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 HonorÃ©, 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)