The Murder at the Vicarage

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The Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple #1) by Agatha Christie

So I’m sure you all have been wondering when I was going to do an Agatha Christie novel. Well, I have been planning to do one, I just hadn’t gotten around to it quite yet.

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So here we are finally, our first Agatha Christie review and the first of the Miss Marple series:

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Leonard Clement is the Vicar in the village of Saint Mary Mead. His wife, Griselda, is twenty years younger than him, very pretty, and incompetent as a Vicar’s wife. She has no idea what she is doing or how to run the house.

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The Vicar’s nephew, Dennis, also lives with them.

This day the Vicar has said something very unchristian, but he is being driven crazy by Colonel Lucius Protheroe the local magistrate.

“…anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe would be doing the world at large a service.”

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Never say that in a murder mystery.

The Vicar’s schedule is interrupted by Lettice Protheroe, the Colonel’s daughter. She goes on about how her father is in horror about the artist in town, Lawrence Redding, painting her. She also goes on about how Anne, her stepmother, hates her. She then leaves as she is late for an appointment .

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After that the Vicar sees that the clock on his table shows it is a quarter to four. He decides to help out his wife and go to one of her dreaded tea parties. Gossip flows, even though the Vicar preaches against it, as we hear about Colonel Protheroe’s many disputes; whether Miss Cram is really a secretary; Laurence and Lettice are probably having an affair; who the new mysterious woman Mrs. Lestrange might be that has recently joined the community, etc.

The Vicar later accidentally comes upon Anne Protheroe, and sees that she is cheating on her husband with the artist not Lettice.

“When she had gone, I felt very uneasy. I felt that hitherto I had misjudged Anne Protheroe’s character. She impressed me now as a very desperate woman, the kind of woman who would stick at nothing, once her emotions were aroused. And she was desperately, wildly, madly in love with Lawrence Redding…”

Later Lawrence comes over for a dinner party and pleads with the Vicar to not say anything. The Vicar tells Lawrence the same thing that he told Anne, they shouldn’t be acting in such a way. She is a married woman. Lawrence wishes that the Colonel was gone as that would solve everything.

“If this were only a book,” he said gloomily,” the old man would die–and a good riddance to everybody.”

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The next day is an unpleasant one, and to make things worse the Vicar runs into the Colonel who wants to have a private appointment to meet with the Vicar, and the Vicar is not looking forward to it. The Colonel is annoying, mean, and pretty much despised by all for good reason.

Hate him.

Hate him.

Later he runs into Curate Hawes, who looks extremely ill. He sends him home to bed.

Griselda is gone for the day in London, and the Vicar returns home at four to work on his sermon, but that is stopped when Mr. Redding  comes to tell him he is right, he needs to leave Anne or else he will ruin everything for her.

The Vicar then is given a call that Mr. Abbott of Lower Farm is dying. It is two miles away and there is no way he’ll be back in time for his appointment with the Colonel. He tries to phone him, but the Colonel is out and not expected to return for quite some time. The Vicar does the only thing he can do, leave a message with his maid and then go out to comfort the bereaved.

Hopefully that will be fine.

Hopefully that will be fine.

When the Vicar comes home, he finds out that Redding is there as well. Mr. Redding seems ill and is talking strangely.

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The Vicar finds that odd but continues into the vicarage where he finds the Colonel, dead.

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So who killed this hated man? The area is teaming with suspects, and the number ones are none other than Anne and Redding.

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The Vicar, Griselda, and Dennis; decide to investigate as the latter two love mysteries. But as they start, they discover there are a lot more questions and a whole can of worms are opened.

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The clock is revealed to have been tampered with, the actual time of death being unknown. Anne and Redding have tried to take the blame for each other. Do they really believe the other a murderer and trying to protect them or just hiding their own guilt?

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Then it is revealed that the Colonel’s first wife returned to the village even though the Colonel promised her horrible things would happen if she did. Did she kill him to be with her daughter? Did her daughter kill him to be with her mother? To get her inheritance.

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What’s with all these anonymous phone calls?

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Dennis came home earlier from his tennis party than he had said, could he have done it? Griselda took an earlier train than she said, did she even go to London? Was it the Vicar?

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One thing can be sure, the mystery will be solved with Miss Marple on the case.

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Thoughts After Reading:

I loved this book.

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Christie is a master at creating twists and turns and making you suspect, then doubt, and always not quite sure who did it until all is revealed at the end.

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Fantastic book, and we will be reviewing more as time goes on.

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For more Agatha Christie, go to Agatha Christie: The Woman and Her Mysteries

For more classic mystery, go to A Study in Scarlet

For more reviews, go to The Witch Hunter’s Tale

At the Corner of King Street

At the Corner of King Street

At the Corner of King Street by Mary Ellen Taylor

At the Corner of King Street, by Mary Ellen Taylor, follows two threads: Sarah Shire-Goodwin, Scottish immigrant settling in the new colony of Virginia; and Addie Morgan, a women trying to distance herself from her family and the disease that destroyed it.

Addie Morgan’s family is cursed.

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The women in her family tend to carry traits for mental diseases, or “carry the curse” as it has been called for centuries. Addie was lucky enough to be passed over, but both her mother and older sister suffer from being bipolar. Addie has always taken care of everybody, but when her sister causes her to crash her car and nearly kills the two of them, Addie has had enough. She leaves Alexandria, Virginia; the Shire Family Salvage Company; and heads off to anywhere else.

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She finds herself working as a picker in a vineyard, later becoming the bookkeeper, and ultimately second-in-command. Here she feels she finally has a normal life with her job and her boyfriend, the vineyard owner. Everything is going perfect, until she receives a call from her sister Janet, and is sent back into the cyclone of her former life.

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After the car accident, Janet took off leaving her husband and son. Since then she has been doing drugs, drinking, and not taking her medication. She also is pregnant, and when Addie arrives on the scene, Janet has just given birth to a baby girl. Addie hopes that the baby can quickly be found a foster home so that she can return to her new life, but soon discovers that nothing in life is ever that simple.

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While Janet is committed to thirty days of a doctor’s care, Addie stays in Alexandria taking care of the new baby, and the family business. Here she meets up with an old friend, Margaret and the two stumble onto a mystery strife with superstition. In the homes they are salvaging, Addie and Margaret discover three witch bottles, a protective charm from the 18th century made to ward off a supposed witch named Faith. As they look deeper into this, they discover that this mystery is connected to Addie’s distant relative Sarah Goodwin along with the problems in the present. Addie soon finds out that the past is never far behind.

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Thoughts after reading:

I really enjoyed this novel. I liked the way that Mary Ellen Taylor made all of her characters multi-dimensional, just as complicated and interesting as they would be if they existed in real life. First we have the character of Addie who has had to grow up fast, being the one to care for her mother and sister because of their illness. After her mother’s death and her sister nearly killing her, Addie has had enough and wants to get far away in the hopes of having a normal life. When she is called back to the chaos of it all, she at first doesn’t want to help her sister or care for her sister’s baby. Addie is selfish for wanting to live her own life and not care for her family members, but it is a selfishness that has evolved from years of trying to make things better, to only have things fall even more apart. I appreciated that the author was willing to make the character not so saintly or eager to pitch in, but showing the reality of how much of a burden this disease is to the people who have it and for their family members.

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Eventually, Addie does decide to care for her niece and her reintegration into her Aunt Grace’s home, as well as trying to mend the broken relationship between her ex-brother-in-law Zeb and nephew Eric, were extremely well done. While some novels would have quickly had everyone pull together for “the good of the child”, the author had this repairing of familial bonds done slowly. Addie still has feelings of betrayal from her Aunt Grace not rescuing her from her mother’s care and the chaotic life they had lead. She also has a lot of guilt from choosing not to be a part of her nephew’s life and not fully preparing Zeb for the reality of what living with Janet is like. Aunt Grace is angry with Addie for having left her alone to work on the family, but is also angry with herself for not having the courage to mother the girls and remove them from her sister’s care. Zeb has spent many years angry with his ex-wife, but has lived a contented life raising their son. Now he has to deal with his resentment and bitterness at Janet for abandoning their family and once again throwing his world off kilter. Not only does the author make these slow transitions, but not all of these issues are resolved by the end of the book, the family still taking it one step at a time.

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I also loved the secondary character, Margaret, the sassy, free-spirited, historian. She has been working in the family bakery while trying to find another job, and becomes Addie’s partner in salvaging and unraveling the mystery of the witch’s bottles. As a fellow historian, Magaret’s excitement and wit made her extremely endearing and relatable. I hope to see more of her in the future; maybe even her own book or series? Here’s hoping!

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The mystery was done very well. At first I disliked the journal entries from Sarah Goodwin that are placed in front of every chapter, but as the book went on and the lives of Sarah and Faith tied closer and closer to Addie and her family, they became extremely enjoyable. The final conclusion to the mystery and the novel was powerful and led to a perfect ending.

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All in all I really enjoyed this novel, giving it a five out of five star rating.

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I look forward to reading past and future novels of Mary Ellen Taylor and her tales of Alexandria.

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For the previous mystery book review, go to Fatally Frosted 

For more stand-alone mysteries, go to The Dollhouse Murders