Miss Marple

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Miss Jane Marple doesn’t look like your average detective. Quite frankly, she doesn’t look like a detective at all. But looks can be deceiving... For a woman who has spent her life in the small village of St Mary Mead, Miss Marple is surprisingly worldly. But as she often points out she has had every opportunity to observe human nature.

“There is a great deal of wickedness in village life.”

miss-marple "There was no unkindness in Miss Marple, she just did not trust people. Though she expected the worst, she often accepted people kindly in spite of what they were."

Agatha Christie, An Autobiography


About Miss Marple

"The finest detective God ever made. Natural genius cultivated in suitable soil." (Sir Henry Clithering, The Body in the Library)

Miss Marple first came into being in 1927 via The Thirteen Problems, serialised in the Sketch Magazine. She was an instant success, constantly surprising people and undermining expectation with her shrewd observations. From picturesque rural England in The Body in the Library to the glamour of London At Bertram’s Hotel, Miss Marple proves herself the match of every murderer she meets. Christie never expected Miss Marple to rival Poirot in the public’s affections but since the publication of ...

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"The finest detective God ever made. Natural genius cultivated in suitable soil." (Sir Henry Clithering, The Body in the Library)

Miss Marple first came into being in 1927 via The Thirteen Problems, serialised in the Sketch Magazine. She was an instant success, constantly surprising people and undermining expectation with her shrewd observations. From picturesque rural England in The Body in the Library to the glamour of London At Bertram’s Hotel, Miss Marple proves herself the match of every murderer she meets. Christie never expected Miss Marple to rival Poirot in the public’s affections but since the publication of The Murder at the Vicarage in 1930, Marple's first full length novel, readers were hooked.

While Agatha Christie acknowledged that her grandmother had been a huge influence on the character, she writes that Miss Marple was "far more fussy and spinsterish than my grandmother ever was. But one thing she did have in common with her – though a cheerful person, she always expected the worst of everyone and everything, and was, with almost frightening accuracy, usually proved right." This trait also appears in the character of Caroline Sheppard, from Christie’s 1926 novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. With Caroline in mind (and upset that she had been cut from the stage version of the novel), Christie decided to give old maids a voice and so Miss Marple was born.

Mellowing with appearances (if not with age) Miss Marple graced twelve novels and twenty short stories during her career as an amateur detective, never paid and not always thanked. The Miss Marple of The Thirteen Problems is decidedly more shrewish and Victorian than the later character, who is often more forgiving. She certainly changes with the times, even down to wearing plimsolls in 1964’s A Caribbean Mystery.

Her powers of deduction occasionally hide behind her three chief joys in life: knitting, gardening and gossip. Criminals and murderers fail to realise that with every stitch she is not only making a cardigan, but solving a crime. From her small house in the village of St Mary Mead she observes every aspect of human nature, her motto being "Nothing is ever as it seems."

Miss Marple never married and her closest living relatives are her nephews and nieces. Her nephew, the well-known author Raymond West and his wife Joan (initially Joyce) crop up most commonly in her stories. Marple also employs a selection of maids, all young women from the nearby orphanage, training them in her Victorian way.

Many great actors have taken on the role of Marple, the first being Gracie Fields in a (now lost) US TV adaptation of A Murder is Announced in 1956. The 1960s saw four MGM film adaptations starring friend of the family Margaret Rutherford, although many of these were only loosely based on Agatha Christie’s novels (and two originally involved Poirot). Christie wasn’t too keen on Rutherford's comic version of Marple, who even had a cameo in the 1965 Poirot spoof The Alphabet Murders. The more austere representation of Marple by Angela Lansbury in the 1980 adaptation, The Mirror Crack’d, might have been more to Christie’s tastes. The US TV series Murder She Wrote, which Lansbury also starred in, was also heavily inspired by the character of Miss Marple. The 1980s also saw Helen Hayes in three Miss Marple TV films, as a sprightlier sleuth. In fact, Miss Marple has proved so popular, that she has even inspired a Japanese fashion label to make Marple-esque clothes and accessories.

However it is Joan Hickson’s portrayal in the BBC series from 1984 to 1992, which is considered most faithful to the original character. Hickson received two BAFTA nominations for her Marple, but had the even greater honour of being written to by Agatha Christie, long before she was old enough to take on the role of Marple. Christie had seen her performance in a stage version of Appointment with Death and wrote, “I hope one day you will play my dear Miss Marple”. Hickson appeared in several other Christie adaptations, including the Rutherford film Murder, She Said and later Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1980).

While Hickson reads many of the audiobooks, it was June Whitfield who starred as the BBC Radio 4 Marple, from 1993 to 2001, and it was in 2004 that Geraldine McEwan reprised the role for the ITV adaptations, with Julia McKenzie taking over in 2009. The show is currently in its sixth series.

5 Miss Marple facts

    1. Miss Marple was first illustrated in The Royal Magazine in 1927

    2. Christie said Miss Marple was named after Marple Hall, an old mansion in Cheshire near her sister's home

    3. Gracie Fields was the first actress to portray Miss Marple on screen

    4. The original notes for Death on the Nile had Miss Marple as the detective

    5. Agatha Christie name checks herself in the Miss Marple novel The Body in the Library


Stories featuring Miss Marple

Nemesis Nov BJ UK PB

Miss Marple is the recipient of an unusual bequest. Mr. Rafiel, an old acquaintance, has left instructions for her to investigate a crime after his death. The only problem ...

Murder Mystery
They DIW Mirrors Nov BJ UK PB

Carrie-Louise is living in a vast house that is now a home for 'delinquent' boys and her sister is worried that she cannot cope or worse - will come to harm. When there is ...

Murder Mystery, Detective