Miss Marple, you say?! I have been planning to do this particular book tag for a long while now, but…well, things got busy. But here I am at last, and better late than never. I just had to do it − again, I say, it’s Miss Marple!
The original tag was created by James Holder, on his Youtube channel, which you can find here. I’m picking up the broad “consider yourself tagged” by Rosie Cockshutt, whose Booktube channel can be found here. Also, I’m considering myself tagged from Jeremy Fee’s video, which you can find here.
For the fun of it, I’m going to answer all of these without using other Agatha Christie novels for my answers!
- The Murder at the Vicarage: A book about, or set in, a small town or village?
I will choose Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery, because it is a really interesting case for this prompt. The story takes place during World War I and closely follows along with the major events of the war, from the perspective of the Canadian women and the people left behind. Yet the story never leaves its small town setting, never travels outside of Four Winds, P.E.I. It’s fascinating to focus on the impact upon these people who are so far away from the war itself, and yet so intimately connected to it at the same time.
- The Body in the Library: A book with a pivotal scene set in a library?
It took me an embarrassingly long time to find a good answer for this prompt, especially since I made the executive decision not to promote Harry Potter just now. Instead, I settled on Thimble Summer, by Elizabeth Enright. This book is about Garnet Linden, a young farmer girl who gets into a series of wacky scrapes in the American Midwest, during the 1930s. In one such adventure, Garnet and her friend Citronella accidentally get locked into the library at closing time, and have to spend the night there. (Which kind of sounds like the dream, amiright??)
- The Moving Finger: A book in which the protagonist is trolled, harassed, subject to a rumo[u]r campaign, or falsely accused?
There are actually quite a few stories I could use here, but I will go with Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, which you may remember seeing all over the Internet in 2020. The main characters are the son of the American President, and the grandson of the British Queen, and are thus subject to all kinds of harassment, rumour campaigns, and tabloid stories. Without going into spoilers, the final act of the book focuses heavily on rumour campaigns and tabloid harassment.
- A Murder is Announced: A book in which there is a sympathetic depiction of a Marxist, or equivalent?
I will go with the Will Darling adventures by K. J. Charles, the first book of which is Slippery Creatures. One of the main characters, Kim Secretan, is an aristocrat with strong Bolshevik leanings for which he gets into some legal trouble. Although Kim later distances himself from the political views of the actual Bolshevik leaders, he more or less keeps his belief in the importance of a more egalitarian society.
- They Do It With Mirrors: A book in which performance plays a major role?
I really have a nice array of choices from Noel Streatfeild’s books, but I will select Ballet Shoes as one book where the reader actually gets to see a lot of the performances. The three young girls are enrolled in a prestigious ballet school, and as the book progresses, each girl must decide what she wants to make of her future.
- A Pocket Full of Rye: A book based upon or inspired by a nursery rhyme, fairy tale, myth, or other work of fiction?
Wow, we really went broad with that last addition on the list! I’ll go with Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, which is a beautiful retelling of the Rumplestiltskin fairytale. It also draws upon Russian folklore about Chernybog and Balbog, as well as Jewish religious traditions.
- 4.50 From Paddington: A book in which more than two suitors pursue the main protagonist?
That’s the main takeaway we’re getting from this book?? Okay, then! I will recommend the novel Arabella, by Georgette Heyer. It has a fantastic, screwball-type premise: our intrepid heroine pretends that she has a massive fortune, just to teach an arrogant jerk a lesson…and then, of course, the lie gets out. Poor Arabella finds herself being pursued by half the fortune-hunters of Regency-era London! It is a very funny, and wild, madcap ride.
- The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side: A book about a changing world?
My choice is The Lions of Al-Rassan, by Guy Gavriel Kay. While the book takes place in a parallel universe, it closely follows the Reconquista in which Christian Spain invaded and took over Al-Andalus, aka Muslim Spain. The story focuses on the major players as they make choices and take actions that drastically alter the shape of their world.
I have a second recommendation for this category as well: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline. We actually read this book for one of our monthly buddy reads, and you can find our review here. For the purposes of this prompt, I’ll just say that the book is set in a dystopian near-future in which the Indigenous protagonists are on the run from the Canadian government.
- A Caribbean Mystery: A book about, or set in, the Caribbean?
Honestly, I haven’t read a ton of books set in the Caribbean, and I really wouldn’t recommend some of the ones I have read. I’m going to rectify that at some point, but meanwhile, I will go with Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood. The story is set mainly in Jamaica and on the Caribbean seas. It follows a group of morally righteous pirates who revolt from a plantation owner, commandeer a ship, and proceed to prowl and loot all over the high seas.
- At Bertram’s Hotel: A book about artifice?
The Ivy Tree, by Mary Stewart. On a visit to England, Mary Grey is hired by a stranger to impersonate Annabel Winslow, a woman who had mysteriously disappeared several years ago. Their plan is for Mary to manipulate Annabel’s grandfather into leaving his estate to Annabel’s cousin. But Mary also has secrets and an agenda of her own, as does every other person around her. I’m not going any further into it, because spoilers! I’ll just say that the mystery plot was full of some great twists and turns.
- Nemesis: A book featuring a quest?
Really, any of the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander would qualify, but it would be best to start at the beginning. The first of the series is The Book of Three, in which the protagonist Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper, is on a quest to find his oracular pig Hen Wen, before the latter is captured by the dreaded Horned King. (Have I piqued your interest? It is a tremendously fun story!)
- Sleeping Murder: A book in which the past haunts the present?
For this, the final published Marple novel, I will recommend Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley. The story follows dual timelines, one contemporary and one during the Seven-Years-War between British Canada and French Canada. It is particularly well suited for this prompt: in each of the dual timelines, the characters are deeply affected by the events of their pasts. Oh, and did I mention the ghost? There is a literal ghost too.
Herein lies the end of official list of questions for the book tag.
HOLD ON, THOUGH. How can you have a Miss Marple book tag, and not have a thirteenth question based upon The Thirteen Problems? It was right there! Well, I’ll just have to rectify that.
- The Thirteen Problems: A book in which an overlooked elderly character kicks metaphorical butt?
I’ll use this opportunity to shout out my beloved Terry Pratchett and his Witches’ series, the first book of which is Wyrd Sisters. In said first book, the evil, Macbethian king underestimates Granny Weatherwax and her headology, which is a grave error on his part! And by the way, I’m sure Miss Marple would have loved to share a cup of tea and a cozy chat with Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg.
And there it is, my answers for the Miss Marple Book Tag! I can’t believe it took me so long; this was tremendously fun. I actually didn’t make any changes to the questions, for once, so I guess they were well-drafted for my subconscious’s sake.
Lastly, I have some recommendations for anyone who is new to the awesomeness that is Miss Marple. To be clear, these are not necessarily my favourite Marple books, though there is definitely some overlap. Rather, these are my suggestions for good entry points to the wonderful world of Marple:
- The Thirteen Problems: (aka The Tuesday Club Murders) Starting at the start is always a good idea! Also, since this is a collection of short stories, it might be easier to get into.
- Murder at the Vicarage: Since this was Miss Marple’s first full-length novel, Agatha Christie kind of reintroduces the character for the masses.
- The Body in the Library: A classic for a reason! It’s also a more active Marple story, and one in which we finally get to see our beloved Miss Marple’s thoughts.
- A Murder is Announced: This one is a great showcase for Miss Marple. She gets to draw comparisons to village life, have poignant conversations, get snubbed by snobby police officers, and practice her ventriloquism.
Since I was tagged via an open-ended “consider yourself tagged”, I will pass it along here. If you’ve read this blog post and you would like to do this book tag, then consider yourself tagged! And if you do end up reading any of the Marple books mentioned above, let us know what you thought of it in the comments!