Thursday, 6 October 2022

Audiobook Review - Marple

I am not the biggest Agatha Christie fan (though I do plan to read more of her work and more crime novels from the Golden Age of Crime... they are sitting on my kindle, awaiting angrily for me!), but when I first heard of this new collection of short stories, written by twelve female authors, where they tackle one of the greatest crime fighting creation, created by the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie, I jumped on it! I preordered the author and, being impatient, requested an eProof from NetGalley. 

Title and Author: Marple by Various
Publisher: HarperCollins
Bought, Borrowed or Gifted: eProof gifted by UK publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and bought (then returned) audiobook. 

Oh, you saw the little detail in the info paragraph, did you? I will explain, but stay with me for a little while. 

If you ask most Agatha Christie what format works best with Miss Jane Marple - novel or short story - you might get a split, but most people I know think that she works best in short story form. There's something delicious about her in short stories that work so much nicer than when I read short stories with Poirot as the star (he works best in the novels, I found). But here is Miss Marple, solving crime for a new generation. Miss Marple tackling cases in St Mary Mead, London, New York, Hong Kong and beyond.
Let me say one thing first and foremost: no one can write Agatha Christie but Agatha Christie. Though a few authors have written with Christie's Poirot (Sophie Hannah has written four New Hercule Poirot and is writing a fifth, I think, and I believe Charles Osborne has written three of Christie's plays into novels, one of them being a Poirot mystery, Black Coffee [which I am very curious about. Thoughts on if I should read this?]), but no one has tried to write a new Miss Marple mystery. 

But here we are with twelve stories from twelve very different authors. We have Naomi Alderman, Leigh Bardugo, Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, Elly Griffiths, Natalie Haynes, Jean Kwok, Val McDermid, Karen M. McManus, Dreda Say Mitchell, Kate Mosse and Ruth Ware all taking Miss Marple and running with her. 

Now, this is a collection of short stories so, of course, not all stories are going to work. Plus, each reader is different so, of course, the stories I enjoyed hugely aren't going to the be the stories you like and the stories I dislike might be your faves. Now, I am not going to nitpick over EVERY story (believe me, I could do a complete breakdown on each story if I wanted do!), but there are a few I want to say that I HUGELY enjoyed and some I have questions over. 

Now, the stories that I was a little uncertain on were the ones I enjoyed myself hugely over. Alyssa Cole's Miss Marple Takes Manhattan took me by surprise as I didn't think Marple being in New York would work (and there was a character that I think could have spinoff that would make very fun reading), and Dreda Say Mitchell's A Deadly Wedding Day made me itch to try and read A Caribbean Mystery. Karen M. McManus's The Murdering Sort would make an cool YA spin off (but how old is Miss Marple if the story is told from her great grand niece's point of view?). 

But the story I utterly adore is The Jade Empress by Jean Kwok. It's Miss Marple on a cruise to Hong Kong and it was an utter delight. It was a good mystery, a good use of Marple and it (like a few others stories) updated some of the prejudices that we see in Agatha Christie novels. 

And there are others that just don't work. I wasn't the biggest fan of Evil in Small Places by Lucy Foley, The Unravelling by Natalie Haynes and I took a huge dislike to The Open Mind by Naomi Alderman. I can't see why as all were good, but they didn't work for me. And there was one or two stories that made me go "What EXACTLY is the point of this?"

Now, I listened to most of this by audiobook and there is a HUGE problem: the editing. Now, in a few stories, one or two tiny things happen (editing, repeating, lack of pacing,), but I forgave it. Then we get to Kate Mosse's The Mystery of the Acid Soil and oh my goodness, the editing was appalling. There were coughs, repeating sentence, sentence being read wrong and having to be corrected - how did that recoridng get through editing without anyone noticing? Plus, there is no chapter heading on the Audible recording - there is "track one", "track two", etc. Now, two stories have chapters, but you had no idea where you were in the story/collection because of lack of information. Both of these upset and angered me so much, I had to return my audiobook back to Audible. 

But the collection: hit and miss with stories, but if the publisher and Agatha Christie Estate was thinking of an author to tell a new Miss Marple story, I would say go with Jean Kwok, Ruth Ware or Val McDermid. But any of these authors would bring something new and exciting to the world of Christie. I do hope we have another collection like this... 

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