Nemesis (1971) by Agatha Christie (Read by Joan Hickson)
Several years ago Miss Jane Marple and Jason Rafiel shared a murderous adventure in the Caribbean. Miss Marple had shown up in Rafiel's room late one night with a pink wooly scarf around her neck and, in the persona of Nemesis, had asked him to help prevent another murder. When Rafiel began making plans to see justice done in another matter, he included Miss Marple (all unawares) in those plans. So, when Rafiel dies Miss Marple has an invitation to visit his solicitors where she will receive an unusual request through a letter he left with Mr. Broadribb:
Our code word, my dear lady, is Nemesis....I want you to investigate a certain crime. I have ordered a certain sum to be placed so that if you accept this request and as a result of your investigation this crime is properly elucidated, the money will become yours absolutely.
And that's pretty much all she's told about Rafiel's request. There's a crime to be investigated--either one that already occurred and justice was not done OR one that will occur and the wealthy businessman wanted to be sure justice would be done. The solicitor, Mr. Broadribb, knows no more about it than she does.
She decides to take on the task and makes some tentative efforts to learn more about Mr. Rafiel's life (beyond what she knows from their brief encounter in the Caribbean). Her best bet is to try and find Rafiel's former employees and see what they can tell her. She meets, as if by accident, Rafiel's former secretary who tells her that there had been some scandal involving the businessman's son, but she knows little beyond the fact that there was a scandal. Miss Marple cannot find the valet/masseur who attended him and she begins to think her investigation will be over before it's barely begun when she receives two more communications.
The first is another letter from Rafiel telling her that since she's accepted his request, she will receive a second message in two days time. She does and it is from a tour company telling her that Mr. Rafiel had reserved a space for her on their Tour No. 37 of Famous Houses and Gardens in Britain. Miss Marple doesn't know if the purpose of the tour is to introduce her to one of her fellow passengers of to take her to a particular place where crime has happened...or will happen, but she is prepared to find out. She meets several people who are able to tell her more about the scandal surrounding Michael Rafiel. Two girls--including one named Verity that Michael supposedly love--disappeared several years ago. Verity was found strangled with her face beaten in. The other girl was never found. And Michael was convicted of Verity's murder. But when one of Miss Marple's fellow passengers is killed by a falling boulder, she decides that her job must be to find out the truth of Verity's death--because Miss Elizabeth Temple knew Verity and had told Miss Marple that she was on a pilgrimage to find out the truth as well?
This is one time that Dame Agatha didn't pull the wool over my eyes. I recognized the clues and picked up on the culprit right away. But that didn't detract from my enjoyment. Nemesis is enjoyable for a reason that normally doesn't attract me. Often I find when an author takes a favorite detective and places them outside their normal locale that I don't much care for the story (most of the Nero Wolfe stories that take him out of the brownstone for extended periods of time--Death of a Dude and The Black Mountain, for instance). But taking Miss Marple out of St. Mary Mead and placing her on the bus tour, put her at the center of the action for most of the novel and I liked that a lot. It was interesting to watch her go from having no idea what Jason Rafiel wanted her to investigate to picking up pieces bit by bit and finally fitting them all together. Excellent read. ★★★★
~~~One interesting note--in the novel, Rafiel promises Miss Marple 20,000 pounds if she successfully unravels the mystery and sees justice done. I watched the Marple episode with Geraldine McEwan after I finished the novel and among the changes made to the story was the reduction of the sum to a mere 500 pounds. I just wonder why they cheated Miss Marple out of 19,500 pounds of her inheritance?
First line: In the afternoon it was the custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper.
Last line: "It must have been another of Mr. Rafiel's little jokes," said Mr. Broadribb.
Deaths = 7 (one natural; two plane crash; two poisoned; one strangled; one hit by boulder)