays one is only interested in the deaths! "
People had babies, but the people who had babies were not likely to be even known by name to Miss Marple. If there had been a column dealing with babies labelled as grandchildren, there might have been some chance of a pleasurable recognition. She might have thought to herself-.
"Really, Mary Prendergast has had a third granddaughter!" though even that perhaps might have been a bit remote.She skimmed down Marriages, also with not a very close survey, because most of her old friends' daughters or sons had married some years ago already. She came to the Deaths column and gave that her more serious attention. Gave it enough, in fact, so as to be sure she would not miss a name. Alloway, Angopastro, Arden, Barton, Bedshaw, Burgoweisser (dear me, what a Gerawn name, but he seemed to be late of Leeds). Camperdown, Carpenter, Clegg. Clegg? Now was that one of the Cleggs she knew? No, it didn't seem to be. Janet Clegg. Somewhere in Yorkshire. McDonald, McKenzie, Nicholson. Nicholson? No. Again not a Nicholson she knew. Ogg, Ormerod -- that must be one of the aunts, she thought. Yes, probably so. Linda Ormerod. No, she hadn't known her. Quantril? Dear me, that must be Elizabeth Quantril. Eighty-five. Well, really! She had thought Elizabeth Quantril had died some years ago. Fancy her having lived so long! So delicate she'd always been, too. Nobody had expected her to make old bones. Race, Radley, Rafiel. Rafiel? Something stirred. That name was familiar. Rafiel. Belford Park, Maidstone. Belford Park, Maidstone. No, she couldn't recall that address. No flowers. Jason Rafiel. Oh, well, all unusual name. She supposed she'd just heard it somewhere. Ross-Perkins. Now that might be-no, it wasn't. Ryland? Emily Ryland. No. No, she'd never known an Emily Ryland. Deeply loved by her husband and children. Well, very nice or very sad, whichever way you liked....