The Mirror Crack’d From Side To Side
AKA: The Mirror Crack’d
Published: The Mirror Crack’d. London: William Collins, 1962. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1963.
I read: The Mirror Crack’d From Side To Side. New York: 2011, Harper.
Series: Miss Marple
Summary: During a charity fundraiser in St. Mary Mead one of the guests, Heather Babcock, suddenly dies. It turns out a lethal overdose was the cause of death, administered by a cocktail meant for the hostess (and famous actress) Marina Gregg. Miss Marple, under orders from Doctor Haydock, sets out to unravel this mystery before the murderer strikes again!
Review: I enjoyed revisiting St. Mary Mead and meeting up with Mrs. Bantry again and reading about the new mystery she found herself investigating with her old friend Miss Marple. Thick as thieves they were! The Mirror Crack’d made me a bit nostalgic, since I knew this is the last mystery set exclusively in St. Mary Mead. While this is not my absolute favorite of the Miss Marples (The Moving Finger and Nemesis hold that title) I did enjoy reading this installment, a nice solid mystery to sink into! The slightly ambiguous ending gave me something to think about after I shut the book, which is something I always savor.
This book also holds an important insight into Miss Marple. She begins to worry that with the proliferation of new homes & families, supermarkets and the general replacement of the old guard -- her insights and deductions will no longer be accurate. Her confidence is rattled until she gives her companion the slip (which I think speaks to Miss Marple’s formative years, since she circumvented Miss Knightly easily without ever raising her suspicions. How much practice did she have, in pulling off a plan like this with such ease?) and discovered, “The new world was the same as the old…the human beings were the same as they always had been.” (pg. 14), thus allowing her to move forward with confidence with proof that times and clothes may change, but people? They remain the same. Without this reaffirmation, she might not have gone on to solve some of her most difficult cases, such as Nemisis.
Forty years had passed in Christies’s writing career by the time she wrote The Mirror Crack‘d, long enough for the accusation - it is always the least likely person in the story who committed the crime - to surface. In this quote, “…How about your dogsbody, your dear Miss Knight? What about her having committed the crime?….Why should she have done such a thing?…Because she’s the most unlikely person…” (pg. 230), I think Christie is poking fun at herself and her critics. This accusation, I believe, is completely without merit - Christie plays fair with her readers. The one time president and founding member of the Detection Club, I think she might have been called out if she didn’t. Pitting her mind against her readers, it is not her fault that often the wrong conclusion is made due to red herrings, false trails or overlooked clues. And yet this idea persists….
“I admit….that one never quite allows for the moron in our midst.” (pg. 199)
The Mirror Crack’d seems to have been inspired by actual events. Twenty years (ish) before the mystery’s publication, Gene Tierney (a famous Hollywood actress whose credits include The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) contracted rubella during an appearance at the Hollywood Canteen in June 1941. Unfortunately Tierney was pregnant and the sickness caused her daughter to be born with severe birth defects. Later Tierney learned that a fan (who believe Tierney would be flattered by her ingenuity) had sneaked out of quarantine sick with rubella to get Tierney’s autograph. The fan had no idea the havoc her actions caused in Tierney’s life - the stress of her daughter’s medical problems (plus the added career and marital pressures) - all contributed in causing several mental breakdowns, bouts of depression and a possible suicide attempt.
The Mirror Crack’d and the tragic events in Gene Tierney’s life resemble each other far too closely to be a coincidence. However there seem to be some questions about this: when the book was first published, a fan wrote a letter to her publisher complaining about Christie using Tierney’s problems as fodder for her fiction. According to John Curran’s book, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks, Christie‘s publisher replied saying, “….Agatha Christie knew nothing about this until long afterwards…”(pg. 404). Which seems a bit of a stretch, to me, as events (and for that matter Tierney’s resemblance to Marina Gregg) mirror each other to closely to be complete happenstance.
Adaptations: Angela Lansbury, the future Jessica Fletcher, played Miss Marple in the 1980 film version opposite Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis.
Cheating: Didn’t cheat. I liked reading this mystery and was only momentarily tempted when I wanted to know if I guessed who had done it correctly. I resisted successfully and waited until got to the ending in the traditional way! (BTW I did guess right, well my second guess was correct…)
John Curran, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks. New York, Harper, 2009.
Gerald, Michael C., The poisonous pen of Agatha Christie. Austin, 1993, University of Texas Press.
Agatha Christie: Official Home Of The Best-Selling Author Of All Time, February 17, 2014.
Wikipedia, February 17, 2014.
Wikipedia, February 17, 2014.