When Agatha Christie created the amateur sleuth Miss Marple, a character inspired by her grandmother and her circle of friends, she said her intention was “to give old maids a voice”. Starting with the short story The Tuesday Night Club in 1927 and concluding with the posthumously published Sleeping Murder in 1976, the doughty detective from St Mary Mead would feature in 12 of Christie’s novels and 20 short stories.
In Marple: Twelve New Stories, a dozen fiction writers, including Val McDermid, Ruth Ware, Lucy Foley, Dreda Say Mitchell, Jean Kwok and Elly Griffiths, come up with new puzzles for Miss Marple to solve. Contributors were given strict criteria: they had to adhere to Christie’s period setting and not mess with the protagonist’s original backstory.
Aided by assorted famous narrators, these stories make for rich and entertaining listening. Jodhi May reads Naomi Alderman’s The Open Mind, in which Miss Marple investigates a murder at an Oxford college, while Natalie Haynes’s Homer-inspired The Unravelling, read by Imogen Stubbs, sees a shell-shocked war veteran suspected of murdering a farm worker. Miriam Margolyes has a ball with Leigh Bardugo’s The Disappearance, in which a bridegroom vanishes a week before his wedding. And Bridgerton’s Adjoa Andoh brings her imperious tones to Alyssa Cole’s Miss Marple Takes Manhattan, a fish-out-of-water tale in which our tweedy heroine goes to the opening of her nephew Raymond West’s play on Broadway.
All the authors capture the spirit of the original stories while avoiding empty imitation. Marple: Twelve New Stories is the publishing equivalent of a tribute album, in which writers doff their caps to a literary great.
• Available from HarperCollins, 11hr 29min
Leila Mottley, Bloomsbury, 10hr 48min
When 17-year-old Kiara becomes a sex worker in order to pay for her family’s rising rent costs, she is drawn into a terrifying world of brutality and police corruption. This Booker-nominated story is read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt.
The Adventure of English
Melvyn Bragg, Audible Studios, 12hr 9min
Robert Powell narrates the writer and broadcaster’s biography of the English language, starting with its modest beginnings as a minor Germanic dialect.