Agatha Christie died in 1976. So how could she be publishing a collection of new Miss Marple stories in 2022? Did she leave them behind, only to be discovered four decades later and published posthumously?
That’s certainly what a glance at the cover might suggest, as you’ll see here if you look at it quickly.
But appearances can be deceiving, to coin a phrase. If you look more closely, you’ll see a dozen mystery writers on the leaves of the roses in the image, and they are the authors of the stories, not Agatha Christie, despite the prominence of the name on the cover.
That’s what sells books, at least if you believe that readers can tell a book by its cover.
With that out of the way, what you surely want to know is whether these stories are any good. Or perhaps you’re dying to hear how faithful this motley crew was to the style and content of the “real” Miss Marple stories. The answer to the first implied question is what you expect: some are better than others. On the whole, in fact, most of them are pretty good—better than average for a collection of mysteries by a dozen different authors. The answer to the second implied question is more complicated. We don’t know what instructions the authors were given, so it’s not clear whether they were supposed to imitate Christie’s style or merely pay homage to her character. Fiction by writer A that uses characters created by writer B can always be problematical, as there is a danger of veering unintentionally into parody. There is also the danger of introducing characters and settings that are jarring to the reader, such as transporting Jane Marple into times and locations where she is out of place. Some of these stories flirt with these dangers. Also, some of the authors have attempted to whitewash Agatha Christie, so to speak, giving her woke attitudes that she never had. Finally, the collection could have used a real editor: there are, for example, two instances of “just desserts” instead of “just deserts.”
I also wonder about the choice of authors. Why so few that I have heard of? That might, of course, say more about me than about them, but one does wonder.