The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side by Agatha Christie read by Joan Hickson

Starring Marina Gregg…

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

From the oldest inhabitants to the newest of newcomers in the new housing development, all of St Mary Mead is agog. Gossington Hall has been sold, and the buyer is the famous movie actress Marina Gregg and her fourth – or is it fifth? – husband, film producer Jason Rudd. The villagers’ first chance to see the star up close is when Marina hosts a charity event in support of the St John’s Ambulance Society. While most of the villagers are restricted to attending the fête in the grounds of the Hall, a select few are invited to join Miss Gregg inside for cocktails. One of these lucky people is Heather Badcock, local representative of the Ambulance Society and lifelong fan of Marina Gregg. In fact, it’s while she’s boring Marina with a long story about how they met once before long ago that Mrs Badcock is taken suddenly ill, and then dies. Mrs Bantry, the previous owner of the Hall, witnesses the whole thing and rushes off to relay the story to her old friend, Miss Jane Marple…

First published in 1962, this is one of the later Christie stories, at the tail end of her own golden age, just before the quality of her books began to show serious decline. There is a bit of rambling and repetitiveness in this one, but not too much, and the portrayal of the changes to the village and a very elderly Miss Marple coping with modern life are great. I always feel that in these later books especially, Christie used Miss Marple as a conduit through which to muse on her own reactions to ageing and the changes in society.

Marina Gregg was played by the beautiful and much-married Elizabeth Taylor in the 1980 film, opposite a marvellous performance from Kim Novak as Lola Brewster, her rival and now to be her co-star. This is a bit of a deviation from the plot of the book but the two women ham it up for all they’re worth and make the parts so much their own that now, when I read the book, it’s them I see in the roles. I always felt that Marina’s life mirrored Elizabeth Taylor’s own scandalous (for the time) life, and wondered if Agatha Christie had had her in mind while writing. However, wikipedia tells me Christie probably had a different actress in mind, but Marina will always be Elizabeth Taylor to me! (Do not look this up on wikipedia if you intend to read the book, as it is a major plot spoiler.)

Inspector Dermot Craddock is assigned to the case. He already knows Miss Marple from a previous case so has no hesitation in discussing this one with her and seeking her assistance in understanding the locals. It’s good to have Mrs Bantry back too – one of my favourite occasional characters. I find it a little sad to see Miss Marple quite so old and physically frail in this one, although her mind is still as sharp as ever. But the star is the star – Marina Gregg’s personality and presence dominate the book, and Christie gives an excellent and credible portrayal of the mixture of egocentricity and vulnerability of this woman, always on show, never able to be scruffy or rude, loved by so many but unable to find true happiness in her private life.

….“She’s suffered a great deal in her life. A large part of the suffering has been her own fault, but some of it hasn’t. None of her marriages has been happy except, I’d say, this last one. She’s married to a man now who loves her dearly and who’s loved her for years. She’s sheltering in that love, and she’s happy in it. At least, at the moment she’s happy in it. One can’t say how long all that will last. The trouble with her is that either she thinks that at last she’s got to that spot or place or that moment in her life where everything’s like a fairy tale come true, that nothing can go wrong, that she’ll never be unhappy again; or else she’s down in the dumps, a woman whose life is ruined, who’s never known love and happiness and who never will again.”
….He added dryly, “If she could only stop halfway between the two it’d be wonderful for her, and the world would lose a fine actress.”

The plot is great, with one of Christie’s best motives at the root of it. It is fair play but I’d be amazed if anyone gets the whole thing – the who perhaps would be possible, but the why is brilliantly hidden in plain sight. One of my pleasures in re-reading these Christies is knowing the solution and so being able to spot how cleverly she conceals the real clues among the red herrings. She hardly ever cheats and it’s a joy to see a mistress of the craft at work. And, of course, Joan Hickson is, as always, the perfect narrator for the Miss Marple books. Great stuff!

Audible UK Link
Audible US Link

47 thoughts on “The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side by Agatha Christie read by Joan Hickson

  1. This was one of the first Christie books I read, and I really liked it. Everything was so simple once Miss Marple unraveled the mystery! I haven’t watched this movie, I should check for it. Sounds like a great watch!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m a sucker for the glamorous world of stars in books so add that to Miss Marple and a great motive and this one is made to be a favourite! The movie is great fun – all these huge names having a ball. There’s lots of humour in it, but they do get the pathos of the story too.

      Like

  2. Whenever you review a Christie, I seem to immediately chime in by saying it is one of my favorites. I have too many, that’s the trouble. Marina was such a well crafted, tragic character, and I found the sollution and ending to this story rather poignant. One of the most memorable ones I’d say.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I have the same problem – I think I must have thirty favourites at least! And I’m loving revisiting them through audiobooks – it’s making them feel beautifully fresh again. Yes, I think it’s one of her best motives and more tragic than usual. The wikipedia thing I was warning people not to read says it’s actually based on a true story too, which kinda makes it even sadder.

      Like

  3. As soon as I saw that the narrator here was Joan Hickson, I knew it’d be good, FictionFan. Of course, the story’s great, too, and I always feel for poor Heather… And you’re right about the motive. It’s right there if you know where to look. I liked the film very much, too, but I think I like the book better. Still, a great experience no matter which you choose.

    Liked by 1 person

    • She really is perfect for the Miss Marple books! I think the book is better than the film too, but the film is so much fun with all those big names hamming it up and playing versions of themselves – and I’ve always loved Elizabeth Taylor in anything! Not sure that Angela Lansbury is the best Miss Marple although again I enjoyed her in the role. Kept expecting her to shoot off to Cabot Cove though… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t read this one, but your review assures me I must — and thanks for the warning not to peek at Wikipedia! You know, there’s something a bit sad about watching a favorite character grow older and knowing the author is, too. Still, we’ve got to admire Christie for her plotting!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a good one, Debbie – I’m sure you’d enjoy it! Yes, sometimes I prefer it when detectives are ageless, like Sherlock Holmes. I have a similar feeling about Ian Rankin’s Rebus – I’m not enjoying seeing him become older and have health problems and so on. I know it’s more realistic, but still…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I really enjoyed this when I read it a couple of years ago. I think my favourite Miss Marple remains The Body in the Library, but I agree that the later Marples that Christie wrote when she was older have such an interesting perspective expressed through Marple (though sometimes sad as well).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love The Body in the Library too – another Dolly Bantry one! I think my favourite is The Murder in the Vicarage, though – it’s interesting to contrast that much earlier depiction of St Mary Mead with this one. I also love The Moving Finger which is technically a Miss Marple, but she’s barely in it. Yes, there is a sadder aspect to the ones where Miss Marple is older – both in her failing health and also the way she feels rather out of touch with the modern world. I always assume that’s how Christie must have felt…

      Liked by 1 person

    • I wish I still had them all to read for the first time, but listening to the audiobooks is giving them back some of that fresh feeling for me. This one is great and the movie is a lot of fun – it takes some liberties with the plot but still keeps the main points… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha! Yes, I forgot to mention Angela Lansbury played Miss Marple! She was a lot of fun in it too – not maybe quite like the book Miss Marple, but still great. Mind you, I kept expecting Doc Hazlitt to pop round for coffee and pie… 😉 You must watch it – it’s hugely entertaining with all these big name stars hamming it up!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This used to be one of my favourites till I read that Christie had based it on a real life incident involving a well-known star and since then I am like….should her tragedy have been played out on the pages like this?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I only found that out on this reading and I was a bit shocked to discover it was a real story she’d used. I guess the story was in the public domain already but it still didn’t seem right.

      Like

  7. I have a distinct feeling that I know the ending of this story. I don’t think I’ve ever read it but I must have seen the movie. I might have to read the book to find out if I’m right about the murderer and the motive!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s one of those solutions that’s so unique it tends to stick in the mind. But even if you do know whodunit and why there’s still plenty to enjoy in this one. I never mind knowing the ending of a Christie because I still have the fun of trying to spot the clues… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Joan Hickson narrating…. what a treat! She is far and away my favourite Miss M 😊 I’ve watched way more more Marples and Poirots than I’ve read; they are staple mid-evening fayre in our house when one doesn’t want to struggle too hard to follow along. This may account for why I never have a clue whodunnit regardless of how many times I’ve watched/read/listened to what ever tale Agatha is spinning. Makes them marvellous value for money! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I watch all the adaptations too and sometimes when I re-read the books I realise my memory is actually of the TV or film version – very confusing! My mother was an avid Midsomer Murders fan and said she could watch them again and again because she always fell asleep before the end so never knew whodunit… 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yup, Midsomer is a regular event here. I am constantly surprised when one begins and I’m convinced I’ve never seen it before. Part-way through a distant memory stirs… No wonder I don’t have enough time for books – too much time wasted watching repeats 😂 (Got the Taylor version of this one to watch later on your recommendation. I’ll try to stay awake…. )

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hahaha, that’s why these “cosy” crime series are so relaxing – they automatically switch off our brains! 😂 Oh, I hope you enjoy it – Taylor and Kim Novak have so much fun hamming it up and I forgot to mention Tony Curtis! *swoons*

          Liked by 1 person

Please leave a comment - I'd love to know who's visiting and what you think...of the post, of the book, of the blog, of life, of chocolate...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.