Review: The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side by Agatha Christie

20 Books of Summer 2021: Book 1

If Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side wasn’t on my summer reading list, I’d be tempted to leave it unreviewed. It’s a perfectly fun read for the summer, but it doesn’t rise to the level of other Miss Marple mysteries (4:50 from Paddington remains my favorite).

The murder takes a little while to occur, so we spend the opening chapters in the idyllic town of St. Mary Mead. Unlike in previous stories, there are a number of changes afoot. New homes are being built and there’s a divide between the people who have always lived in the town and the newcomers in the Development. Nothing mean or nefarious, of course, just the sense that Miss Marple is part of an older version of the town that is now fading. Miss Marple herself is showing her age more too; Miss Knight now lives with her since her doctor no longer thinks it’s wise for her to be completely alone. Though well-meaning, Miss Knight tends to be overprotective, infantilizing Miss Marple to a degree that the reader knows is absurd. Miss Marple is old, but not incapable, and her mind is plenty sharp.

The plot returns to Gossington Hall, where the body was found in The Body in the Library (Miss Marple #2). The Bantrys are back as well, though there’s no need to read this series in order. In The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, Gossington Hall now belongs to the movie star, Marina Gregg, and people are thrilled when a fundraiser is held there, both because they’re keen to meet someone so famous, and because they’re curious to see how she has remodeled the Hall. At the fundraiser, Heather Badcock, an enthusiastic fan of Marina Gregg’s, dies after drinking a poisoned cocktail. Miss Marple is quickly brought up to speed by Mrs. Bantry (the Hall’s previous owner) and Detective-Inspector Craddock, who returns as well.

There aren’t as many details to keep straight as in other Agatha Christie mysteries: The list of suspects is comparatively small, the witnesses generally agree on the sequence of events, and the final puzzle piece is hidden until the last chapter. This means there’s more rehashing than in other Christie novels as the witness interviews soon grow repetitive without her usual trick of adding new details and raising new questions with each retelling.

Without giving much away, I sorted out the murderer shockingly early. There was one person who stood out as the most likely murderer, and not in a red-herring sort of way. The only mystery left was the motive, which was satisfying to learn. Unlike The Murder of Roger Ackroyd where the clues became increasingly obvious and I had the sense that Christie was pushing me toward the correct conclusion in her own time, I feel like I caught this one ahead of schedule. The appeal of this book rests almost entirely in the charm of the cast. Miss Marple is as delightful as ever, though it pained me to see her treated as an invalid.

Overall: 3.6 (out of 5.0) It’s missing a bit of spark, but is an entertaining read nonetheless.

Image credit: Goodreads

20 Books of Summer 2021 hosted by Cathy at 746 Books

Read, review coming soon

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Not yet started

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