Right now I am reading The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie. Generally speaking, I have found that when I can't figure out what to read or when I need a guaranteed dose of comfort -- nothing works quite so well as a mystery. Do you enjoy reading mysteries? For me, they are the equivalent of a cup of tea and a fire in the fireplace.
I haven't read anything by Agatha Christie for years, but recently I was intrigued by a fabulous review of The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, the longest running play in history. It has been playing in London for more than sixty years. Amazing! In his review, the writer wrote that for him Agatha Christie's books represented a tranquil respite from every day anxiety. My interest was piqued and, when combined with my recent indecision about what to read next, I decided to go in the direction of Agatha Christie.
And so I settled into "The Murder at the Vicarage" and breathed a sigh of relief as I had found the perfect book for right now. I thought to myself: yes, Agatha, please take me to the small village in the English countryside where the characters reside. Let me get to know all the inhabitants of the village, learn about their customs and ways, and which ones had a motive for killing the murder victim. As it turns out, many of them did. Please lead me through the streets of the village and the rooms of the houses by giving me maps and floor plans. Introduce me to the central characters: the vicar and his glamorous wife, the nervous curate, the Colonel whom everyone hates and wishes dead, the Colonel's young wife who is having an affair with a handsome artist, the chief of police and the Inspector. And please bring in Miss Marple, the village busy body and amateur sleuth who seems to know every one's business. Before the book ends, there will be murder, clues, red herrings, discredited witnesses, confessions, confusion, suspicious servants and plot twists. As Miss Marple says, "One does see so much evil in a village."
In other words, bring on the formula that is as comforting as a cup of tea. I love going to that cozy place where all I am required to do is solve a puzzle. I will happily spend time there. It is the formula for the well-ordered world of the mystery novel. A happy antidote to the chaos of the real world we deal with every day and which is often represented in contemporary novels. Just for now, give me the comfort of visiting this orderly microcosm. Soon I will be seeking more challenging reads, but right now I am happily ensconced in the village of St. Mary's Mead with Miss Marple and the cast of characters. I think a pot of tea and some scones may be in order. What could be better?
First image via Pinterest