It is the first novel to feature the character of Miss Marple although the character had previously appeared in short stories published in The Royal Magazine and The Story-Teller Magazine starting in December 1927. These earlier stories would later appear in book form in The Thirteen Problems in 1932.
In St. Mary Mead, no one is more despised than Colonel Protheroe. Even the local vicar has said that killing him would be doing a service to the townsfolk. So when Protheroe is found murdered in the same vicar's study, and two different people confess to the crime, it is time for the elderly spinster Jane Marple to exercise her detective abilities.
The vicar and his wife, Leonard and Griselda Clement respectively, who made their first appearance in this novel, continue to show up in Miss Marple stories: notably, in The Body in the Library (1942) and 4.50 from Paddington (1957)
Literary significance and receptionEdit
The Times Literary Supplement of November 6, 1930 posed the various questions as to who could have killed Protheroe and why and concluded, "As a detective story, the only fault of this one is that it is hard to believe the culprit could kill Prothero [sic] so quickly and quietly. The three plans of the room, garden, and village show that almost within sight and hearing was Miss Marple, who 'always knew every single thing that happened and drew the worst inferences.' And three other 'Parish cats' (admirably portrayed) were in the next three houses. It is Miss Marple who does detect the murderer in the end, but one suspects she would have done it sooner in reality".
The review of the novel in The New York Times Book Review of November 30, 1930 began, "The talented Miss Christie is far from being at her best in her latest mystery story. It will add little to her eminence in the field of detective fiction." The review went on to say that, "the local sisterhood of spinsters is introduced with much gossip and click-clack. A bit of this goes a long way and the average reader is apt to grow weary of it all, particularly of the amiable Miss Marple, who is sleuth-in-chief of the affair." The reviewer summarised the set-up of the plot and concluded, "The solution is a distinct anti-climax."
H.C. O'Neill in The Observer of December 12, 1930 said that, "here is a straightforward story which very pleasantly draws a number of red herrings across the docile reader's path. There is a distinct originality in her new expedient for keeping the secret. She discloses it at the outset, turns it inside out, apparently proves that the solution cannot be true, and so produces an atmosphere of bewilderment."
In the Daily Express of October 16, 1930 Harold Nicolson said, "I have read better works by Agatha Christie, but that does not mean that this last book is not more cheerful, more amusing, and more seductive than the generality of detective novels."
In a short review of October 15, 1930, the Daily Mirror said that, "Bafflement is well sustained."
Robert Barnard: "Our first glimpse of St Mary Mead, a hotbed of burglary, impersonation, adultery and ultimately murder. What is it precisely that people find so cosy about such stories? The solution boggles the mind somewhat, but there are too many incidental pleasures to complain, and the strong dose of vinegar in this first sketch of Miss Marple is more to modern taste than the touch of syrup in later presentations."
Film, TV or theatrical adaptationsEdit
The Murder at the Vicarage (1949 play)Edit
The story was adapted into a play by Moie Charles and Barbara Toy in 1949 and opened at the Playhouse Theatre on December 16. Miss Marple was played by Barbara Mullen.
- Main article: Murder at the Vicarage (play)
The BBC adapted the book into a film on December 25, 1986, with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple, Paul Eddington as the vicar, and Polly Adams as Anne Protheroe. The adaptation was generally very close to the original novel with two major exceptions: the characters of Dr. Stone and Gladys Cram were deleted, and Frank Tarrent is present in the kitchen of the Vicarage while the murder takes place.
It was again presented on ITV by Granada Television in 2004 with Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple, Tim McInnerny as the vicar, Derek Jacobi as Colonel Protheroe and Janet McTeer as his wife. This version eliminates the characters of Dr Stone and Gladys Cram, replacing them with Professor Dufosse and his granddaughter Helene, and the reclusive Mrs Lestrange becomes a lavish alcoholic named Mrs Lester. Miss Marple is given an ankle injury during the course of the lead-up to the murder. In this adaptation, Miss Marple is portrayed as a close friend of Anne Protheroe. A major departure for the book is the addition of a series of flashbacks to Miss Marple's youth and her love affair with a married soldier.
In both versions the Vicar has a somewhat reduced role and does not participate in the investigation in a significant degree since his presence as narrator was unnecessary in a filmed version.
Graphic novel adaptationEdit
The Murder at the Vicarage was released by HarperCollins as a graphic novel adaptation on May 20, 2008, adapted and illustrated by "Norma" (Norbert Morandière) (ISBN 0-00-727460-2). This was translated from the edition first published in France by Emmanuel Proust éditions in 2005 under the title of L'Affaire Protheroe.
- 1930, Collins Crime Club (London), October 1930, Hardcover, 256 pp
- 1930, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1930, Hardcover, 319 pp
- 1948, Penguin Books, Paperback, (Penguin number 686), 255 pp
- 1948, Dell Books (New York), Paperback, 223 pp
- 1961, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 191 pp
- 1976, Greenway edition of collected works (William Collins), Hardcover, 251 pp, ISBN 0-00-231543-2
- 1978, Greenway edition of collected works (Dodd Mead and Company), Hardcover, 251 pp
- 1980, Ulverscroft Large Print Edition, Hardcover, 391 pp, ISBN 0-7089-0476-9
- 2005, Marple Facsimile edition (Facsimile of 1930 UK first edition), September 12, 2005, Hardcover, ISBN 0-00-720842-1
The novel was first serialised in the US in the Chicago Tribune in fifty-five instalments from Monday, August 18 to Monday, October 20, 1930.
The dedication of the book reads:
The subject of this dedication is Christie's daughter, Rosalind Hicks (1919–2004) who was the daughter of her first marriage to Archibald Christie (1890–1962) and Agatha Christie's only child. Rosalind was eleven years of age at the time of the publication of this book.
The blurb on the inside flap of the dustjacket of the first edition (which is also repeated opposite the title page) reads:
"In the peaceful village of St. Mary Mead nothing ever happens. So it seems almost incredible when Colonel Protheroe, the churchwarden, is discovered, shot through the head, in the Vicarage study. Everybody thinks they know who has done it – including Miss Marple, the real old maid of the village who knows everything and sees everything and hears everything! She declares that at least seven people have reasons for wishing Colonel Protheroe out of the way! Excitement dies down when somebody confesses to having committed the crime. But that is not the end, for almost immediately somebody quite different also confesses! And there is a third confession through the telephone! But who really killed Colonel Protheroe?”
- Czech: Vražda na faře (Murder at the Vicarage)
- French: L'affaire Prothéroe (Protheroe's case)
- German: Mord im Pfarrhaus (Murder at the Vicarage)
- Hungarian: Gyilkosság a paplakban (Murder at the Vicarage)
- Lithuanian: Žmogžudystė klebonijoje (Murder at the Vicarage)
- Polish: Morderstwo na plebanii (Murder at the Vicarage)
- Romanian: Crimă la Vicariat (Murder at the Vicarage)
- Russian: Убийство в доме викария (Murder at the Vicar's House)
- Swedish: Mordet i Prästgården (Murder at the Vicarage)
- Turkish: Ölüm Çığlığı (The death scream)
- Serbian: Ubistvo u parohijskom domu (Murder at the Vicarage)
- Italian: La morte nel villaggio (Murder at the Vicarage)
- Spanish: Muerte en la vicaría (Murder at the Vicarage)