The Thirteen Problems (Miss Marple), by Agatha Christie
Bored, a group of people are thinking of ways to entertain themselves and they somehow manage to land on the intriguing topic of murder. They find the topic of murder fascinating in a morbid sort of way. They come up with a kind of game. Each person is to take turns and tell the others a mystery, and not just any mystery but a murder mystery. It has to be true and only they knew the identity of the murderer. At the end, the others have to guess who the murderer is. That is literally the plot of the entire book, except for a murder that is committed at the end. It wouldn’t be an Agatha Christie novel without a murder. The game is played on two separate occasions with different groups of people, but the concept is the same.
One of my favourite parts about the book was seeing the different perspectives and perceptions of the various members in the game. Each of them had a rather different way to tell the mystery. It was equally fascinating to see their answers and guesses. In some way, their answers also reflected and highlighted the difference between all of their lives. All of them came from a large variety of occupations and different walks of life. Their answers reflected that. One would see it from a technical point of view, another from a logical one, and yet another from a professional one.
‘The Thirteen Problems’, is a title which I feel, perfectly describes the entire book. It captures the core of the book and summarizes it in three words. In fact, it was the title that drew me to the book. Don’t ask me why but for some reason it did. I’m actually glad I read this book because it is extremely different from other Agatha Christie books. I feel that this book was written to kind of showcase and highlight Miss Marple’s vast knowledge about human nature. In most Miss Marple books, you might think that she cracked the case because it happened in her village or because she personally knew the suspects. However, in this book all the stories and mysteries are about strangers or people she has never met before. Therefore, when Miss Marple hits the nail on the head every single time, it displays her skills of observation and her uncanny knack of going straight to the heart of the matter.
Let me give an example to give you an idea of how amazing this is. When a person narrates a story or recounts an incident, he/she may leave out certain bits or forget some parts. This often makes it difficult for us to know the absolute truth or to get the whole picture. The fact that Miss Marple is able to do this, despite the lapses of memory and incomplete bits, shows us the extent of her knowledge. She connects the simplest of village anecdotes to the mystery and that helps her find the answer. What she says is quite true - human nature is very much the same no matter which part of the world you are in.
This book is also quite fast paced. It is divided into thirteen chapters with each chapter having one mystery. Therefore, your curiosity to know the truth, is satisfied pretty quickly and you don’t have to wait till the end. This has to my most favourite Miss Marple book. I love Miss Marple mysteries and I probably say that about all of them but this one was simply unique.
© 2020, Anika Agarwal. All rights reserved.