A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie: Book Review

In Agatha Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery, published in 1964  Miss Marple is on holiday, arranged for her by her nephew Raymond West after her doctor had prescribed sunshine. Whilst staying at the Golden Palm Hotel on the fictitious island of  St Honoré, she is listening to Major Palgrave droning on about his life, reliving days when he’d been happy. He was about to show her a photo of a murderer when he stares over her shoulder and sees someone, stops his story and hastily returns the photo to his wallet. Then hours later he is found dead. Miss Marple suspects he didn’t just die in his sleep and investigates his death, involving old Mr Rafiel, a man who looked on the point of death himself, and who delighted in contradicting anything anyone else said.

She also wants to find out about the murderer the Major had mentioned. The question she needs answered was who was it the Major saw that disturbed him so much. Once again it is her knowledge of human nature, gleaned from living in peaceful St Mary Mead that leads her to uncover the truth. She considers the other guests at the hotel in turn, and not sure whether the murderer was a man or a woman everyone is a suspect, from the elderly Canon Prescott and his sister, a thin severe-looking woman to the hotel owners, a young couple, Molly and Tim Kendal. There are plenty of misleading false trails and hidden relationships to discover before the murderer is revealed.

This is not my favourite Agatha Christie but it’s still an entertaining book, which I enjoyed. I didn’t guess who the murderer was until quite near the end, but that is not a bad point. I liked the descriptions of the island and Miss Marple’s thoughts and observations on human nature. At the beginning Raymond mistakenly thinks his Aunt Jane has her head buried in the sand, living in an idyllic rural life when it is real life that matters. Jane silently disagrees:

People like Raymond were so ignorant. In the course of her duties in a country parish, Jane Marple had acquired quite a comprehensive knowledge of the facts of rural life. She had no urge to talk about them, far less to write about them – but she knew them. Plenty of sex, natural and unnatural. Rape, incest, perversion of all kinds. (Some kinds, indeed, that even the clever young men from Oxford who wrote books didn’t seem to have heard about. (page 9)

11 thoughts on “A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie: Book Review”

  1. Margaret – Thanks for this review. I’m especially glad you included that last quote because I think it’s an essential of Miss Marple’s character that she’s got a lot of wisdom and experience just from her experiences in the microcosm that is St. Mary Mead.

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  2. I’m such a lover of Miss Marple. This one is not my favorite, but I love the book that is sort of a sequel to this one, NEMESIS. I really like the film adaptation of this book (starring Joan Hickman). It is insteresting to take Miss Marple out of St. Mary Mead and find that her way of looking at people holds true.

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    1. Hi Kay,
      I did admire Joan Hickson, in her role as Miss Marple, but one shouldn’t rule out the inimitable Dame Margaret Rutherford, who played her with such devastating accuracy. I know that Angela Lansbury (she of: Murder She Wrote fame) has also played the character, but I don’t think she quite got to grips with the role at all.

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  3. Hi Margaret,

    I could read these books over and over, although I find that you do have to accept the for what they are, a light hearted, tongue in cheek romp, sprinkled with a few dead bodies along the way.
    I do however, think that Miss Marple is quite perceptive in her analysis of people and is a deceptively wise and astute adversary for any would be murderer.
    Agatha Christie’s writing, puts me in mind of M.C. Beaton and Lesley Cookman.

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  4. I have a soft spot in my heart for this book as it was the very first Agatha Christie that i read many, many years ago. I’ve loved Miss Marple ever since..

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  5. I can’t imagine Miss Marple in the Caribbean, but as I am trying to read her mysteries in order, I guess I’ll get to it sooner or later! I do love Miss M, however. I just finished Endless Night, which is a gothic novel, but I only felt so-so about it. Still, Agatha Christie is almost always entertaining if nothing else.

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