Monday, October 31, 2016

The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie

The Tuesday Club Murders is the true first appearance of my favorite Christie detective, Miss Marple. Although the publication of the novel The Murder at the Vicarage predates this novel by a couple of years, many of the short stories that appear in this book actually appeared in print in three magazines --  The Royal Magazine (the Tuesday Night Club stories), The Story-Teller Magazine (the gathering at the Bantry manse, the first appearance of this famous Christie-an couple as well), and the final story, in Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine.  The original UK edition was called The Thirteen Problems, but again the title was changed for American audiences (who knows why).  I like the Thirteen Problems better than the American title to be honest:  not all the stories took place at the Tuesday Club!

This was one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels growing up; I liked it so much that I saved my paperback copy, which is at least 30 years old (and still going strong - see picture!).  Unlike another one of my favorites, The Big Four,  I came away from The Tuesday Club Murders with even more admiration for the good Dame (minus the title and that’s not her fault).  Christie was an underrated writer critically speaking, but anyone who merely bans her to pulp is foolish.  She isn't a literary novelist - Faulkner, Maugham, Dos Passos and Aldous Huxley all had novels published this same year - but she’s not trying to be a literary giant; she’s writing an enjoyable puzzle (or in this case, thirteen puzzles) for the reader to solve.  But in addition to creating memorable characters (although they skate in and out of stock), she writes sharp plots (especially in the case of short stories) and great dialogue.  Specifically in The Tuesday Club Murders, she’s playing around with narrative.  Each short story is a character telling the story of a murder or mystery - and each story takes on the style of the person who is telling it.  Christie becomes best at this in the latter half of the book, as her character storytellers are both more varied and  have more vibrant personalities.  So the famous stage actress Jane Helier, has a style of storytelling that matches her photo-Marilyn Monroe persona; Dolly Bantry tells another another story in her distinct style, that from the background of comfortable gentry (let’s be honest, Christie’s stock and trade).  A doctor tells a story in one way, a attorney another way.  The stories aren’t all equally good; but then again, neither are the storytellers.  But the way in which Christie plays around with narrative is good and quite interesting.  I found this very clever, and I think it is one of the things that makes Christie a master - she took risks in her writing.  This is true thoughout her career

Favorite quote in the entire story - Miss Marple says:  “I’m not fond of staying in other people’s houses.”  I imagine not, considering wherever you stay, someone gets murdered.  

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Tuesday Club Murders is the true first appearance of my favorite Christie detective, Miss Marple. Although the publication of the novel The Murder at the Vicarage predates this novel by a couple of years, many of the short stories that appear in this book actually appeared in print in three magazines -- The Royal Magazine (the Tuesday Night Club stories), The Story-Teller Magazine (the gathering at the Bantry manse, the first appearance of this famous Christie-an couple as well), and the final story, in Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine. The original UK edition was called The Thirteen Problems, but again the title was changed for American audiences (who knows why). I like the Thirteen Problems better than the American title to be honest: not all the stories took place at the Tuesday Club!


This was one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels growing up; I liked it so much that I saved my paperback copy, which is at least 30 years old (and still going strong). Unlike another one of my favorites, The Big Four, I came away from The Tuesday Club Murders with even more admiration for the good Dame (minus the title and that’s not her fault). Christie was an underrated writer critically speaking, but anyone who merely bans her to pulp is foolish. She isn't a literary novelist - Faulkner, Maugham, Dos Passos and Aldous Huxley all had novels published this same year - but she’s not trying to be a literary giant; she’s writing an enjoyable puzzle (or in this case, thirteen puzzles) for the reader to solve. But in addition to creating memorable characters (although they skate in and out of stock), she writes sharp plots (especially in the case of short stories) and great dialogue. Specifically in The Tuesday Club Murders, she’s playing around with narrative. Each short story is a character telling the story of a murder or mystery - and each story takes on the style of the person who is telling it. Christie becomes best at this in the latter half of the book, as her character storytellers are both more varied and have more vibrant personalities. So the famous stage actress Jane Helier, has a style of storytelling that matches her photo-Marilyn Monroe persona; Dolly Bantry tells another another story in her distinct style, that from the background of comfortable gentry (let’s be honest, Christie’s stock and trade). A doctor tells a story in one way, a attorney another way. The stories aren’t all equally good; but then again, neither are the storytellers. But the way in which Christie plays around with narrative is good and quite interesting. I found this very clever, and I think it is one of the things that makes Christie a master - she took risks in her writing. This is true thoughout her career
The first appearance of classic, much emulated and much adored Miss Marple was in these short stories, written in the late 1920s. Although Murder at the Vicarage was published as a novel first, these short stories were written for a magazine and published a few years before that. Christie's character, like Athena, comes from the head of her creator fully formed; the Miss Marple of these stories is remarkably similar to the Miss Marple of the 1950s and 60s. Christie is a master plot; her dialogue is usually crisp and fun. If her characters skate in and out of stock, that's to be expected in a murder mystery. Christie isn't Faulkner, and we don't want her to be. That still doesn't mean she isn't an excellent and often experimental writer. The Tuesday Club Murders plays around with narrative in really clever ways; having various people tell stories of murder and mystery (for Miss Marple to solve, of course) but in their own unique ways - an actress tells a story in one way, a painter in another, an attorney in a third, and so on. That's really clever. So on it's face this is a book of short detective stories, but it's also a book of experimental narrative.

My favorite quote in the entire story is when Miss Marple says: “I’m not fond of staying in other people’s houses.” I imagine not, considering wherever you stay, someone gets murdered.










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