Good Things Don't Always Come In Small Packages (Reviewing The 13 Problems by Agatha Christie)

This book contains thirteen chapter-sized Marple bites, but other than that, I find it pretty hard to describe. There were . . . characters? Who . . . formed a club that discussed unsolved mysteries? (A really interesting way of linking otherwise unrelated short stories, it turns out.) And of course Miss Marple defied expectations of "young folk" and solved all of them so quickly the mind almost boggles.

As you can probably tell from all the question marks, parts of this book confused me a little, but I want to talk about the good things first: Marple fans will definitely get their fix - there are a limited amount of books detailing an elderly woman who solves crime using small-town metaphors, you know - and that's always great because she's such a unique detective. I don't think anyone could mix up Miss Marple with Sherlock Holmes, for example.

Judging by the Poirot books I've read, Christie has a knack for individual main characters.

The other thing I've always loved about Agatha Christie's books in general is that you have no idea how the mystery is going to tie up until the last possible second: that but-there-can't-possibly-be-enough-pages left feeling always glues me to the page. How could you not love it? The short mysteries in this particular book packed in so much detail and complexity that it seemed almost impossible, and led to a lot of those "but how? OH" moments. So I'd like to applaud the author's skill in succinct-ness.

But in some stories (and it literally hurts to say this, knowing that I usually love Marple), Christie didn't quite . . . do it. And that's sad.

No matter how much I love Miss Marple's personality, it doesn't delete the fact that a lot of the other characters kind of blurred into each other. Some were dashing, or chilling, or funny, but I'm sure there were two names with one letter different at one point. It also really confused me that there was a character constantly referred to as "Jane".

Miss Marple's name is Jane, and yet apparently it wasn't her. I reminded myself of this several times and still forgot, so either my brain has messed up or that's confusing.

The weird thing about this was that I'm kind of okay with it. When I pick up a Miss Marple book, I'm not really doing it for the characters or even the quality of the prose. I'm looking for a plot with more twists and turns than a twisty turny thing - and while some of the chapters had that, some just confused me because the author didn't have enough words to pull off such a detailed storyline.

Just imagine me frowning.

In conclusion, this book wasn't exactly bad. I just feel like Agatha Christie's plots don't work in small packages, and so it didn't make the (admittedly very high) bar the rest of the series has set for me. If you already love Marple, then go ahead and enjoy another installment - at least you have 315 pages involving said elderly detective - but if not, I'd find another place to start. It would be horrible if this particular book put you off a brilliant series.

In the comments: How did you find this book, people-who've-read-it? Do you love Agatha Christie? Basically, TELL ME EVERYTHING MARPLE RELATED. You must.
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