Publication Date: 1952
Length: 187 pages
I really wanted to finish this book to find out why the title was They Do It With Mirrors. When I learned the reason behind it I thought, "oh why didn't I think of that before!" It seems so obvious now. But that is why Agatha Christie is so popular...she always keeps you guessing and wondering right until the end.
Jane Marple is visiting with her childhood American friend, Ruth Van Rydock, who lives in London. Ruth is very concerned about her sister Carrie Louise, who lives at Stonygates, a Victorian mansion which also serves as a home for wayward juveniles whom Carrie Louise's husband, Lewis, feels can be rehabilitated with enough care and guidance.
Carrie's health has been failing lately and Ruth is concerned that she is in danger from someone on the premises although she can't exactly pinpoint how or why. Living there with Carrie is her granddaughter, Gina and her husband Wally, Carrie's daughter Mildred (not Gina's mother though), her two stepsons Alex and Stephen who often visit her, and a rather strange young man named Edgar Lawson. Edgar is an employee of Carrie's husband Lewis Serrocold but is troubled with delusions of being the son of a famous man, often changing who that man is daily. Most of the family and staff are not concerned and consider him harmless. Also present is Carrie's long time assistant and nurse, Miss Bellever. She is devoted to Carrie and suspicious of anyone interfering with her daily routine to care for her.
As Miss Marple observes the people and surroundings, an unexpected visitor arrives. Carrie's stepson from a previous marriage, Christian Gilbrandsen, who is the trustee of the money his father accumulated. Christian is adoring of Carrie and very protective of her. That evening after dinner, Lewis and Edgar go into Lewis's office and an argument breaks out between them. The guests of the house are able to hear what is going on behind the locked door and when a gun is fired, think the worst, assuming Edgar has finally snapped and shot Lewis. Lewis emerges unharmed but not long after it is discovered that Christian has been shot and killed in another room while in the middle of typing something at his desk. Coincidence? Miss Marple thinks not and she realizes that Ruth has been on to something in her worry over dangerous happenings in the mansion. She begins to suspect Carrie's health problems and the murder are related and has to use her sleuthing skills to find out what is going on before anyone else is harmed.
I enjoyed the psychological mystery in this story. Edgar's delusions, Gina's strange relationship with her two stepbrothers, and the way Carrie Louise seemed to always have a naive, childlike view of everyone in spite of the threatening circumstances. I was completely wrong as to who the murderer was and the why behind it. I guessed at some events correctly though with regards to who might be related to another in a different way than originally presented.
It was also interesting to see how the handling of the juvenile deliquency community was viewed a hundred years ago. Stonygates is a place where Lewis and the doctors there are toying with the idea of reform, something new in that time period. This was a radical departure from the typical feeling of the time that criminals needed punishment, not understanding, and the novel shows the clash of opinions on this subject. I felt it was very modern of Christie to weave it into the narrative.
While I did enjoy this book, I am finding the Miss Marple mysteries to be a bit bland compared to Poirot. He is just a more engaging character for me so I'm looking forward to next month's Read Christie book, Evil Under the Sun.