Day 74: A Caribbean Mystery

Cover for A Caribbean MysteryAgatha Christie is one of the best mystery writers of the so-called Golden Age of mystery writing because she so skillfully sketches believable characters and plots. Although many of the Golden Age mysteries concentrate on perplexing puzzles such as figuring out railway timetables, Christie was much more interested in the personality of the murderer and his or her motivations.

A Caribbean Mystery begins after Miss Marple has suffered a serious bout of pneumonia. Her affectionate nephew Raymond has arranged a vacation for her on an island in the Caribbean, where she can recover. But of course her vacation isn’t as restful as her nephew had hoped.

She is only half listening to boring Major Palgrave when he offers to show her the snapshot of  a murderer, but just then he sees something and quickly begins chatting about something else. That night he is found dead, apparently of a heart attack.

Miss Marple is having grave doubts about that heart attack when the chambermaid reports that before his death the Major Palgrave did not have the heart medication found in his room. Shortly thereafter, she is found stabbed to death.

Miss Marple begins sizing up her suspects. Molly Kendal, owner of the hotel with her husband Tim, has been behaving oddly, having nightmares and reporting blackouts and feelings of paranoia. Years ago, Greg Dyson’s wife died and he married her cousin Lucky within a month. Colonel Hillingdon and his wife Evelyn appear close, but are they really? And are they as friendly with the Dysons as they seem to be? The elderly and wealthy Mr. Rafiel is too feeble to be a murderer, but his secretary Esther Walters is secretive and Miss Marple spots his attendant Jackson skulking around.

As usual, Christie does a deft job of quickly limning believable characters and a complex mixture of motives and red herrings in a brief novel that is fun to read. I spotted the killer quickly but still enjoyed the book.

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