THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY
If you had to imagine the most Miss Marple-ish beginning to a Miss Marple mystery, this particular case would probably come up trumps. Think of it: a dead body is discovered in the library of a stately home. And yes, there is a gallery of suitably aristocratic and shifty suspects to choose between. How's that for the perfect set-up for a classic English whodunit? Yet... here's the unexpected bit. While the case begins very much in cosy Marple territory, things take a turn for the unexpectedly salacious and sordid, when it's revealed the victim was once employed as a dancer in a coastal resort. Does this mean Jane Marple is about to step into a world of sleaze and skulduggery? Surely not, but she has no option but to book into the resort in question...
4.50 FROM PADDINGTON
The Miss Marple stories are renowned for many things - like meticulously wrought characters, meticulously wrought motivations, and lots of nice hats. What we don't tend to expect is outlandish action, or scenes of sudden violence. But a close friend of Miss Marple's gets quite a turn when she witnesses a shocking murder while sitting on a train. The murder isn't on her train, though. She's actually gazing out of the window of her carriage at another train travelling on parallel tracks, when she glimpses a young woman being throttled by a brutal assailant. Naturally, the witness wastes no time telling Miss Marple what she saw, and the hunt is on for clues as to the identity of the (apparently) murdered woman. It's a thrilling set-up straight out of Alfred Hitchcock, but the cast of dodgy suspects is pure Marple.
THE MOVING FINGER
Miss Marple may have lived in that blessedly serene and relaxed time that existed before the Internet took over our lives, but her era had its own equivalent of online bullying and anonymous Twitter spats. We speak of poison pen letters, which were malicious and abusive notes sent to upset the recipient or ruin their good name. The Moving Finger is a case all about poison pen letters which are being posted to various luckless inhabitants of a seemingly nice and ordinary village. Nasty, yes, but why is it a matter of concern for Miss Marple? Well, one recipient is found to have apparently committed suicide, and soon enough there's a clear case of murder as well. Miss Marple is brought in by the local vicar's wife (who else?) to get to the bottom of things, which will undoubtedly involve untangling everyone's dirty little secrets. Dear oh dear.
A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED
Most murderers on Marple are on the discreet side. After all, they tend to have very personal reasons for committing their crimes, and they'd rather not draw attention to themselves. But every so often you get one with a flair for the dramatic. Like the curious culprit who literally announces their forthcoming crime in a village newspaper. He or she even goes as far as giving the exact time and location of where the killing will take place. This intrigues rather than horrifies the locals, who are all very eager to see what might unfold. But it's no laughing matter when the murderer makes good on their promise, and it's down to a certain unassuming OAP to step in and unmask the strange and wily killer...
A POCKETFUL OF RYE
Boasting one of the finest character names in whodunit history - Rex Fortescue - this story is particularly fascinating because it seems to revolve around a nursery rhyme. It begins with the death of a wealthy businessman who appears to have been poisoned by his morning tea. All very sinister, but things get more sinister still when grains of rye are found in his pocket. Could there be a link with the old rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence? One thing's for sure, the businessman isn't the only person due to die, and Miss Marple becomes determined to snare the "blackbird" behind it all. Probably best not to have any tea, though.