Miss Marple raises lots of questions. The most pertinent right now is: What is she doing in this story?
Endless Night is a real suspense tale, told from the point of view of an opportunistic young man. Published in 1967, the novel was a hit with readers, not least because it was such a departure from Agatha Christie’s familiar style. Said The Observer at the time, “…the suspense is kept up all the way and Miss Christie's new demi-tough, streamlined style really does come off. She'll be wearing black leather pants next, if she isn't already.”
Does that sound Marple-y to you?
Agatha Christie didn’t put Miss Marple into Endless Night, quite rightly, as she doesn’t belong there. The story works beautifully on its own.
Our protagonist/narrator is Mike Rogers (Tom Hughes, aka Nick from Silk). We meet him as a schoolboy trying unsuccessfully to rescue a friend who’s fallen into a frozen pond. Flash forward a few years and Mike’s wearing a chauffeur’s uniform and meandering down the street in an English village. That’s where Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie) encounters him.
She’s taken with him immediately, which raises a question for me because Mike is standoffish. He doesn’t seem like the sort Miss Marple would warm to so quickly. Nevertheless, she’s the great judge of character, not I. I’ll trust her instincts.
Mike does turn out to be a swell guy, once he meets Ellie, who’s beautiful and rich and even more smitten with him than Miss Marple is. They marry, they purchase a plot of land on which to build their dream home, and Mike’s schoolmate, Robbie (Aneurin Barnard), is the architect who designs it for them. The fact that the land is said to carry a gypsy curse doesn’t deter Mike and Ellie, but perhaps it should. Bad things happened there some time ago, and they’re about to happen again.
(Ellie is played by Joanna Vanderham, who also stars in The Paradise on Masterpiece Classic. If you like her, you enjoyed a double dose of her last night.)
Now, I can accept that Miss Marple might have bumped into Mike Rogers while walking through a village one afternoon. It’s also not too far-fetched for them to meet again in a local tea shop. But the fact that Miss Marple turns up absolutely everywhere Mike happens to be is just implausible. I mean, really, in Rome? (Mike and Ellie on their honeymoon and Miss Marple and her friend on holiday at the same hotel? What are the odds?)
About halfway through the episode it occurred to me that screenwriter Kevin Elyot might have been having a laugh as he figured out where else he could shoehorn her into the action. And when she turns up unannounced near the end of the episode, apparently having gone walking through the woods alone at night, well…
This might not have been the best way to close out the series.
I like Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple. I liked Geraldine McEwan and Joan Hickson, too. I just don’t need to see them in every Christie story that’s dramatized for TV. How about you? Do you think Miss Marple fits in everywhere? Does one actress stand out as your favorite?
Leslie Gilbert Elman is the author of Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous, and Totally Off the Wall Facts. Follow her on Twitter @leslieelman.
Read all of Leslie Gilbert Elman’s posts for Criminal Element.