The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (Agatha Christie)

  • First published: UK, Collins, November 1962; US, Dodd Mead, September 1963, as The Mirror Crack’d…

A rather alien note is struck in St. Mary Mead by the modern Development and by the presence of the drug-addicted, neurotic American entourage (based, one may ask, on what experience?) of the glamorous Marina Gregg, arguably as batty as any of them — not without reason, however, since it soon becomes clear that the poison that killed the St. John’s Ambulance secretary was intended for her. Miss G.’s husbands and adopted children strain the bounds of coincidence, but the plotting is tight without the digressions and dithering that would appear a year or two later; and Miss Marple does a good job of working out the motive, the secret of which is better kept than that of the murderer’s identity.

Blurb (UK)

What was it that Marina Gregg, the famous film actress, saw just before a murder was committed in her house?  What or who caused her expression to change so violently that one observer was reminded of Alfred Tennyson:—

Out flew the web and floated wide

The mirror crack’d from side to side

‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried

The Lady of Shalott.

A few minutes later a body lay dead in Marina’s large house—the second time a victim of wilful murder had been discovered there.

In this new full-length Agatha Christie novel Miss Marple, whose house in St. Mary Mead is close to the scene of the crime, finds a perfect opportunity to indulge in the particular kind of “unravelling” at which she is adept.  Agatha Christie’s millions of fans will enjoy trying to anticipate Miss Marple, as they will enjoy the humour and characterisation of this ingenious and exciting story.

Yet again Agatha Christie demonstrates that in the field of the crime novel her achievement is unique and distinguished.

(US blurb is similar.)

Contemporary reviews

Times Literary Supplement (Anthony Lejeune, 14th December 1962): Miss Marple is very old now but as alert as a bird.  When she learns that the local great house has been bought by a once-famous film star she is intrigued.  When she hears, a few weeks later, that an apparently harmless woman from the neighbouring council estate has been poisoned during a fête in the grounds, she puts down her knitting and applies her shrewd wits once more to the human problem of murder.  Was the poison meant for someone else?  What was signified by the “frozen expression” on the film star’s face?  Who was present at the fête and were they the people they seemed to be? Inspector Craddock is wise enough to keep Miss Marple informed of the discoveries.  The pieces finely drop into place with a satisfying click: motive (a highly original one) and murderer are revealed.  Agatha Christie deserves her fame.  Her writing is abominably careless, her formula hopelessly out of date; but forty-two years after her criminal début, she still offers an incomparably readable, skilful and amusing detective story.

NY Times (Anthony Boucher, 6th October 1963, 110w): Entertaining and enlightening comment on the changes in English rural life decorates a faultless puzzle-plot.

Sunday Telegraph (Nicholas Blake): She romps all over opposition with dummy passes, reverse scissors movements and dazzling changes of direction.