Originally published 1964
"Like to see the picture of a murderer?"
Major Palgrave was the man with a million stories, and everyone vacationing at the lovely Golden Palm Hotel on the Caribbean island of St. Honoré tried to avoid him like the plague. Once he got started, he never stopped. His latest victim, so to speak, was Jane Marple, who had come to the Golden Palm to recuperate after a serious bout of pneumonia. Knitting bag in hand, Miss Marple was sitting, half listening and making polite replies once in a while, until Major Palgrave started speaking about her favorite topic: murder. He begins to tell her a rather unusual story about a man who got away with murder more than once, and when Palgrave asks her if she wanted to see a picture of a murderer, the knitting stops and she's all eyes and ears. But after he fishes through his wallet for the photo, he suddenly stops and changes the subject rather abruptly and rather loudly. Taken aback, Miss Marple looks up to see why and sees several people nearby. Although curious, she goes right back to her knitting. The next day, when one of the maids finds Major Palgrave dead in his room, apparently from natural causes, Miss Marple can't help but wonder if all is as it seems. When she creates a clever story to retrieve the photograph Palgrave was about to show her, it's gone, and now she's interested.
Miss Marple is the perfect detective. When people look at her they see "all knitting wool and tittle-tattle," and she becomes more or less invisible that way, easily dismissed by most of the players. But one man, wealthy businessman Jason Rafiel, sees right through her. And since Jane is not in St. Mary Mead at the moment, with no help from the likes of Sir Henry Clithering, it is Rafiel to whom she turns in hopes of preventing more death.
A Caribbean Mystery is lighter in tone than some of her other Marple mysteries, slowly paced and there are spots where my interest definitely flagged. The mystery plotline was good, although a bit predictable. The ocean, the sand, the palms and the steel band music definitely brought the Caribbean to mind while reading, since I've been there a number of times. And although this isn't one of my favorites in the Marple series, I couldn't help but enjoy watching her brain at work.
My advice to potential Christie readers: put this one somewhere in the middle of your reading schedule and start with some of the other Marple stories.
as an aside:
This book has been adapted for television twice:
1) with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple
2) with Helen Hayes as Miss Marple
fiction from England