FFB: A Caribbean Mystery

this is the 94th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books.

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie © 1964, Pocket Books, 1966 paperback, mystery featuring Miss Marple

After reading The Clocks for the single-author Friday Forgotten Books post last week, I decided to read yet another Christie, this time a Miss Marple. This is chronologically the next of the Christie novels. Since I had it on the shelf, I picked it.

“Would you like to see a picture of a murderer?”, Jane Marple is asked by Major Palgrave whilst on a holiday in the Caribbean, a gift from her nephew. Palgrave loves to tell stories, of his younger days, in Africa, India, hunting, as a soldier and whatnot. He keeps a fat wallet full of snapshots to illustrate many of his tales.

Most of the guests in the luxurious hotel avoid the Major and his seemingly endless arsenal of tales, find him an insufferable bore and only half listen if they find themselves unable to escape him.

So when Marple listens, and carefully, to his stories, he waxes eloquent. When she replies that she would like to hear the story, he explains. There once was a man who had a wife who tried to hang herself, but failed. Then she tried again later, and succeeded in killing herself. The man remarried to a woman who then tried to gas herself to death. She failed, but then tried again later and succeeded. Just as Major Palgrave is about to show the picture to her, he looks over her shoulder, appears startled, and changes the subject. The next morning, a servant, Victoria Johnson, finds him dead in his room. Doctor Graham, who is staying at the hotel, concludes that the man died of heart failure; he showed all the symptoms, and had a bottle of serenite (a drug for high blood pressure) on his table.

Miss Marple is suspicious of the death, suspecting that Palgrave was murdered, but needs to see the photograph he was about to show her before seeing something over her shoulder that caused him to stop. She asks Doctor Graham to find it, saying it is a picture of her nephew. Meanwhile, she interviews, through her technique of carrying on casual conversation, other people, including Tim and Molly Kendall, the owners of the hotel, Mr. Rafiel, an invalid, and Esther Walters, Mr. Rafiel’s secretary, Lucky Dyson and her husband and Edward and Evelyn Hillingdon. On the beach when Mr Rafiel is going for a swim, Miss Marple sees Senora de Caspearo, a Spanish woman on holiday. She says that she remembers Major Palgrave because he had an evil eye. Miss Marple corrects her that he actually has a glass eye, but she still says that it was evil.

Thus goes the first part of the novel, and additional complications and murders follow. Naturally Marple figures out what is going on and gathers enough evidence to support her theory, at the very last second, to prevent yet another killing. Though this isn’t the best Marple mystery Christie wrote, I did enjoy it, and now plan to read what is a sort of follow-up novel, Nemesis.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The rest of the Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinaise

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10 Responses to FFB: A Caribbean Mystery

  1. I do like the ‘relaxed’ style of this late Christie – there are others I prefer from the 60s, such as ENDLESS NIGHT and BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS, but along with AT BERTRAM’S HOTEL this is probably my favourite of the late Marple books – ta.

  2. cgramlich says:

    Gotta check on book mooch for some Christie

  3. Jeff Meyerson says:

    When I read Christie I just picked them up in any order I could find them and read them, which occasionally came back to haunt me. In January of 1972 I read NEMESIS which I got from the Mystery Guild, I believe. I didn’t get the references to Mr. Rafiel or the rest until I read CARIBBEAN over a year later.

  4. Richard says:

    Charles – I’ve read 2 of those.

    Jeff – Per your suggestion, I’m reading Nemesis now, right after Caribbean.

  5. You can’t go wrong with Christie. But, as Jeff suggests, it’s best to read the novels in order.

  6. Richard says:

    I have a paperback titled The Agatha Christie Chronology (don’t recall the author) which is very handy for finding the order, though it is on the ‘net these days as well.

  7. Evan Lewis says:

    It’s true. Glass eyes are evil. I’m guessing la Caspearo is the killer.

  8. John says:

    This book and A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED are my favorite of the Miss Marple books. I liked the exotic setting and the modern feel to this one. Often Christie failed at being hip (check out THE THIRD GIRL – ugh) but there is a nice sense of the 60s in this one. Might be the hotel/tourist atmosphere – she was such a world traveller she knew hotels inside and out.

  9. Yvette says:

    I’ve read this several times myself, Richard and always get caught up in the atmosphere. I’ve also too always felt sorry for the old Major – though really, I suppose, we’re not meant to.

    This was filmed with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple and worked extremely well.

    Mr. Rafiel has influence in the next book NEMESIS, as well.

    Just re-read A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED, John. It’s still fabulous.

  10. Richard says:

    Thanks, Yvette. It would be so easy to go on a Christie reading jag, but I have so much else I want to get to.

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