Miss Jane Marple
Profile on Marple
This site dedicated to Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot wouldn't be complete without some discussion of Jane Marple. The elderly spinster from the fictitious village of St. Mary Mead, appearing in twelve novels and in twenty short stories, ranks as readers' second favorite detective next to Poirot. Miss Marple (as she is affectionately known) is a tall, thin woman of between 65 and 70 years of age. She has white snowy hair, pale blue eyes, and a pinkish wrinkled face. Two of her hobbies (and subjects of conversation) are bird watching and gardening, and she is often seen carrying knitting needles and yarn. Never married, Miss Marple has a young nephew Raymond who is a novelist. Miss Marple was based on the old ladies, or her grandmother's "cronies", Christie remembered when she was a girl.
However, anyone that really knows her sees that Miss Marple is a shrewd and intelligent woman, and a keen observer of human nature. There she differs with Poirot, for she believes that all people are alike everywhere, with their bad traits and evil desires (even in the small village where she lives). She doesn't need the "grey cells" of Poirot nor the help from Scotland Yard, simply only her observations and knowledge of people are what lead her to the truth.
Many actresses have portrayed Marple on stage and screen. Among them are Angela Lansbury, Helen Hayes, Margaret Rutherford, Joan Hickson, and Geraldine McEwan. These last two actresses have played Marple on television. Hickson, whom many believed had done a brilliant portrayal, was Marple in the BBC 1980's series. McEwan plays the role of Marple currently, on the UK's ITV1 series. More information about McEwan as Marple is found at her official site.
A Few of Her Novels
Since she appears in many novels, there is not enough space to mention each one. She makes her first appearance in Murder at the Vicarage in 1930: in the vicar's study, an old colonel is found dead. Her next full novel doesn't appear until 1942 in The Body in the Library (she appeared in short stories in the 1930's). Friends of Marple's find a dead young girl in their library and Miss Marple sets off discovering a plot for a fortune. In A Murder Is Announced (1950), Miss Marple learns of a murder at an elderly lady's house and its mysterious newspaper announcement, and sets forth the solution. (This by far is J. D. Hobbs' favorite Marple story.)
Miss Marple discovers that any family can hide secrets when she uncovers the strangling of a woman on a train in the novel 4:50 from Paddington (1957). In the 1964 book A Caribbean Mystery, Miss Marple is given a trip to the West Indies from her nephew and there meets a retired major who ends up being killed to protect a murderer's identity; a rich businessman also aids Marple to discover the murderer. In Nemesis (1971), the only direct sequel of Agatha's books, Miss Marple uncovers the truth of a young girl's death and to free the wrongfully accused son of the businessman whom she met in her Caribbean vacation.
Her last novel is Sleeping Murder, in 1976, in which she is again away from her village of St. Mary Mead. Although published in 1976 (after Christie's death), the novel was written during the raids in World War II and put in a bank vault for safekeeping. Unlike Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple lives past her last novel.
The photo on the right shows the first meeting of Christie's beloved detectives: Jane Marple (Joan Hickson) and Hercule Poirot (David Suchet). Although they never appeared in the same story, they meet here in 1990 for Agatha Christie's centenary celebration in her hometown of Torquay, a seaside town in Devonshire.
St. Mary Mead--Home of Miss Marple
St. Mary Mead is the fictional village where Miss Marple lives. Through the years and novels, the town is shown to have dramatic growth and change. The town is about 25 miles from London and about 12 miles from the coast. Much of Jane Marple's success comes from her simple observations of the denizens of the village.
Click on "St. Mary Mead Map" on the menu above or to the left here. What you'll get is an in-depth look at some of these inhabitants and their village. A map will cover this window entirely (once there, you can click the link to return here). Since the map is detailed (and big), it would work best if your monitor's screen size is at least 1024 x 768.