Isabel Anders, managing editor of Synthesis Publications and author of multiple inspirational books, is popularizing a beloved female detective who many may remember...others not. Jane Marple was a key figure in Agatha Christie mystery novels. A quirky older woman, Marple is also a shrewd amateur detective, and now the main focus of Anders' book, Miss Marple: Christian Sleuth. Isabel was gracious enough to grant the following interview....
Isabel, I want to thank you for this opportunity. You quickly became one of my favorite authors. Soul Moments remains one of my favorite books. I am enjoying Miss Marple: Christian Sleuth as well, and will post a review next week. For now, though, why don't you tell us what led you to write about Miss Marple's Christian perspective, in the first place?
It started for us as entertainment. After a busy day working at the computer screen, it was fun to watch (mostly) British mysteries at night, renting discs, and eventually buying the whole BBC Miss Marple series with Joan Hickson--our favorite Marple actress. Even when we already knew the plots, watching the scenes unfold began to reveal more and more about Jane Marple's character. "What," I wondered, "impels her to consistently 'stick out her neck' for other people and relentlessly pursue the guilty?"
The answer came when I went back to reading the books, themselves. Miss Marple deliberately aimed to live the Christian life patterned on Jesus' own life for others. She read Thomas a Kempis' classic, The Imitation of Christ, devotionally every night, prayed about her cases (see especially the short story "The Thumb Mark of St Peter"), and has boldly stood for good over evil in her choices and actions. It has been said that Agatha Christie based this nightly reading of The Imitation of Christ on the practice of her own mother. Clearly there was more here to explore!
What exactly is it that Miss Marple does in St. Mary Mead and her other adventures that reveals her Christian character?
Agatha Christie, herself, said: "The detective story was...very much a story with a moral...the hunting down of Evil, and the triumph of Good." Not only is Miss Marple a devoted church woman--she takes on herself the task of righting wrong in whatever ways she can. Her particular brand of rubber-meets-the-road servanthood was an appropriate way of expressing her love of God and neighbor, one far more fitting for a Victorian-styled lady than much open discussion of God or theology would have been. We take her in her own time and on her own terms--and it really is amazingly impressive what a role model she is.
A verse in the Wisdom book of Sirach (4:22-23) goes: "Be detached from your own welfare, and impartial when considering others. Do not stay silent when speech is called for, nor abandon the world to hide in spirit." A beautifully accurate description of Miss Marple's modus operandi in her cases. She is not too "spiritual" to be of no earthly good. Quite the contrary.
As one critic has put it: "The Marple novels are the folktales of twentieth century suburban life, and Miss Marple, herself, is the presiding genius, teh good fairy, and guide.
How does this famous detective have lessons for us--since we are rarely in a position to dramatically save lives, as she was?
A traveling businessman noticed the passenger seated next to him on a plane reading the Bible. During the flight, the two began talking. The businessman asked the gentleman which translation of the Bible he preferred. The passenger said he read the King James version because the lofty phrasing helped him feel closer to God. The businessman said that he preferred his grandmother's translation. The other man, familiar with many Bible translations, had never heard of a version translated by a grandmother, so he asked about it. The businessman replied, "Oh, her work was never put in writing; she translated the Bible into action every day of her life."
Miss Marple: Christian Sleuth is available through both Amazon US and Amazon UK