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Literature / The Murder at the Vicarage


Inspector Slack: I thought it was looking too good to be true. Soon as I saw that nice-looking, grey-haired cobra sliding about, I should've known better.
Sergeant Lake: Huh?
Inspector Slack: The Marple woman sticks to this sort of business like chewing gum to the cat.

Detective novel by Agatha Christie. This is the first novel (but not the first book) to feature Miss Marple, the harmless old lady who lives at the idyllic village of St Mary Mead and just happens to constantly bump into murders. She is notable for her ability to draw parallels between murder mysteries and ordinary village incidents. She is Christie's second most famous but personal favorite detective.

In the abovementioned St Mary Mead, there is a general climate of harmony and good-will and everyone gets along. Everyone, that is, except Colonel Protheroe, the most disliked man in the village. His daughter wishes he would do a good thing and die, and even the vicar observes that killing him would be a service to the townsfolk. Then, Protheroe is found murdered in the vicar's study. His unfaithful wife and her artist lover both confess to the murder, to the great confusion of Inspector Slack. It's up to Miss Marple to make sense of this story and find out who really did it...

The book is narrated in first person by the vicar, Leonard Clement.

It was adapted by BBC in 1986 with Joan Hickson in the role of Miss Marple and again by ITV in 2004 with Geraldine Mc Ewan as Miss Marple. There is also a 1949 play with Barbara Mullen and a graphic novel released by Harper Collins in 2008.

Christie dedicated the book to her daughter and only child, Rosalind Hinks.

WARNING: Heavy unconcealed spoilers ahead.

This work contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The 2004 version.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: At the start of the novel, Len's so irritated with Griselda, he contemplates writing to the archbishop that the Church should bring back celibacy into the clergy. At the end of the novel...
  • Black Widow: Anne Protheroe.
  • Characterization Marches On: Miss Marple is at times a rather bossy, nosy, unpleasant woman throughout the course of the book. Having realized that she wanted to write more stories with Marple as the detective, Christie toned down on some of these characteristics for later mysteries.
  • The Ditz: Lettice Protheroe comes off as this, especially at the beginning.
  • Evil Uncle: Inverted. Leonard, who is an uncle to Dennis is not evil at all.
  • False Confession: Subverted.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Vicar Clement.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Leonard proposed marriage to Griselda after only knowing her for 24 hours.
  • Framing the Guilty Party:
    • Lawrence and Anne plant several clues to make it look like Colonel Protheroe was shot at 6:20, right when Anne came to the vicarage to see if her husband was there. The police are meant to see through these clues and assume the crime was committed later.
    • Lettice plants one of Anne's earrings at the crime scene, convinced that her stepmother was guilty but unable to find any evidence of it.
  • Gossipy Hens: Several of them. Miss Marple humorously admits she is one at one point.
  • Happily Married: Leonard and Griselda Clement, oddly enough.
  • Hidden Depths: There are dimensions of Leonard Clements' character that surprise even him. His wife comments that he is 'very unexpected' and she never feels she really knows him - which may be why she married him.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Lettice is in love with Lawrence Redding, who's in love with her stepmother, who's married to Lettice's father.
    • The Vicar's nephew Dennis is in love with Lettice. To her credit she apologizes to Clements for leading the boy on and advises him to send Dennis away as soon as possible.
  • Lethal Chef: Griselda can't cook or keep the house in general.
  • Little Old Lady Investigates
  • Love Makes You Evil: Anne Protheroe
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Mrs Lestrange is Lettice's mother.
  • May-December Romance: Leonard and Griselda. He's 20 years older than her, she had many other suitors, and he proposed to her within 24 hours of meeting her despite the fact, as she cheerfully puts it, that "I am everything you disaprove of in a woman." That's why it's so "odd" (see above) that they really are Happily Married.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Not obvious from looking at it, but "Lettice" is a variant spelling of "Letitia".
  • Redemption Earns Life: A rather literal case: Curate Hawes calling the Vicar to confess about his Sticky Fingers ends up saving his life when he's poisoned by the murderer, and the phone call to the Vicar is the only reason he's found in time.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: Mrs. Protheroe stops to talk to Miss Marple on her way to kill her husband, making sure that Miss Marple will note the timing of her movements and also the fact that she doesn't have a purse with her or any other place she could conceal a gun. It backfires when it occurs to Miss Marple to wonder just why Mrs. Protheroe wouldn't have brought her purse with her...
  • Shout-Out: The Vicar and Lawrence briefly refer to the stories of Christie's fellow Detective Club member G. K. Chesterton.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Replace "Slap slap" (he is a vicar after all) with "frequent feelings of irritation" and you have the Clements' marriage.
  • Sticky Fingers: Curate Hawes.
  • Take Our Word for It: Chapter 26 opens with Leonard preaching a sermon which is described only by the effect it has on its audience.
  • The Vicar: Obviously.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?: As the Colonel is the most disliked man in the village of St. Mary Mead, most of the villagers have a good reason to see him dead. Even the vicar says that killing him would be a service to the community.
  • Widow Woman: Mrs Lestrange. No, not that one. Also Anne Protheroe.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Mrs Protheroe's affair with Lawrence Redding.

Alternative Title(s): Murder At The Vicarage