Monday, July 23, 2012

Nemesis by Agatha Christie

Plot Summary: Miss Marple receives intimation from a law firm in London, the lawyers tell Jane Marple about a task that she has to undertake on completion of which she will get a small reward of twenty thousand pounds. These lawyers are proxies for Mr Rafiel, who Miss Marple met in her adventure in “A Caribbean Mystery”, but now Mr Rafiel has unfortunately passed away and has left behind a letter for Miss Marple.

The Letter elucidates that Miss Marple has to undertake a mission and carry out justice. Miss Marple is more than willing to do so but the problem is that it is the only information the letter conveys. Jane Marple can’t help but wonder if it is all a joke. Does she have to solve a murder? or prevent a crime or a theft or maybe help the CIA catch Al Zawahari. The poor old lady does not have anything to go on and she must now use her wits to prove that to injustice she really is the Nemesis.


Nemesis was published in 1971 and was the last Miss Marple novel written by Agatha Christie although “Sleeping Murder” was published later but was written much before the Nemesis. The Collins edition which I read had around 370 pages.

Nemesis turned out to be rather disappointing; the premise of the story is pretty interesting and manages to arouse curiosity in the reader but fails to hold his attention. It’s a past crime whose investigation is being carried out in the present, which leaves little room for any excitement since the crime has already taken place years ago.  Moreover Miss Marple does a lot of thinking as she had nothing to go on with, which often led to boring soliloquies. Miss Marple very often talks and thinks about Mr Rafiel, which is weird because from what I remember her interaction with Rafiel was quite superficial and limited in the Caribbean Mystery except where she asks for his help.

The characterization in this tale of delayed justice is very poor, the book has too many characters and it is difficult to distinguish Mrs Riseley Porter from Mrs Glynee. Christie should have cut a few characters as her old trick of having a truck load of suspects, looks actually very old and stale.

About the mystery, it is again quite weak and I would have deduced the murderer sooner had Dame Christie provided anything to cogitate over in the first 150 pages, the first 150 odd pages add nothing to the mystery and the meat of the story keeps on getting delayed. One more reason why this book is pretty awful is that all mystery fans know that the solution to a murder is always elucidated in the final chapter, so a typical mystery would have a murder or some other mystery very early in the story and then investigations take place and other things happen which keeps the reader engaged, now in Nemesis there is no murder, no mystery nothing and this happens for the majority of the story. On top of that the solution is revealed in the final chapters. So the reader gets annoyed twice, my question is why should I read the middle portion of the book? Why not only read the start and the end. I’m sure if I would have done that I would not have missed much.

Alright, now here is another bug in this story, why in the name of god would you want somebody to investigate a crime without giving them any details?? If there was a crime I knew about and a detective was investigating then I would provide as many details as possible. I would bombard the detective with as much data as there is, but in this tale of detection, the amateur sleuth is provided with as little or practically no details. Christie did not explain why Rafiel did this, if she did it then I missed it. A detective like Holmes, if he gets all the facts can crack a case from miles away using his deductive skills but in this perverted tale of detection, strange things keep happening.

I do not want to diatribe on one of my two favorite authors of all time but there are serious issues to be communicated. Somehow I feel Christie used Marple and a few other characters in the book to express her thoughts about a few contentious topics like Rape. In of the chapters a lawyer does not feel rape is what girls think it is, in another instance a rapist is helped and supported by his father which is regarded as morally correct. A lot of times this happens that a promiscuous girl is murdered and no one cares not even the detective that she is dead and some even sound glad on her death, this is a recurring event in many GAD(golden age of detective fiction) books.

Another thing which annoyed me and I promise this is the last is that Christie uses a lot of “One” in the book. During the course of reading this book, this measly pronoun turned out to be my nemesis! Christie’s characters especially Miss Marple use it like it was being handed out like free apps on the app store. Read this “One would think that one was not as fit as one was years ago”.
After so many negatives I will meekly surrender to Dame’s knowledge about so many things, she is the female Holmes; she had extensive knowledge about gardening, poisons, archaeology. The first out of these is on extensive display in this book.

It is a well documented fact that Christie in her later years shelled out quite a few duds and this one is a prime example. I would only recommend reading this if you have read all the other Marples else I would say that it can be skipped.

By the way the book cover is gorgeous.

2 out of 5 Stars.


  1. You are right. Even I was disappointed after reading this one. I also felt the coincidences (like the co-passengers) were contrived, and even otherwise how could Mr. Rafiel be sure that whatever instructions he left would be followed to the T? AND the instructions were so scarce and wothout them Miss Marple would have no way of accessing information.

    1. Hi Tina,

      Agreed, usually I find Marple stories quite enjoyable, but this felt like a drag. You might want to check out my list of Top 5 Miss Marple books.

  2. I have to somewhat agree with you. I thought the premise was excellent. And the actual murders and the reasons behind them rather fascinating and poignant in a tragic way. But the execution of the novel simply dragged too much for my tastes. Too many conferences and discussions and Christie went into Miss Marple's consciousness just a bit too much.

    A potentially original story ruined by a slow pacing and very little substance.

    1. Hi Rosie,

      The premise was indeed very interesting but the execution by the Queen of crime left us rather disappointed. I recently read another murder in the past story "Five Little Pigs", which was very well done by Agatha Christie.

  3. So glad to find this! I agree that the topic of rape is upsetting in how the author treats it- like something girls make up. It's like the Brock Turner mentality. Anyway, the premise and twist are pretty neat and I feel like if she had written it in her prime it would have been one of her best. But as it is, it rambles like her other weak late entries; Bertram's Hotel, Third Girl, Elephants Can Remember. Lots of reminiscing and forgetting of names and not a lot of action.

    1. Hi there,
      thank you for your insight. Its comments like these and visitors like you that have kept this blog alive.

  4. I appreciate everyone’s comments.
    However....I think my opinion will differ somewhat.
    My opinion:
    No matter what the plot structure turns out to be, no matter if the conversation rambles, no matter what the word use is....
    Im delighted!
    There are days when life has tired me out! On those days I drag myself home from work. I'm that tired! What saves the day? Knowing that I can watch an Agatha Christie movie on Netflix every time I need to unwind.
    I’ve read every novel of Agatha Christie a few times.....
    I grew up reading everything the library had to offer.
    Nostalgic note: Thank you Agatha Christie for giving me a love of reading.
    As an adult, not much has changed. Im still thrilled!
    It’s simply a “gift to self” to know that no matter how arduous the day has been that I can come home and step into one of these comfortable stories (movie or audio book): I great each episode like an old friend. And like an old friend: they don’t ever have to be perfect for me at all.

    1. while I don't agree with you and think that the merits of each book should be discussed, I respect your mitigated love for the queen of crime.


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