Libraries and Hotel Disappoint

The realization that I had fallen behind on the Marplethon prompted me to figure out exactly which books I had left to read and where I might find them (hence the recent post). On Saturday, I discovered that a nearby library contained all but one of the books I needed, so I checked their website, discovered that they were open on Saturdays, and jumped in my car. It was a beautiful day for a drive and I found the building with no problem.

Only there was a problem—the library was not open. Did I misunderstand their website? No. I checked again when I got home. There was some fine print about Saturday hours only happening during the school year, but the school year began in August in most towns around here. Checking other local libraries, each of which had at least one book that I needed, all claimed to have Saturday hours, too, and all phrased in such a way that you would believe they were open now. But what they really meant was that Saturday hours start after Labor Day. You’d think that librarians, of all people, could use words accurately. Hah!

So I’m still waiting to get my books, which limits my remaining reading time. To make things just a little easier on myself, I purchased At Bertram’s Hotel. Like most Marple books, it is fast reading, and I was able to finish it that very night. But I am sorry to say, particularly as I did buy it, that it is one of the worst so far.

At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie
Grade: C

Am I being too harsh in giving this Marple book a C? Perhaps, but I was bored during several stretches, puzzled during others, and disappointed by the ending. Miss Marple did not feature as prominently as I might have wished, and as was the sad case in some of the other novels, her sleuthing consisted mostly of eavesdropping.

Modernity was an intrusive presence in the novel. I have always enjoyed the fact that the Marple books are outdated. They take place in the distant (to me) past and Miss Marple is old-fashioned even for her time. I like to step back into that time, so to speak, and so references to things like The Beatles and plastic just rub me raw, probably rawer than change did Miss Marple. Christie herself had to grow and change with the times, I know, but I wish she had left Miss Marple living in the distant past, not growing older and feebler in an ever less charming world. That’s just too much like real life.

But change was a sort of theme of At Bertram’s Hotel.  The more things change, the more they stay the same, mused Miss Marple at one point during the novel, and she also thought the reverse must be true: the more things stay the same, the more they change. It was her attempt to recapture her own youth that made her want to vacation for two weeks at Bertram’s Hotel. She discovered that one can never really go back, and that if something seems just as it did during one’s childhood, there’s probably something wrong with it, as there was something decidedly “off” about the beautifully restored old hotel. It was simply too good to be true. By the time one of the staff members got shot on the street, Miss Marple had pieced together enough information to steer the police in their search, not just for the murderer, but also for the head of a crime ring. That’s not a spoiler, by the way. Christie let most of the cats out of the bag early, which is another one of my complaints against this mystery. I recommend At Bertram’s Hotel only for completists like myself who plan to read all of Christie’s novels, stinkers included.

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