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Very interesting, if subdued meeting last night. We were slightly thrown off our game because instead of reading a full length mystery book, we read a book containing 12 short stories, simply titled Marple. 11 Crime & Beyond members presented the stories, many giving author info and background as well. Thank you Cindy, Nicole, Sharon, Sharon Also, Kerry, Jose, Susan, Emma, Gail, Kelly, Amy (and we missed you Allie).

We discussed each story, whether or not we liked it, and if it was true to the Miss Marple voice. I was surprised to see that the majority of the club members present had never read a Miss Marple book or story. A handful had, a few said they’d read one when they were younger, and most said never. Some are Poirot fans and others (Joel and Jeff) were strictly team Marple.

My favorite Marple:

MissMarple

I wasn’t able to find any info on how the authors were chosen, but I did read that the authors had rules: The writers were asked to follow a set of guidelines. They had to set their stories within the time period in which Miss Marple exists in Christie’s work, and refrain from inventing new backstories for the detective. They were able to incorporate characters and events from the canon of Marple stories, but they were asked not to draw on plot points from other Christie books.

The favorite story was Evil in Small Places by Lucy Foley. Kerry mentioned that an anthology editor once told her that the best stories are usually situated first and last in a book of stories and it’s no surprise that Lucy Foley’s was the first story in the book. The second favorite story was A Deadly Wedding by Dreda Say Mitchell. We had a tie for third with The Second Murder at the Vicarage by Val McDermid and Miss Marple’s Christmas by Ruth Ware.

That last story, the one by Ruth Ware and whose discussion was led by Amy (no brainer) got some of the best discussion. Amy has always been vocal about Ruthie’s “borrowing” of Christie plots (among other authors) for her own books. Ware is dubbed the “modern day Agatha Christie,” a comment that bothers Kerry no end because according to Kerry, she’s nothing like Christie. But the plots...I mean The Turn of the Key says it all. She uses whole plots for her books sometimes and even makes it clear she’s doing it. In her short story, she used a Dorothy L. Sayers story as her inspiration, or so we thought. Apparently, she used absolutely everything from the story (which is attached here courtesy of Amy). She took Sayers’ plot and used it for her story and said that the culprit used the idea for hiding the pearls based on Sayers’ story. We got a good discussion on plagiarism from this and we’re just not sure how far you’re allowed to go. Jose suggested we ban Ruth Ware books. I personally like her stories, so will still vote for them if they appeal, but I think it’s interesting to note that her last one did NOT get chosen. Although full disclosure, I didn’t vote for it because it wasn’t the usual cozy-ish British story. It was cyber something or other and I wasn’t interested. We may be over Ruth, time will tell.

One thing we didn’t discuss was audio versus print. I read a couple of stories and listened to others. My favorite reader was for the last story – Miriam Margolyes. She’s a funny lady and my favorite Graham Norton guest.

We rated the book as a whole and with the scores many noted that they didn’t care for the idea of reading a book of short stories for book club. The comments were that for a novel, you learn the characters and get into the plot and continue on. For short stories you have to get used to the characters over and over again and follow 12 different plots instead of one. Duly noted. Some people read one story, put the book down, came back later, and read the next. Treating them all individually. I think this was a great way to read it. It allowed for small spurts of reading and you maybe didn’t confuse the stories.

The book received six 8s, five 7s, six 6s, five 5s, and two 4s. Two people didn't read it all the way through. Amy got a 10 from Janice for "eviscerating Ruth Ware for her plagiarism."

We all had our favorites (see group vote above) and ones that we either didn’t care for, or really didn’t like. There were some strong feelings about some stories other than Ruthie’s. We really liked some of the clues/twists in some of them. The poisoned apples stuck out, as did the agent/publisher who filled Villa Rosa with people to try and get her writer back on his game. We liked some of the exotic locales (including the ship to Hong Kong) and that some of the stories were told with Marple as a side-ish character and someone else as narrator.

We noted that the time frame spanned quite a bit of the 20th century. We had stories written a few years after the war (assuming WWI – The Great War if you lived then) and then some in the 70s. We tried not to do the math on Marple’s age because she probably wouldn’t be alive for some of the stories. We might have suggested to the editor that they order them chronologically, so we didn’t have so much guess work.

We loved that we got to read so many new-to-us authors, although several people mentioned having read some of the authors before. For those who hadn't, we are excited to check them out. Not all are mystery authors, some are YA or sci fi. As stated before, we’re not sure how the Christie Estate (or the publisher) decided who to invite to write the stories. Jose noted they were all female – I mean, yeah, of course.

If you RSVPd for the Holiday Party, I will see you on December 15. Otherwise, I will see everyone on January 22 when we will discuss The Only One Left by Riley Sager. Claudia is leading and Penny is bringing snacks.

Thank you to everyone who signed up to lead and bring snacks. I have Jose leading Jane Harper in April, and for snacks I have Marilyn in February, Joel in March, Susan in April, Emma in May, and Nicole in June.

We will choose the second half’s books in early May, so if you have any ideas (hint hint – we discussed all the new authors we met in the Marple book) put them in BookMovement. If you don’t have BookMovement access, email me and I’ll invite you again. Most of us are on there, but there are a few who haven’t accepted their invite.

Happy Holidays,

Kerry

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