Miss Marple Books in Order, Agatha Christie’s classic cozy mystery series

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Without a doubt, Hercule Poirot is Agatha Christie’s most famous creation but standing close to him is Miss Marple, one of the best amateur consulting detectives in England.

Reading Miss Marple’s novels in Order

She looks like your grandmother or old aunt, but don’t let appearances deceive you: Miss Marple always finds the culprit! She features in twelve books and twenty short stories written by Agatha Christie. She was first introduced in a short story published in The Royal Magazine in 1927 (available in the short collection book The Thirteen Problems now) and her last novel, Sleeping Murder, was released posthumously in 1976.

The Best Miss Marple Books

Want to discover Miss Marple or only focus on her best stories? The Official Agatha Christie website gave us the Top 5 Miss Marple novels to read, starting with the classic The Body in the Library:

The Body in the Library (1942)
The Moving Finger (1942)
Sleeping Murder (1976)
A Murder is Announced (1950)
A Pocket Full of Rye (1953)

Miss Marple, The Complete Reading List

Following is the complete list of Miss Marple’s novels, following the chronological order:

The Murder at the Vicarage (1930)
The Thirteen Problems (short stories) (1932)
Miss Marple’s Final Cases* (short stories) (1979)
The Body in the Library (1942)
The Moving Finger (1942)
Sleeping Murder† (1976)
A Murder is Announced (1950)
They Do it with Mirrors (1952)
A Pocket Full of Rye (1953)
– ‘Greenshaw’s Folly’ (1956), collected in The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding.
4.50 from Paddington (1957)
The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (1962)
A Caribbean Mystery (1964)
At Bertram’s Hotel (1965)
Nemesis (1971)

* Don’t let the title fool you, the short tales collected in Miss Marple’s Final Cases mostly take place (and were written) in the 1940s.

† Released in 1976, Sleeping Murder was written during World War II and takes place during this period of Miss Marple’s life.

Miss Marple Beyond Christie

45 years after the publication of Miss Marple’s last novel, a collection of short stories featuring Jane Marple was released, with stories from Naomi Alderman, Leigh Bardugo, Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, Elly Griffiths, Natalie Haynes, Jean Kwok, Val McDermid, Karen M. McManus, Dreda Say Mitchell, Kate Mosse and Ruth Ware.

Marple: Twelve New Stories (2022)

More About Miss Marple

Who is Miss Marple? The Creation of an Iconic Detective

Described by Sir Henry Clithering in The Body in the Library as “The finest detective God ever made. Natural genius cultivated in suitable soil.” Miss Marple, often presented as an elderly spinster, first appeared in 1927 in The Tuesday Night Club, a short story first published in The Royal Magazine – and now the first story in the short story collection The Thirteen Problems.

She was inspired, in part, by Christie’s grandmother as like Marple, her grandmother was a cheerful person but “she always expected the worst of everyone and everything, and was, with almost frightening accuracy, usually proved right.

The character also came into being following the adaptation of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd for the stage. When director Michael Morton replaced the character of Caroline with a young girl, it motivated Christie to give old maids a voice.

Miss Marple is now regarded as one of the most cherished woman detectives in literature, as well as one of the most well-known leading ladies of the cozy mystery genre. We also have to give her credit for inspiring another genre icon: Jessica Fletcher, played on television by Angela Lansbury, was a modern spin on Miss Marple.

Can I Read Miss Marple out of order?

In general, you can read the Miss Marple stories in any order you want, though some previous cases are referenced in other books and you can see Miss Marple getting older. Here are two suggestions to avoid any kind of spoilers:

1. As Murder at the Vicarage is the first novel, a few characters appeared again in later novels. So start here.
2. A Caribbean Mystery should be read before Nemesis since a character from one propels the storyline in the other.

Joan Hickson as Miss Marple

Miss Marple on Screen

Miss Marple’s creator, Agatha Christie, was the first to play the character. In 1934, the BBC invited her to write a radio play, which resulted in Miss Marple Tells a Story, in which Christie played Miss Marple herself. Unfortunately, no recordings of this performance exist.

Miss Marple made her theatrical debut in a production of The Murder at the Vicarage in 1949. Surprisingly, despite the age disparity, 35-year-old Barbara Mullen played the elderly spinster, earning accolades. In the 1970s, she returned to the part in a revival of the play, now at a more appropriate age for the character. Grace Fields played Miss Marple in a one-hour television adaptation of A Murder is Announced in 1956, but it was not well received.

One of the most famous Miss Marple portrayals occurred in the 1960s. Margaret Rutherford took up the role and appeared in four films as the character, beginning with Murder She Said in 1961. Rutherford’s performance was well received by fans and reviewers alike, while Christie was less enthusiastic. Despite dedicating The Mirror Cracked from Side to Side to the actress, the author disliked the subsequent films since they diverged from her novels.

A few years before becoming Jessica Fletcher, actress Angela Lansbury played the famous Miss Marple in The 1980 film The Mirror Crack’d, the first of several actresses to take on the role during this decade. She was followed by Helen Hayes who appeared in two American television movies, then by today iconic Joan Hickson.

Agatha Christie allegedly wrote to Joan Hickson in the 1940s to suggest that she could portray Miss Marple one day. The author was correct since the actress was clearly ideal for the role in the BBC series – but Christie would never see it because she died 8 years before the series began. It was a critical and commercial success, adapting all twelve Miss Marple novels, with the series wrapping up in 1992. Joan Hickson’s portrayal of Miss Marple is widely regarded as one of, if not the, greatest ever.

In the noughties, a fresh rendition of Miss Marple was brought to television. To prevent too many similarities with previous great performances, such as Joan Hickson, decisions were taken to try to go in a different direction. For several years, Geraldine McEwan played a more Victorian and eccentric Miss Marple, with a new backstory, before handing over the part to Julia McKenzie, who took over and presented a distinct perspective on the character.