The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side, Agatha Christie (Miss Marple #9). New York: HarperCollins, 2011, originally published 1962.
Summary: A harmless busybody dies of a poisoned drink intended for a famous actress, the beginning of further threats, and murders that follow.
Marina Gregg, a celebrated but temperamental actress and her husband, Jason Rudd have re-habilitated a Victorian mansion once owned by a friend of Miss Marple, Dolly Bantry. They host a reception for distinguished guests and neighbors. Heather Badcock, a local do-gooder and busybody, who earlier had rendered assistance when Miss Marple had fallen by her house, eagerly greets the actress and tells the story of how she had met her years earlier, rising from her sickbed to get the actress’s autograph.
Subsequently she is jostled, spills her drink, and Marina Gregg offers hers. Minutes later Heather Badcock is dead, poisoned by an overdose of a tranquilizer used by everyone connected with the house, it seems. It dawns on both that the poison was meant for Marina. Subsequently, a cup of coffee intended for Marina is laced with arsenic. Then a secretary dies of an atomizer filled with cyanide as does a dress designer. The question is how the killer who is threatening Marina is gaining access.
And Miss Marple? Out of caution for her age, she has an overly-protective live in attendant, who she has to elude. Her doctor thinks she needs to do some “unraveling.” This case allows her that opportunity as her adopted “nephew,” Chief Inspector Craddock, seeks her perspective. As usual, she pays close attention to details–a stained dress and the “help” who saw the accident, the stories in the celebrity gossip magazines and the look on Marina’s face as she talked to Mrs. Badcock, from which the book takes its title, the look on Lady Shalott’s face when she saw the “mirror crack’d from side to side.” What was this look, and what caused it?
This was a delightful read and as always, it is fun to admire Miss Marple’s “spunk.” The ending surprised me, adding to the satisfaction. Side characters like Dolly Bantry, Dr. Haycock, and even Cherry, the housekeeper add to the pleasure. Agatha even sneaks in some commentary on the new “developments” and their lack of personality. No wonder they called Christie “the Queen of Mystery.”