nemesis“In the afternoon it was the custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper.”

Because of the fact that Christie wrote for over fifty years, and her main characters tended not to age that much, there can be some confusion due to the timelines of her stories and disagreement about what year they’re supposed to be yet. Despite the fact that Miss Marple was already an old lady in her 1930 debut, this book is clearly set nearer the time it was written, and yet Marple is still only in her seventies. These facts aside, what we do know about Nemesis is that it is sort of a sequel to one of her earlier books, A Caribbean Mystery, sadly not featured on this blog as I read it before I started writing here, and had forgotten various names within. Much of that is explained again here. So let’s crack on.

Miss Marple is reading the births, deaths and marriages in her newspaper when she stumbles across the name Rafiel. Certain she has heard it before, she ponders and then recalls that they met when they were both travelling in the West Indies and helped solve a crime and prevent a second murder. A few days later, completely unexpectedly, she receives a letter from none other than Mr Rafiel himself, explaining that he needs her help and her “flair for crime”.

The letter was written before his death, and is very vague. He clearly wants her to investigate a crime of some sort, but gives no details. If Miss Marple is successful in solving this undisclosed crime, she will be rewarded with £20,000. Deciding to take on the challenge, she receives further strange instructions and soon she finds herself on a coach travelling the country, wondering if any of the people she’s sharing the journey with are important.

Stopping at one village, she is taken to the house of three sisters, whom put her up in their spare room at the request of Mr Rafiel, who asked them to do so before he died. She also meets Professor Wanstead, another man who has had contact with the deceased millionaire. Miss Marple soon uncovers the tale of tragic Verity Hunt, killed by her boyfriend, who turns out to have been Mr Rafiel’s son, Michael. Miss Marple sees what she has to do, and in her own inimitable way, sets about to correct the errors of justice.

Like many of Christie’s later works, this one lacks a certain something that her earlier ones possess. Oh, fine, it’s still better than Postern of Fate, probably my least favourite of her novels, and it’s still an intelligently weaved mystery that shows Miss Marple as one of the finest fictional characters of all time – she is not a woman to be taken at face value – but there’s a certain sparkle lacking. Nonetheless, it’s a satisfying conclusion that you’ll all see coming a few pages before the reveal, if not before, even if some of the details are only obvious after the fact. It also features a wonderful scene where Miss Marple confronts the killer wrapped in a pink woollen shawl, without even a knitting needle to defend herself. The woman is brilliant and fearless.

Sadly, I have realised that with this one finished, I have just one Miss Marple book to go; the short story collection detailing her final cases. I daresay that this parting won’t be forever – indeed, it’s not yet even over – but it is a reminder that Christie’s works are finite. I’m down to the last few, and continue to be enjoying them immensely. But let’s not dwell on that. On we press.

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