The Mirror Crack’d by Agatha Christie

May 12, 2011

Plot summary (with spoilers): Marina Gregg is a famous American actress who has just purchased a house in tiny St. Mary Mead with her new husband Jason Rudd. To celebrate the event, Marina and Jason decide to have a party to greet a select few of their new neighbors. Among the guests is Heather Badcock, a woman who has been a fan of Marina’s for more than a decade. Upon greeting Marina at the party, Heather relates a story about how they actually met 11 years before. Heather was sick with German measles, but willed herself out of bed just for the chance of shaking hands with and getting an autograph from her idol.

A short time later, Heather Badcock ends up dead. What happened was she had accidentally spilled her cocktail on her dress, so Marina Gregg, who was standing nearby, offered Heather her (Marina’s) own drink. After quaffing that drink, Heather suffered a fatal seizure, which the coroner later attributes to a drug overdose.

The police inspectors called in to investigate the crime assume that Marina Gregg was actually the intended target. After all, it had been Marina’s drink that killed Heather, and Marina was in more of a position to have enemies than a simple St. Mary Mead housewife.

Miss Marple, extremely old now and so frail that she needs a live-in companion, hears about the case and starts asking questions of those who were at the party. She even meets with Inspector Craddock to compare notes. They consider several suspects, including both husbands, uncover a blackmailing scheme when two more people end up dead, and eventually get to the bottom of the original mystery.

Liked:

  • This was a rather engrossing mystery. I was involved in the story right from the start, and enjoyed it all the way through.
  • It’s kind of funny how Christie’s 1962 descriptions of an aging actress desperately trying to hold on to fame can still be applied today.
  • Isn’t it amazing how Miss Marple can solve the murder after just the most cursory glance at the crime scene? I guess she really doesn’t have anything to do all day except “unravel” these types of problems!

Disliked:

  • I take issue with the motive for the murder. When I first read about Heather Badcock having German measles while meeting a pregnant Marina Gregg for the first time, I didn’t make the connection between German measles and birth defects. How likely is it that Marina Gregg would have done so? Is the link between German measles and mental retardation in infants that well known? This is a critical point, as Marina Gregg would have had to instantaneously recognize the link in order to commit the murder so quickly.
  • Is it really possible that Marina Gregg wouldn’t recognize her ex-husband? Even if their marriage was from many, many years before? That seems unlikely. Not recognizing the adopted daughter was also a bit of a stretch, but far more believable than not recognizing a former husband.

Rating:

Despite the flaws, I found that I enjoyed The Mirror Crack’d quite a bit. This particular book probably doesn’t rank very high on Christie’s all-time list, but it’s a good one — especially for Marple fans. I was kept guessing about the murderer and motive all the way through, and though I didn’t really care for the motive explanation, that disappointment didn’t take much away from my overall enjoyment. I give this book 4 stars out of 5.

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