At Bertram's Hotel

Only two Miss Marple novels were published after At Bertram's Hotel, one of which, Sleeping Murder, was actually written 20 years earlier but was to be published posthumously. At Bertram's Hotel is the weakest of the Miss Marple mysteries - a series which is uniformly very strong, perhaps because Agatha Christie wrote a smaller number of Miss Marples' than Poirots' which can sometimes be a little patchy in the strength of their plotlines and characterisation.

In many ways Bertrams is fairly typical of Christie's works of the 1960s, she became rather obsessed with gangs, international men of mystery and suchlike, and it doesn't always work. I find in general that her adventure stories are rarely as good as her straight detective stories - although there are exceptions, I have a soft spot, for example, for They came to Baghdad. In At Bertrams Hotel Miss Marple is treated to a week staying at her favourite hotel, the Bertrams of the title. The hotel seems to be caught in a timewarp, and appears to have remained completely unchanged, right down to the attentive butler, muffins for tea, and the usual clientele - rich Americans, dowager Duchesses, and upper-crust clergy, from the Bertrams of Miss Marples' memory in late Edwardian times - but can anything quite so perfect really be so? Miss Marple is unconvinced, as are the police when they find a link between Bertrams and a series of high profile robberies (one of which is clearly modelled after Britain's own Great Train Robbery).

Miss Marple is very much on the periphery of the action, and what she does learn and contributes to the case is purely accidental. The plot is not one of the best or strongest, and is certainly by Marple standards weak, having said which the murderer is unexpected, and extremely well portrayed. And there's an interesting, if morally dubious, portrayal of "white" and "black" villainy. Enjoyable, but not highly recommended - the other Miss Marples are much better - ironically the novels written either side of this - A Caribbean Mystery and, even more notably Nemesis are two of her very best.


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