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October 2015 Book of the Month - The Murder at the Vicarage

TuppenceTuppence City of London, United Kingdom admin
The Murder at the Vicarage was first published 85 years ago this October, making it the perfect fit for our October Book of the Month. It was the first full length book to feature Miss Marple. In Christie's autobiography, she reflects on the story and states that there were 'far too many characters, and too many sub-plots' and that she was not so pleased with it as she was when she wrote it. 

Do you agree with Christie's own criticisms on The Murder at the Vicarage?

Leave your thoughts and theories about the book below. 
Any questions? Please email [email protected]


  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom ✭✭✭✭✭
    I think She is right about the sub-plots and I suppose if there hadn't been one sub-plot there would have been 2 fewer Characters but I like The Book a lot, my only Criticism is perhaps it needn't have been a Miss Marple book perhaps The Vicar could have been the sleuth and Miss Marple introduced in Body In The Library but apart from this very minor point I love the book and it is nearly as good as my 3 favourite Miss Marple Books.
  • tudestudes Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ✭✭✭✭
    I love this book. I think it was the first Miss Marple's books that I read. And cherish such good memories from this book. I will re-read it!
    I like very much the vicar and his wife. He's funny and understandable. The plot is so good and the Miss Marple is very clever and sharp to solve the murder.
  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    I love this book: it is my favourite. It evokes the quiet beauty of country life at that time. The plot is masterly. SPOILER ALERT. The obvious persons to have commited the crime did do it, but covered up with an audacious double bluff. This is so believable. Sociopaths always do exaggerate their own cleverness to themselves. The characters are utterly believable. Here we see the 'types' which are often talked about in relation to Agatha Christie: the sociopath; the 'quaker type' - Anne Protheroe, who is contained on the surface, but has passionate, unstoppable depths beneath. The bully in Colonel Protheroe. Lettice is a good study - true to life, and in a sense her mother's daughter. Gladys Cram gives a welcome fresh perspective on the crime, as she is an outsider, from a slightly different class to the other characters: she talks unsentimentally about what a murderer might and might do. Is there a more humorous detective than Inspector Slack, in any AC novel? Miss Marple is both a part of the story and an interloper on the investigation. More than in The Moving Finger, or The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side, she is intrinsically there on the time line. It is all there, and the changing social relationships with servants, and the like. Agatha Christie is hard on herself. There are ot so many sub-plots, and we needed them to throw suspicion away from the murderers. It was a crime at the back of a house whose exits could be viewed by all the neighbours, therefore the writer had to put in lots of alternatives, or else we would have said, well it had to be them.

    Apart from the gratuitious flash backs to a fictious Miss Marple youth, and the horrendous plot change to make two characters know each other before who didn't really, the tv dramatisation was well-cast, and well-acted.

    Is the manor house the one that later Dolly Bantry bought, and then the one the actress acquired in The Mirror Crack'd from side to side?
  • I think it probably is the same house - it is called "the Hall" in Murder in the Vicarage, and Gossington Hall in The Body in the Library. But chances of having two large halls in or near one village are slim. It is probably the same "Old Hall" that is mentioned in one of the later MM short stories - The case of the perfect maid. In that story, the hall has been divided into 4 flats, which are successfully rented out (However, after the story it is doubtful whether the families will want to live in close proximity!); in The Mirror Cracked it is mentioned that after Mrs. Bantry sold the hall, it was divided into 4 flats and rented out separately, but it wasn't a success. So it all fits together.
  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    Thanks for this Tali. It is amazing how society changed in the time that AC was writing.
  • taliavishay-arbeltaliavishay-arbel ✭✭✭✭
    edited October 2015

    It is indeed. AC comments on this in the MM books - in Murder in the vicarage, everybody knows everybody, and the one stranger - Mrs. Lestrange - stands out and awakens a lot of curiosity. In The Body in the Library, even the bohemian Basil Blake is connected; Mrs. Bantry says "I knew his mother". However, by "A Murder is announced", A lot of people have moved into Chipping Cleghorn (a place similar to St. Mary Mead) so that the possibility of imposture has to be considered; and by "The Mirror Cracked", not only have several old inhabitants died and newcomers taken their place, but the development (the newly built mass-produced neighbourhood) Is filling up with people nobody knows. 

    Another interesting thing is the change in hired home-help. There is mention of old,efficient maids who really took full responsibility (like faithful Florence mentioned in 4.50 from Paddington), then we meet a series of untrained girls from the orphanage, whom MM trains in housekeeping and who treat her with respect for her superior class, and then go on to better paid jobs. Then we meet the annoying middle-aged Miss Knight, who completely ignores her employer's wishes and dignity, and really tries her patience; and finally Cherry from the development, whose housekeeping is rather sketchy, and who doesn't keep a polite distance, but who treats MM with affection and real respect for her own sake (when MM appreciates the care Cherry takes of her, Cherry responds: "Got to. Good people are scarce"). One of the lovely things about MM is her willingness to adapt to change, especially evident in her happy acceptance of Cherry. 


  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    Yes, I think you should write some articles on maids and Christie's books, and how the subtle changes in society are charted. I think that this site could do with some well-researched articles, by a well read scholar such as yourself - with a light touch. And don't forget the parlourmaid Ursula Bourne in The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd - a lady who elects to work as an ordinary servant. Best of all with this novel, AC seems to understand the characters, and to have caught the rhythms of everyday speech perfectly.
  • Thank you! I may do that.
  • shanashana Paramaribo, Suriname ✭✭✭
    Does anyone know why this book is dedicated to Rosalind, AC"s daughter?

    About the subplots, if the writer herself tells us that, i just make a note about it somewhere in my head. But I like Griselda's conclusion: the reader needs the aversions.

    Which makes me wonder: did AC allow the reactions of her readers's to her writings, influence her style of writing in any way?
  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    Dear Shana, what an interesting hypothesis about my favourite book. I had never considered that, but the style does change over time,and it would be a strange writer who did not wonder what there readers approved of. I wonder if anyone can discern a particular type of change? All I know is that individual friends asked her to write a story a particular way. A Lord or member of royalty suggested the ending to The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. A friend wanted a bloody story, so she wrote Hercule Poirot's Christmas, I imagine her as a strong willed person who wrote for herself, but no one is that indifferent to public opinion. Can you see signs that she is writing in particular places or types of,people? What things do you think her readers liked, plot and surprise wise?
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