Nemesis by Agatha Christie

This month, for Read Christie 2021, the theme is ‘a story featuring a garden’ and the suggested title is Nemesis, a late Miss Marple mystery published in 1971.

Nemesis is an unusual Marple novel because for the first half of the book it’s not really clear what the mystery is that she’s trying to solve. All we do know is that Mr Rafiel, a rich man whom Miss Marple met previously in A Caribbean Mystery (which I haven’t read), has died, leaving her a large sum of money in his will on the condition that she must agree to investigate a crime for him. The only problem is, he doesn’t tell her what sort of crime it is or what she will need to do – only that he remembers her flair for justice and her nickname ‘Nemesis’.

Intrigued by Mr Rafiel’s request and tempted by the money, Miss Marple decides to accept the mission – and promptly receives an invitation to join a tour of Britain’s historic houses and gardens. During the tour she gradually uncovers the details of a crime committed several years earlier and discovers at last what Mr Rafiel wants her to do.

I don’t really want to say much more about the plot of this particular Christie novel because I think part of the fun is in wondering what the mystery is going to be and which of the people Miss Marple meets on the tour are going to be involved in it. Once the crime is revealed and she is able to start her investigations, it becomes more of a conventional mystery novel and I don’t think it’s as strong as some of the other Marples. Several of the clues seemed very obvious and I was able to solve some of it (although not all of it).

I was pleased to find that Miss Marple is present in the story from the beginning all the way through to the end; I’ve often complained that she appears too briefly, so it was nice to spend an entire novel with her this time. I loved the way she uses her apparent absent-mindedness, frailty and ‘twittering’ to fool the people around her into thinking she is a harmless, silly old woman, while all the time her brain is working away, storing information, making observations and staying one step ahead of everyone else. I should warn you, though, that she does express some disturbing views on the subject of rape – views that, unfortunately, a lot of people still hold today. Apart from that, this is an entertaining, if not particularly outstanding, Marple novel and it looks as though I’ll be reading another one soon as July’s selection is Murder at the Vicarage.

20 thoughts on “Nemesis by Agatha Christie

  1. Lark says:

    Another Christie novel that I haven’t read yet, though I did read A Caribbean Mystery a few years ago and vaguely remember Mr. Rafiel. Can’t wait to read this one. 🙂

  2. whatmeread says:

    This is odd, because the plot of this novel seems so familiar, but I’m sure I haven’t read it. Maybe I saw a TV version of it. I’ll have to look for it. I keep thinking I’m not reading enough Christie.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, it was lovely to spend more time with Miss Marple in this book. In some of the others I’ve read she doesn’t appear until halfway through.

  3. Calmgrove says:

    I read my mother’s copy (I think) of Nemesis as a teenager as she was find of Christie, and it put me off her work for a good many years, probably because the Gradual unfolding of the solution just felt rathet mechanical, even to someone of my limited experience, and I felt no emotional connection, just irritation. From your review it seems my instincts were correct!

    Nevertheless I’ve read two or three more of her crime fiction novels since and while they’re well plotted I much preferred the title she wrote as Mary Westmacott I read subsequently.

    I want to explore more of these under her pen name now:

    • Helen says:

      I found a lot to enjoy in this one, but I can see that it probably wouldn’t be a good starting point with Christie. As I’ve been reading more and more of her books, I’ve found that she experiments a lot with different types of plot, structure and narrative style – some of them work very well and others are less effective.

      I have read one of the Mary Westmacott books – Giant’s Bread – and although I didn’t like it as much as her crime novels, I’m planning to read more of them.

  4. Cyberkitten says:

    I think this is still a ways off for me. I’m intending to read all of the Marple books in order and have yet to schedule ‘The Moving Finger’… Definitely on my list though!

    • Helen says:

      I’ve just been reading the Marple novels at random, but I like the idea of reading them in order. The Moving Finger is one I haven’t read yet.

  5. Alyson Woodhouse says:

    This was one of the first Christie novels I read, so I remember being surprised when I read more Miss Marple stories that she wasn’t in them as much. I remember loving the first half of this one, but not so much the second. I was in the right general area regarding the murderer, but I guessed the wrong one if you get my drift.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I had the same problem regarding guessing the murderer, but I did manage to put at least some of the clues together! I’ve been disappointed by the lack of time we spend with Miss Marple in some of the other books, so it was good to see more of her in this one.

  6. FictionFan says:

    Her plotting skill definitely went downhill towards the end of her career, and yet on the whole the books still work pretty well. The earlier Rafiel book is fun, although it’s set in the Caribbean so brace yourself for some outdated attitudes regarding the “natives”! The Murder at the Vicarage is one of my all-time favourites, and Miss Marple is in it a lot too, so I hope you enjoy it!

    • Helen says:

      Yes, even Christie’s weaker books are usually still fun. I’m looking forward to The Murder at the Vicarage, so I’m pleased to hear you rate it so highly!

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