The Murder AT The Vicarage
Prejudice against women was rife in British society and the police force at this time. It doesn’t seem to have crossed anyone’s mind that women were as capable as men at solving crimes.
This attitude is reflected in the 'Golden Age' crime fiction. Most of these detective stories are narrated by very clever men, who tell other very clever men how they – or one of their very clever male friends – solved the murder. This style of narration - made famous by Arthur Conan Doyle in his Sherlock Holmes Mysteries - was copied relentlessly in the first half of the 20th Century.
I have just re-read Murder in the Vicarage and – when put into context against the output of Christie’s contemporaries – it was a breath of fresh air. No wonder she was so popular.
Christie’s plots are always a devilish brain-tease and this one is no exception. But to have a female character solving a crime that baffled the police was a radical and ground-breaking development.
Christie never commented on politics or involved herself in political campaigns and I’m sure she would have hated to be called a ‘feminist’. But the creation of Jane Marple was a subtle and brave contribution towards changing society’s attitude and lifting the ignorant prejudice against female sleuths and detectives.