Sing A Song of Sixpence…
…Pocket Full Of Rye. The latest in my re-visit with Dame Agathe Christie (I’m going back through Christie, in rough chronological order, depending upon availability of the hardcovers in local used book stores). It’s a Jane Marple, from Christie’s nursery rhyme period.
Characterization? Be serious, this is Christie; only minimal characterization allowed. The plots, of course, are everything for Dame Agatha, and it’s a good puzzle. I’d forgotten that this was one of the few Christies that doesn’t end in an arrest, though we know who did it (as do the police) and we get what is the final proof of the matter at the end.
Rex Fortescue is murdered, followed by a couple of other members of the household, in circumstances reminiscent of an old nursery rhyme. There’s a connection between Miss Marple and one of the victims, which brings her out of St Mary Mead to act the part of Avenging Angel, which she does so well.
Dame Agatha plays absolutely fair with us, and dangles everything in front of our noses, leaving it up to us what construction we put on the facts. That’s the part of Christie that I’ve always loved the best; she doesn’t waste a lot of time trying to lead us astray; she knows full well that we’ll be happy to do that all on our own, without any help from her, thank you very much.
While the current state of the art in the “cozy” owes much more to Sayers and Marsh, than Christie, she is still valuable, as she’s the quintessential puzzle-plot builder. Her novels are generally all very short, compared to today’s work, mainly because she spends very little space drawing three-dimensional characters. Add well-drawn characters to a Christie plot, though, and you’ll approach the perfection of the “cozy” art form.