Friday, January 20, 2012

They Do It with Mirrors

Book Review

They Do It with Mirrors by Agatha Christie

I had never read a Miss Marple mystery.

Once upon a time, I was all excited and rarin' to read The Murder on the Orient Express. And then I did read it. And it made me mad.

I got mad at Ms. Christie for using French in the novel without translating it for the reader.

I. Hate. This.

If I start out reading a book in English, I have a simple request: Keep the entire book in English or provide translations for any other languages used. Agatha didn't.

I was so mad that I swore off reading any more of her books. And this had been the first book of hers that I ever read!

The best selling author ever. I swore I would not read the best selling author of all time anymore. That's pretty extreme.

That's how mad I was.

But I had my doubts, since she is the best selling author ever.

Fast forward several years. I was wandering through the large print section at the library, and I saw that there was a new re-release of a Miss Marple mystery. I asked a couple of friends about Miss Marple.

"Are there going to be any other languages that Miss Marple uses and Agatha doesn't translate for me?"

No. Not likely.

"Is there any timeline that I need to know about or an particular story I should start with?"

No. Starting with any one of the Miss Marple mysteries is fine.

And they assured me that the Miss Marple stories were good. My friends were wearing down my anger at Ms. Christie without even trying.

I was starting to cave. I wanted to know what a Miss Marple mystery was like. So, I decided to read one.

They Do It with Mirrors

I found out that this same book is also known as "Murder with Mirrors". Apparently many of Christie's books have been published under different titles.

This is relatively straightforward murder mystery, but the murder doesn't happen anywhere near the book's beginning. I guess I was expecting for it to happen that way. This book starts more like a standard novel. Once we are informed of a murder, things start to happen more rapidly.

If you give a plot a murder, the plot will likely give you police investigators. I wasn't enchanted with length of the police investigators' interviews with the characters. We are allowed to learn only very little from these interviews, most of them providing details we are already privy to. I guess I would prefer to learn things through conversations among the characters surrounding the murder, than through the investigators' interrogations.

I did like how Christie withheld mention of a critical part of the floor plan. Well, she did and she didn't. At the beginning of the book is a map of the ground floor of the house. I looked at it before starting to read. I looked at it when the setting is described. I looked at it again when the action happens.

I studied the map. It isn't loaded with detail, but I studied it.

I thought I studied it enough.

But I was still surprised when we are presented with the killer and the means by which the dirty deed was done. That map told me what I needed to know, but I still didn't put it together until it was spelled out for me.

I liked this.

It may seem odd that I liked this. In some ways I feel silly not to have seen it coming. And yet I liked that it was presented to me, I saw it, I took it in, and I was still surprised by it later.

Nice work, Ms. Christie.

And, just so you know, the title does not give any hints to the method of the murder. It is merely a figure of speech.

This isn't a long book, so it was an ideal introduction to Miss Marple. I wasn't sure if I was going to like the book. There were a couple of small things that I'm not crazy about. But all in all, I liked it.

There is a reason Ms. Christie is the best selling author of all time.

And I might just read another Miss Marple mystery.

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