The interest of this small detective story is not where we could think it should be. Miss Marple solves the problem in a very holmesian way : don't look for what is obvious but look for what is hidden by the smokescreen of the obvious. But the book reveals, describes and analyzes the reactions of a village and of the people in the village who are confronted to a series of anonymous letters. It shows how gossiping dominates and informs the minds of the people. It shows how these minds can be totally governed by old fears, perverse curiosity and jealousy in a way or another. It shows how idleness due to the lack of eventful developments in a village manages the life of people : when nothing happens in your village, the slightest little piece of news or observation of your neighbour becomes an essential topic. A criminal, here a murderer, can then use this functioning to build a smokescreen that will hide his own crime and send everyone, including the police, on a wrong track because they are going to follow the obvious and the obvious is what you can see, and when there is a smokescreen you can only see the smoke. It is well done, though regular readers of detective stories will know the solution practically from the very start. This genre is aging rather fast because it has developed so much that it has enlarged the ability of the readers to see the strings of the plot, even when these strings are covered with a smokescreen, and Agatha Christie is a real artist at leading us astray, if we just let ourselves be led, which is in a way an essential quality in a « good » reader.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU