IN THE END IS MY BEGINNING: Agatha Christie’s Nemesis

The mystery equivalent of the question, “Are you a dog person or a cat person?” is “Do you fancy Poirot or Miss Marple?” (Well, actually, it’s “Classic detection or hardboiled?” but that’s not where we’re going today.) I’m a cat person because I live with cats and love the ones I live with, but I’d hook up with a dog in a second if circumstances allowed! (That’s right: I am a pet slut. Live with it!) Similarly, in the raging competition between Poirot and Marple, I exercise my right not to choose. The experience of reading a Poirot vs. a Miss Marple story is appealing in different ways. I love and admire both.

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The thirty-three books and fifty short stories featuring Hercule Poirot are more tightly plotted and conform to the established patterns of “fair play” detective fiction: present your case, strew it with clues, misdirect to your heart’s content, and unveil your solution. As a character, Poirot is the more clear cut of the two: a consulting detective through and through, the skills of his trades shaded with specific quirks and foibles – his vanity, his OCD, his love of food – that never change. (They never change.) Poirot is a professional, so it makes sense for him to be on the scene. Once a policeman himself, his relationship with the local gendarmes is usually an affable one. Sometimes a murder occurs while he is on vacation or (briefly) retired, and then he is consulted – again, a turn of events that makes some sense, even if the concept of a character attracting murder wherever he goes is purely fictional. (NB: If I wanted to commit a murder and discovered that Poirot was in the house, I would burn the blowgun in the fireplace and head to the movies. Thankfully, fictional murderers never think like that!)

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Jane Marple is not a private detective. Put purely and simply, she is a buttinsky. If all her cases took place in her home village of St. Mary Mead, it might make sense for the police, long familiar with the efficacy of her homespun sleuthing methods, to accept her benevolent assistance in the cause of justice. Yet only two of the dozen Miss Marple novels take place fully in St. Mary Mead. (A few others start there and quickly move away.) Miss Marple is lucky to have anyone pay attention to her, even if she does have a letter from Sir Henry Clithering stuffed in her reticule. (NB: If I was a village police inspector, and this nosy parker thrust her umbrella in my face and demanded I listen while she explained the curious behavior of her fishmonger’s niece, I would have her escorted out of town and head to the movies.)

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If Poirot arrives at the scene armed with his “little grey cells” and the dual weapons of order and method, Miss Marple’s “super power, ” as it were, is her intuitive understanding of human nature, gleaned from a lifetime spent observing the activities of the townsfolk around her, much like a biologist watches scum on a pond (that’s Miss Marple’s analogy, not mine). Anecdotes burst out of the pages about “Fred Tyler, at the fish shop” who pinched a penny here and there, or “Nurse Ellerton – really an excellent, kindly woman” – who was also an angel of death. These village parallels are part of Miss Marple’s charm, but they are maddening as well. Having never heard of these people, we cannot match wits with Miss Marple the way we can when Poirot brandishes a coffee stain on the china carpet and dares us to suss out its significance.

Miss Marple’s intuitive methods, although they may reveal the solution, rarely provide anything so trivial as state’s evidence. Scotland Yard is surprisingly unruffled by this complication, placing great stock in her seemingly literal ability to sniff out evil:

“It’s rather, you know, like being born with a very keen sense of smell. You can smell a leak of gas when other people can’t do so. You can distinguish one perfume from another very easily. I had an aunt once who said she could smell when people told a lie. She said there was quite a distinctive odor came to her. Their noses twitched, she said, and then the smell came.”

Can you imagine Miss Marple giving evidence in court? And yet it works, at least for me. I love the homespun feeling of her novels, the depiction of how village life changed between and after the wars and yet the ways of human nature remained essentially the same. And I love the surprise of Miss Marple: draped in lace fichu with a knitting basket in her lap, or puttering fondly amongst the sulfur-colored antirrhinums in her garden, she is one of the most ruthless characters in detective fiction. As a result, she always gets her man, even if we’re not always quite sure how she does it.

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That relentlessness is what earns the elderly spinster the sobriquet “Nemesis” in her ninth adventure, A Caribbean Mystery (1964), but Miss Marple displays this burning quality throughout her career, most especially in A Pocket Full of Rye (1953), where the fate of the wealthy Fortescue family pales next to her determination to avenge an insignificant’s maid’s cruelly demeaning murder. She puts her passion for justice into words at the end of 1957’s 4:50 from Paddington (1957):

“’Everything he did was bold and audacious and cruel and greedy, and I am really very, very glad,’ finished Miss Marple, looking as fierce as a fluffy old lady can look, ‘that they haven’t abolished capital punishment yet because I do feel that if there is anyone who ought to hang, it’s . . . ‘”

Another important distinction: aside from a few spoilers that Christie slips in about previous cases, one could read the Poirot novels in any order. The Miss Marple adventures beg one to read from first to last. Her novels have a deeper sense of historical context. The village of St. Mary Mead – and the other villages that stand in for it – undergoes massive physical and sociological change during the forty plus-year span of the novels. The effects of war and politics are discussed on the most basic domestic level, and things like the shortage of servants, a community dealing with rationing, or the encroachment of strangers in the new housing development become significant issues in her mysteries. Series characters undergo changes in circumstance; some of them die. The theme of aging, death, decay and rebirth is central to Miss Marple, who would herself be one hundred and twenty years old if we did not take into account the vagaries of a fictional timeline.

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I’ve nattered on about the character here in preface to a discussion about Nemesis. Brian, a fellow Christie fan, recently asked me what I thought of the book. Look what you’ve wrought, Brian! I’ve approached the novel in a roundabout fashion because I have many problems with it. But I love Miss Marple, and I can’t simply dismiss the book as a failure, given its singular prominence in the canon.

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Around 1940, Christie decided to write two “final adventures,” one for Poirot and the other for Miss Marple. She did this partly because of fears engendered by the war raging around her (she thought a bomb would drop on her!) and partly to provide future financial security for her family. Curtain, Poirot’s swan song, makes total sense. By 1940, she had written nearly a score of Poirot novels; he was her bread and butter. And Curtain most definitely reads as a final adventure. But what to make of Sleeping Murder? At the time, the Miss Marple novels numbered exactly . . . one! Christie claimed in her Autobiography that she had never thought of continuing Miss Marple’s career. Sleeping Murder suggests she had changed her mind, yet there is no sense of a finale here. In fact, it almost defies placement in the chronology of Miss Marple’s life or of world events. If anything, I would put Sleeping Murder early in a timeline of the sleuth’s career, for it delves less into the themes I mentioned above, and it includes a freshly married Raymond West and his wife, two characters who, by the later novels, had dwindled in significance.

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Nemesis (1971), the last written Miss Marple novel, feels much more like a curtain call, a special event. First of all, it’s the only time in the entire canon that Christie created a definite sequel. Nemesis picks up one year after A Caribbean Mystery leaves off. (This is a bit problematical, not just because seven years have actually passed between the publication of the two novels but because Miss Marple seems to have jammed her ill-fated holiday to Bertram’s Hotel in between. And granted that Miss Marple is an old lady, but her imperfect memory over those striking events of just a year ago strike one as an implausible literary convenience.) In the tropics, our heroine met Jason Rafiel, a cantankerous millionaire invalid, who became her unlikely partner in solving a brutal string of murders. In Nemesis, Mr. Rafiel asks for Miss Marple’s assistance in another matter, this time from the grave.

In shape and form, Nemesis is unlike any earlier case Miss Marple has tackled. Up till now, we have been given the trappings of a traditional mystery – the closed circle of either a family or a village community, the intriguing set-up, the murder – and then we introduce Miss Marple to the proceedings, sometimes very late in the affair. Here, the focus is, from beginning to end, on the old lady herself. We never leave Miss Marple’s side or her point of view. And there’s no Dermot Craddock or Sir Henry Clithering to consult with, no vicar’s wife to visit. We are visitors into Miss Marple’s state of mind, witnesses to her methods as she embarks on her most unusual mystery case. In fact, one could hardly call it a mystery in the traditional sense: it is more what another character in the novel describes as a “pilgrimage” – a quest to uncover evil.

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I think these aberrations from the “same old same old” are the reasons many people not only like Nemesis but mark it as one of their favorites. The other reason, I would venture to say, is that when one has finished the book, the whole thing leaves one with an ineffable sadness, both because the solution reveals a situation and motive not found elsewhere in Christie . . . and because it feels like a farewell to arguably the greatest spinster detective ever. There’s another reason to feel sad, though: Nemesis is the second of that final, fateful quartet of Christie novels that lay bare the truth about her fading talents. It’s definitely the best of the four – Passenger to Frankfurt may be the most outdated and embarrassing thriller any author has ever written, Elephants Can Remember is a short story stretched to novel length that caves in on its own faulty timeline, and Postern of Fate is simply . . . incomprehensible. I ask myself, “What would you have, Bradley?” Would it have been better if these novels hadn’t been published and we fans had been deprived of four more titles? The answer is complicated, and it has to do with asking why the editors couldn’t have stepped in and helped.

But back to Nemesis. The request Mr. Rafiel delivers to Miss Marple is simply stated:

“You, my dear, if I may call you that, have a natural flair for justice, and that has led to your having a natural flair for crime. I want you to investigate a certain crime.”

The crime in question is of mammoth importance to Mr. Rafiel, and so the fact that he gives no details about it to Miss Marple makes no sense whatsoever. Neither does the time limit he sets:

“You are not young, but you are, if I may say so, tough. I think I can trust a reasonable fate to keep you alive for a year at least.”

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Why a year? Why not supply her with the basic knowledge she needs to begin? The “answer” we are given to that question is that Mr. Rafiel wants to entice Miss Marple with a chance to “play” detective. He seems to hope that she will find pleasure in this quest, despite the fact that any delay in uncovering the truth prolongs the suffering of somebody who was denied the justice Mr. Rafiel seeks.

Even Sam Spade was given something to go on, no matter that Brigid O’Shaughnessy’s initial request was as bogus as the name she gave. Miss Marple receives Mr. Rafiel’s request twice, first through his lawyers and then in a direct appeal, with no information forthcoming. She makes a visit to an old familiar character and learns nothing. On faith, she embarks on a coach tour of Famous Houses and Gardens, hoping that her nose for evil will sniff out whatever it is Mr. Rafiel wants her to uncover. And from the start, none of this pilgrimage makes much sense, starting from the dead man’s arrangements. Based on the people he places in Miss Marple’s way, one has to wonder what it is that Mr. Rafiel knew about the events of the past. Based on Miss Marple’s initial frustration, one has to ask why Rafiel didn’t simply put her in touch with the person with whom Miss Marple has her first specific, fact-based consultation. This doesn’t occur until Chapter Twelve (“A Consultation”). Until then, we are left in as woolly a muddle as Miss Marple and have nothing to do but follow her thoughts. Some of these are interesting as they reveal her process as a detective:

“She was one of those chatty, fluffy old ladies whom other people expect to talk, to ask questions that were, on the face of it, merely gossipy questions. She would talk about her childhood and that would lead to one of the sisters talking about theirs. She’d talk about food she had eaten, servants she had had, daughters and cousins and relations, travel, marriages, births and – yes – deaths.”

Unfortunately, her methods are put to use in fruitless ways. On the coach, she surveys her fellow passengers and creates portraits of the kind of people they are based on their looks. This is bad detecting, and it doesn’t do much for Christie’s reputation with characterization that all the people on the coach can be so easily identified. It becomes even more frustrating when we learn that most of this group of fifteen have little or nothing to do with the matter at hand. Christie tries to plant a sense of unease and suspicion, but most of these moments come to naught, and one tease, which stretches through the entire novel, culminates in one of the most insufferable deus ex machina moments ever witnessed.

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Eventually, Miss Marple begins to gather bits and pieces of something that may or may not lead to something else. This miniscule bit of information is gone over again and again in conversation after conversation. Christie never provides us with summative statements here – you know, the ones that keep things moving along, like, “She then related all that she had learned from her visit to Mrs. Glynne.” Instead, Miss Marple goes over all the details yet again, as if this will clear matters up once and for all. Rereading the novel this time, I found myself growing more and more angry at Mr. Rafiel’s selfish manipulation of the situation. Perhaps this is a clever bit of characterization on Christie’s part – he was a selfish jerk through most of A Caribbean Mystery – but I don’t think so. I think the author had a clever idea for a set-up, one that would bring in her longtime fans. I think she had an idea for a murder that seemed thought-provoking and modern for the times. But I fear that she did not know how to lead us from Point A to Point Z in her usual misdirecting manner. Her well of ideas appears to have run dry. In fact, the crime turns out to be a pale copy of one of Miss Marple’s earlier successes, and it baffles me that she doesn’t simply say, “Oh, this is the old Boogah Woogah Plan from You Know When!” Her faulty memory must be to blame.

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Is the novel a total loss? Well, no. Miss Marple’s final confrontation with the killer is a chilling scene, maybe not as shocking to readers as she intended it to be but effective – at least until that deus ex machina moment I mentioned. And if Christie’s mighty talents have faded due to her own age and infirmity, here it serves as a parallel to the situation Miss Marple finds herself in her last case. At least we can cherish the time spent so intimately with a character we have loved since she first sat by the fire in 1927, listening to her friends recount odd stories of open cases, every one of which she solved without dropping a stitch. And we can hold to our hearts the legacy of an author who, for the better part of fifty years, baffled and delighted us.

I miss her every day.

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26 thoughts on “IN THE END IS MY BEGINNING: Agatha Christie’s Nemesis

  1. Fascinating comparison/contrast here, Brad. You know, I’ve often wondered at Christie’s ability to invite readers to believe her Miss Marple as a sleuth. Not because she’s not curious, shrewd, and so on, but precisely because of the point you make about how easily she’s accepted. And yet, as you say, it works. It’s also interesting to me that Christie mapped out two such different sleuths (among the others, of course). Very different experiences from the same pen, and that deserves credit.

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  2. Nick Fuller once noted favorably that Nemesis “… isn’t a repeat performance of The Amazing Psychic Jane Nemesis, Elderly Spinster and Clairvoyante Extraordinaire…,” which qualities may well be the remarkable ability you’re discussing!

    To be honest, I haven’t read this one, so your argument that it, rather than Sleeping Murder, feels like Miss Marple’s envoi intrigues me greatly. Thanks as always, Brad.

    I prefer Poirot myself (*said the doddery colonel, puffing out his chest as he spoke*), more for the quality of the books than the character per se. I love Jane Marple’s characterization in The Murder in the Vicarage–“the worst cat in the village,” as the (uncharitable) vicar calls her–but the whimsical, “oh, dear” characterization of many of the later books does not exactly appeal to me. (Oddly enough, though, Angela Lansbury’s Marple-clone Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote does appeal to me, but then that may be because Fletcher reminds me so much of my grandmother.)

    By the way, my favorite Christie sleuths, as characters, happen to be Tommy and Tuppence (and their near-clones, Bobby Jones and Frankie Derwant of Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?) and Harley Quin and Mr. Satterthwaite.

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  3. I am on the fence between Marple and Poirot. I used to think I preferred Marple, but the more I read (or reread) Christie’s stories, the better I like Poirot. You have me very curious about Nemesis, but if I continue to read them in order and at my slow pace, it may be years before I get there.

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      1. I did read a lot of Christie in my teens and twenties (plus Rex Stout and Erle Stanley Gardner) but I am much older than you I am sure, and I remember only two of those books (Roger Ackroyd and Orient Express). So I can safely read them now and it is all like new… And I am enjoying it more than I expected.

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      2. I’m getting up there too, Tracy. It’s the opposite for me: I read a lot of Rex Stout and Erle Stanley Gardner, and I can’t remember them at all. Kind of fun to be able to re-read if one wants. I only wish I could do that with Agatha Christie!

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  4. There are some messy features about this one – Miss Marple is forever moving from a hotel to a house and back again, forever packing and unpacking pointlessly. And the whole Rafiel setup is ludicrous as you so rightly say. I longed to take an editing pencil to it. And yet – parts of it are quite wonderful, and it is tremendously affecting. I love this bit from your review:

    when one has finished the book, the whole thing leaves one with an ineffable sadness, both because the solution reveals a situation and motive not found elsewhere in Christie . . . and because it feels like a farewell to arguably the greatest spinster detective ever. 

    Perfect Brad.

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    1. Well, at least Miss Marple leaves on a great foot, unlike Poirot. In NEMESIS, Miss Marple enjoys the fortune given to by Jason Rafiel and she can spend it on her little indulgences such as partridges, marrons glacés, and a trip to the opera. The series ends on a happy note!

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  5. NEMESIS stands for some editing and revising. The book is wordy and some scenes go on far too long. I think if Agatha Christie’s editors worked on tightening the book, it could have been one of the best of Christie’s later books, on the level of Endless Night and The Pale Horse. Aside from that, the mystery itself is original (though there are some flaws and there is a plot hole in the solution) and the characters (specifically the Bradbury-Scott sisters and Elizabeth Temple) are interesting. Onto the characters, the ones from the coach tour weren’t that much interesting than the characters I previously referred to. The mystery goes at rather a slow pace and the rambling doesn’t help. For the majority of today’s readers who prefer more hands-on action, Nemesis needs to be read with patience and perseverance, more than your average Christie book (aside from maybe Postern of Fate).

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    1. Aside from the four characters you name, nobody else matters. Professor Wanstead gives valuable information. If Mr. Rafiel had just sent Miss Marple to see him first thing, we could have cut over a hundred pages, but then Christie would have had to come up with a plot. Nora Broad is mentioned far too often; this is a pale redo of The Body in the Library.

      The only good stuff is that we remain so tightly by Miss Marple’s side and get her sense of self. We actually see her choose and apply her methods. And that final scene with the killer is effective; if only it weren’t ruined by the clumsy deus ex machina at the end!

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      1. I agree with you with the scene between Miss Marple and the murderer — one of the best scenes written; by the way, it was wonderfully portrayed in the Joan Hickson film. If it weren’t for the deus ex machina, how would you have had Miss Marple get out of that situation? The deus ex machina wasn’t that bad. I mean, there have been worse ones done by other writers. This one could have been worse than it was. But it’s a good thing that the deus ex machina didn’t show up out of the blue. It wouldn’t have been a good move if the two characters that intervened were never referred to in the book. So in that regard Agatha Christie played fair

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  6. Why the secrecy? Why the scene in the garden at the beginning of the novel? Why were these two characters so mysterious with Miss Marple? Why not give her that added s new of security an elderly lady traveling alone might crave? Their presence was far two cage and too brief for them to provide a sense of menace or even of mystery. It was just another thread added to make a simple plot seem more complex.

    Why talk about “other men in Verity’s life” and then introduce nobody. Why introduce the idea of a serial killer and ten provide no suspects?

    What exactly did Mr. Rafiel comprehend about this plot that would prompt him to link Miss Marple with Elizabeth Temple? And how coincidental that it all goes down when the tour hits the hometown of the three sisters.

    If Mr. Rafiel did it this way to give Miss Marple the “flush of pleasure” of playing detective, why does she only display frustration and annoyance? Compare this murder in the past with a superior one – Five Little Pigs or even Sparkling Cyanide – and Nemesis comes off even worse.

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    1. Well, Mr. Rafiel collected everyone (Elizabeth Hunt, Bradbury-Scott sisters, etc) who was a link to Verity Hunt and Miss Marple was to partake of these people and connect the dots so to speak; in other words, to piece together a portrait of who was who and the events that lead up to Verity’s death. Mr. Rafiel planned it very carefully.

      Well, of course, Mr. Rafiel gave Miss Marple this conundrum to solve to give her a “flush of pleasure” but he didn’t promise that this case would be easy, that it would be without frustration. There’s been some frustration (maybe not as much as it is here) with Miss Marple in solving the case in “A Carribean Mystery”. Given the fact that Miss Marple was indicated to solve a case and ensure justice, but without being given any clues, of course there will be some frustration and annoyance at Miss Marple’s end but that didn’t mean that she didn’t find some pleasure in solving this case.

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      1. Then I guess I would argue that the frustration lay with this reader, who became very frustrated with the lack of solid storyline for me to follow for way too much of this novel! Nice set-up, nice finale, great spending so much intimate time with Miss Marple, but an utterly flabby middle.

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    2. Concerning the two “Guardian Angels” as referred to in the book, I think there were enough appearances for the reader to look at and wonder who they were and Miss Marple, in the course of the novel, even questions whether she saw one of them earlier on, which should alert the reader, prod the reader to question along with Miss Marple. It was appropriate for their presence to be caged. As a reader, we suspect along with Miss Marple who these two women are and it raises more questions on top of the ones associated with clarifying Jason Rafiel’s mysterious invitation. They didn’t need to be continually referred to throughout the book. They are seen here and there, briefly, and then they return in the end and then we slap our foreheads and say, “Of course, why didn’t I see that?” In that regard the deus ex machina was played rather fairly, it wasn’t just thrown in the reader’s face. Then we as a reader–I should would–would say, “That’s not fair. How could anyone have seen that coming? These “Guardian Angels” were never referred to anywhere.” You give the reader just enough to cause suspicion and question and then you let go then the revelation comes at the end. That’s what happened in the case of these “Guardian Angels”.

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      1. The problem is that I never said, “Of course, why didn’t I see that?” It was obvious to me where Miss Marple had seen the woman before – there was only one incident like it in the book – and after that, what was I supposed to suspect these women of? They never evolved into a significant enough part of the story for me to care about them.

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  7. Brad, while I agree that a lot of Christie’s later novels had a great set up and sometimes a middle that is less than stellar, NEMESIS’s flabby middle is most likely due to the rambling and wordiness, but aside from that the middle is stellar and does a great job of having us question whether Michael Rafiel was really behind Verity Hunt’s death.

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  8. Enjoyed reading your post and I agree that this is not the strongest of Christie Marple books. But this is a rare instance of the television adaptation being better than the book. When I think of NEMESIS I always have in my mind the great Joan Hickson and the visually gorgeous way the story was adapted for the Marple series in the 80’s. The addition of a nephew (I think) in marital trouble to be Miss Marple’s travel buddy works very well. The casting of the episode is perfection. Every single character is beautifully cast. And that green bus OH MY GOODNESS – I fell in love with that bus. 🙂

    As for the book, I’ve always questioned Rafiel’s motivation too. Surely he couldn’t have been that worried about the person unfairly suspected of the crime (or maybe he was convinced that the person had committed the crime and this was just last minute ‘what if’ or ‘just in case’) if he waited for this last minute to have Miss Marple (and elderly woman) look into it. I’ve given Rafiel the benefit of the doubt but still…It is pretty annoying that he doesn’t give Miss Marple more to work with.

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    1. I enjoyed the Joan Hickson version and it’s a good example of an adaptation that maintains the plot and the important key characters without straying so far away that it becomes a story with new clothes. The addition of Lionel, Miss Marple’s nephew, makes sense since it would be quite challenging to have Miss Marple, hearing her own thoughts on screen, while at the same time not boring the viewers. What makes Nemesis shine are its veteran actors and I concur, Yvette, it is perfection! The actors who played the Bradbury-Scott sisters were perfect; Helen Cherry who starred as Elizabeth Temple looked just a school headmistress. Likewise with Professor Wanstead. When Wanstead interviews Nora Broad’s mother, it’s such a raw, genuine scene. We get a look at a woman whose daughter disappeared and was never seen again and she has turned to drinking to cope which appears to have escalated to out of control. If this scene was played today, I don’t think it would have looked as poignant and raw as it did. And a lot of that has to do with how scenes are filmed today to suit contemporary audiences. In that scene between Wanstead and Mrs. Broad, there is no fancy camera work–no, the camera stays on Wanstead then on Mrs. Broad as she talks about her daughter. In the book, Michael Rafiel is off screen but this isn’t so in the film. I have mixed feelings about this, but then again, I understand the difference between print and film mediums. But I do have to say that the Michael Rafiel from the book appeared more like a “bad boy” than his film counterpart. I did like the final scene in the film when Michael meets Miss Marple and hands her that note from his father. It brings such a finality to the mystery.

      The changes within the film from the book were appropriate and sensible, unlike the ones with Geraldine McEwan and Julie McKenzie where I come away scratching my head.

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    2. I think one of the reasons why Jason Rafiel doesn’t give Miss Marple more to work with or expand on what he wants her to uncover is because of Miss Marple’s nature. He learned a lot about who Miss Marple was in A CARIBBEAN MYSTERY. He discovers that she is full of determination and never lets go. He labels her “Nemesis”, the goddess of retribution — the avenging deity. He knows that she fights for justice and doesn’t let evil go unpunished or unnoticed. She is not intimidated no matter how hard things may get. In A Caribbean Mystery, Jason Rafiel was ruthless and rude to her but Miss Marple never let him intimidate her. She does display some frustration and annoyance but she isn’t going to quit and Mr. Rafiel KNEW that she wouldn’t, no matter what happened.

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  9. Interesting when Miss Marple unpacks during her first night at the Old Manor where the Bradbury-Scott sisters resides (and I must add these 3 characters are convincingly written and you get a sense of their sisterhood and the brokenness that Verity Hunt’s death caused in their lives) she retrieves “a small devotional book which she had been reading.” Was Miss Marple a religious woman? I think she did go to church. I don’t recall hearing anything about her being religious as I did with Poirot and his Catholicism. But Miss Marple does display certain themes in her attitude that lines up with the Bible such as redemption, justice, suspicious of human nature, truth, retribution. I think Agatha Christie puts a lot of her faith not only in this book but in the character of Miss Marple, along with taking composites of her aunt and grandmama in the mix.

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    1. Miss Marple is a churchgoing woman throughout, as well as a member of various ladies’ church groups and a great friend to various canons and vicars. She stays with such friends in at least two of her books. She quotes from Scripture regularly, so I assume she knows her bible. She’s not a zealot as far as I can see, but she has a great conviction in the presence and the power of sin and a desire to vanquish the evil she comes across.

      To be honest, the Bradbury-Scott sisters are so unalike that the only reason I can see for them living together is the exigency of the times for older women, especially widows and spinsters. They are at their least interesting when they are together.

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      1. I’m going to fight to the death with this book, despite the flaws. The Bradbury-Scott sisters being so unlike is what makes them intriguing, unlike making them similar to one another. They all have something in them that distinguishes them from one another. They are surely more interesting than the characters on the bus coach, aside from Elizabeth Temple and Professor Wanstead.

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  10. Sure, but that’s the point I made at the beginning of this whole thing! All the bus passengers are boring and unnecessary except the two you mentioned! And that’s pretty much the case throughout the book. So much happens that isn’t necessary. There is way too much filler here! But you don’t have to fight with me, Brian. You can have your opinion all you like. I respect that! You’re just not going to change my mind. 🙂

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  11. Interesting how in “NEMESIS” Agatha Christie refers to the 1967 book “Rosemary’s Baby” which then became a film the following year. We know that Christie was an avid reader so I wonder if she ever read it? I haven’t come across any information that said so.

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