Nemesis has been sitting on my Agatha Christie TBR pile for a little while now and after recently finishing the excellent The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont, I was in an Agatha state of mind so settled into this Miss Marple mystery, her 11th outing, with ease.
Opening sentence: In the afternoons it was the custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper.
A mysterious letter…
Nemesis is not a sequel as such but it follows on from a previous Miss Marple story. In A Caribbean Mystery she, yes, solves and helps foil a murder and meets the mysterious Mr Rafiel while on holiday in the West Indies. They lose touch when they both return home to England, so she is surprised when, upon his death, she receives a mysterious letter from him…
I have found myself in the vicinity of murder rather more often than would seem normal.
The definition of ‘nemesis’ is: the inescapable agent of someone’s or something’s downfall. And that is exactly the role Mr Rafiel casts Miss Marple in here. He wants her to use her special skillset to unravel an old mystery that he feels needs attention. Curiosity gets the better of her and she takes him up on his offer, leading to a satisfying little murder tale coming to light.
The thing about Miss Marple
I haven’t read a lot of Marple stories but here’s the thing: the more I do read, the more I’m not sure Miss Marple is the fictional detective for me? Unlike Poirot, her involvement in cases is never in an official capacity. She uses the fact people think she’s an old busybody to her advantage, or as she quite amusingly to the modern eye puts it:
‘An old pussy,‘ said Miss Marple to herself. ‘Yes, I can see I’m quite recognisable as an old pussy.‘
I do realise that even as Agatha Christie was writing her Marple stories (Nemesis was published in 1971), she meant for Miss Marple to be a little out of date and to sit within certain stereotypes, but when you’re thinking of character traits and detectives you want to feel any kind of emotional connection with, I’m not sure Marple is doing it for me.
Miss Marple had never quite succeeded in abandoning her Victorian view of foreigners.
Having said that, I do enjoy the general cosiness of an Agatha Christie story and found Nemesis to be very readable. The casual references to her previous books – such as The Body in the Library – also infused this read with a knowing nod for the reader.
It’s just, I’m not sure I’ll be rushing to add another Marple read to my list anytime soon…
- Get your copy of Nemesis here;
- First published in 1971. This edition by HarperCollins 2002;
- 367 pages;
- My rating: