- The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side
infobox Book |
name = The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side
image_caption = Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
cover_artist = Not known
language = English
Collins Crime Club
release_date = November 12, 1962
media_type = Print (Hardback &
pages = 256 pp (first edition, hardback)
isbn = NA
preceded_by = The Pale Horse
followed_by = The Clocks
"The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side" is a work of
detective fictionby Agatha Christieand first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Clubon November 12, 1962 ["The Observer" November 11, 1962 (Page 24).] and in US by Dodd, Mead and Companyin September 1963 under the shorter title of "The Mirror Crack'd" and with a copyright date of 1962 [http://home.insightbb.com/~jsmarcum/agatha53.htm American Tribute to Agatha Christie] ] . The UK edition retailed at fifteen shillings(15/-)Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. "Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions". Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (Page 15)] and the US edition at $3.75. It is set in the fictional English village of St. Mary Meadand features Miss Marple.
Miss Marple investigates the
murderof Heather Badcock, who consumed a poisoned cocktailapparently meant for American filmactress Marina Gregg, Heather's idol. As Marple investigates, she discovers dark secrets in Marina's past, secrets which also link to other seemingly innocent citizens of St. Mary Mead.
Explanation of the novel's title
The title of the novel comes from the
poem" The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It is referred to by name several times in the novel, with these lines being frequently quoted:
:Out flew the web and floated wide-:The mirror crack'd from side to side;:"The curse is come upon me," cried:The Lady of Shalott.
At the end, Miss Marple quotes the last three lines:
:He said, "She has a lovely face; :God in his mercy lend her grace, :The Lady of Shalott."
At first, detecting the murderer is extremely difficult because there seems to be no motive. Because Marina Gregg had given Heather Badcock her own drink shortly after meeting her it is assumed that Marina Gregg must have been the intended victim. Also Marina is much more famous and correspondingly more likely to be a target. However, it eventually becomes apparent that Marina herself poisoned the drink and intended to kill Heather Badcock. Discovering the murderer is complicated because the motive is so obscure.
It is known that when Heather Badcock encountered Marina Gregg at the party where she is murdered, she had told her her favourite anecdote about how, years before, she had been ill, but had sneaked out to meet Marina and get her autograph. A terrible expression appeared on Marina's face as she heard this story, reminding a witness of the line from Tennyson's poem. Marina had always desperately wanted children but had found it difficult to conceive. However, after adopting three children, she had finally become pregnant. But when her baby was born it was found to be mentally retarded and was abandoned to a lifetime of institutions, leaving Marina emotionally scarred.
Miss Marple later deduces what Marina had instantly realised. Heather's minor illness was
German measles; she had infected Marina and caused the mental retardation, and effectively the 'loss', of her only child. Marina murdered Heather for revenge.
Literary significance and reception
Francis Iles (
Anthony Berkeley Cox) was somewhat muted in his praise in his review in " The Guardian" of December 7, 1962 when he said, "she has of course thought up one more brilliant little peg on which to hang her plot, but the chief interest to me of "The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side" was the shrewd exposition of what makes a female film star tick the way she does tick. And though one could accept a single coincidence concerning that married couple, the second and quite wildly improbable one tends to destroy faith in the story – still more so since it leads nowhere at all." ["The Guardian" December 7, 1962 (Page 9)]
Maurice Richardson of "
The Observer" of November 11, 1962 summed up, "A moderate Christie; bit diffuse and not so taut as some; still fairly easy to read, though." ["The Observer" November 11, 1962 (Page 24)] Robert Barnard: "The last of the true English village mysteries in Christie's output, and one of the best of her later books. Film milieu superimposed on the familiar St Mary Mead background. Like most Marples this is not rich in clueing, but the changes in village life and class structure since the war are detailed in a knowledgeable and fairly sympathetic way." [Barnard, Robert. "A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie" - Revised edition (Page 196-7). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0006374743]
References to actual history, geography and current science
There can be little doubt that Christie used the real-life tragedy of American actress
Gene Tierneyas the basis of her plot. [cite web |url=http://www.cmgww.com/stars/tierney/about/bio.htm|title = Biography|publisher= The Official Web Site of Gene Tierney (cmgww.com)|accessdate=2008-01-22] [ Tierney and Herskowitz (1978) Wyden Books, Self- Portrait p.101] [ Osborne (2006) Chronicle Books, Leading Ladies p.195 ] Tierney described the event in her autobiography ("Self-Portrait," New York: Wyden, 1979), but it had been well publicized for years previously.
In June 1943, while pregnant with her first child, Tierney came down with
German measles, contracted during her only appearance at the Hollywood Canteen. The baby, Daria, was born prematurely, weighing only 3 pounds, 2 ounces, and requiring a total blood transfusion. The infant was also deaf, partially blind with cataracts, and severely retarded and ultimately had to be institutionalized.
Some time after, Tierney learned from a fan who approached her for an autograph at a garden party that the woman, who had been a member of the women's branch of the Marine Corps, had sneaked out of quarantine while sick with German measles to meet her at her only Hollywood Canteen appearance. This incident, as well as the circumstances under which the information was imparted to the actress, is repeated almost verbatim in the story.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
The novel was adapted for a 1980 feature
filmwith Angela Lansburyin the role of Miss Marple. Co-stars were Elizabeth Taylorand Kim Novakand the film was released under the shorter US title of the book.
* 1962, Collins Crime Club (London), November 12, 1962, Hardback, 256 pp
* 1963, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), September 1963, Hardback, 246 pp
Pocket Books(New York), Paperback
* 1965, Fontana Books (Imprint of
HarperCollins), Paperback, 192 pp
* 1966, Ulverscroft
Large-printEdition, Hardcover, 255 pp
Penguin Books, Paperback, 224 pp
* 2006, Marple Facsimile edition (Facsimile of 1962 UK first edition), March 6, 2006, Hardcover, ISBN 0-00-720855-3
The novel was serialised in the "Star Weekly Novel", a Toronto newspaper supplement, in two abridged instalments from March 9 to March 16, 1963 under the title "The Mirror Crack'd" with each issue containing a cover illustration by Gerry Sevier.
* [http://us.agathachristie.com/site/find_a_story/stories/The_Mirror_Crackd.php "The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side"] at the official Agatha Christie website
*imdb title|id= 0081163|title=The Mirror Crack'd (1980)
*imdb title|id= 0104882|title= The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side (1992)
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