At Bertram's Hotel

by Agatha Christie

Hardcover, 1965



An old-fashioned London Hotel is not quite as reputable as it makes out... When Miss Marple comes up from the country for a holiday in London, she finds what she's looking for at Bertram's Hotel: traditional decor, impeccable service and an unmistakable atmosphere of danger behind the highly polished veneer. Yet, not even Miss Marple can foresee the violent chain of events set in motion when an eccentric guest makes his way to the airport on the wrong day...

Library's rating


½ (678 ratings; 3.5)

User reviews

LibraryThing member murderbydeath
I grew up with Agatha Christie the way some people grew up with the Bible; she was a constant presence in our house. Being a contrary child, that means I'd read everything except Christie. Mild guilt about this while I was in my 20's had me picking up the Miss Marple short stories (minimal
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commitment, you see).

I gotta say, while I could understand the attraction, I didn't understand the devotion. Miss Marple was smart and the mysteries were great, but the abuse of village parallels was too much. Towards the end, I was just yelling "just say what you mean you old bat!"

Which is why it's now very many years later and, with few exceptions, I still haven't read most of Christie's work, even though I've been slowly accumulating them. When my current booklikes-opoly square required a book set between 1945 and 1965, At Bertram's Hotel was just about the only book I had that fit the bill.

So, here I am, finally reading my first full-length Miss Marple. I'm happy to report only one village parallel! And Miss Marple does more than just sit on a bench and knit; she's actively eavesdropping and inventing mishaps to get closer to people who are up to no good. She felt like an active participant in the mystery, even if she wasn't really sleuthing and had no idea about what exactly was going on until the end.

But the book was generally a bit odd. At 192 pages I should have had it read in a few hours; instead I kept falling asleep every time I picked it up so that it took me 3 days instead. It wasn't boring; Christie is a master at pulling you into whatever setting she's cooked up and I quite enjoyed Bertram's Hotel, but the momentum was very slow to build and ultimately, what should have been a tidal wave of a story was more of a small surge: I felt the pull, but nothing so strong as to suck me in completely.

I also got the impression that Christie was rather fed up with Miss Marple when she wrote this, or maybe just feeling wistful herself about the way the world seemed to be changing rapidly around her. I kept imagining Christie as Miss Marple; longing for a time when England, and by extension, her mysteries, were more elegant, well-mannered, and gracious. Even though there would be at least 10 more books after this one, At Bertram's Hotel feels like a nostalgic look back by an author who's feeling her age.

So, not her best, but I'm betting it's nowhere near her worst; definitely more likeable than reading the Marple short stories back-to-back.
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LibraryThing member AlexTheHunn
This is a lively romp of a mystery involving guests at a luxurious hotel. Only every one has his or her little secrets. Of course, these are not too opaque for Miss Marple to see through. It is not a remarkable book; but if you enjoy Agatha Cristie, then by all means read this one too.
LibraryThing member MickyFine
Miss Marple is on vacation for two weeks in London and staying at the quietly posh Bertram's Hotel, which has the most impressive knack of conjuring up the bygone Edwardian era. But all at the hotel is not what it seems...

Not the strongest of the Miss Marple mysteries but the novel is still
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thoroughly enjoyable for how Christie describes her settings and characters. It's a lovely world to spend time in, regardless of the crime in which Miss Marple inevitably becomes involved. A perfectly satisfactory read for established fans of the series but not the best of entry points if you're just dabbling in Miss Marple's tales.
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LibraryThing member xicanti
A luxurious London hotel serves as the backdrop for a tale of high crime.

This book begins very well and has atmosphere aplenty. Christie has suceeded in capturing the feel of this place and the moods of those who inhabit it. Unfortunately, the plotting doesn't quite live up to the rest of it. To my
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mind, Christie's best work deals with smaller, personal crimes. Stories such as this one, which deals with a series of heists, usually fall flat. At Bertram's Hotel is no exception. All the ingredients are there, but they just don't come together as well as one might hope.

This isn't a bad novel by any means, but it's far from essential Christie.
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LibraryThing member Figgles
Nice standard Aggie - read it to remind myself of the actual story after watching and entertaining piece of fluff on the TV which had many of the same characters, a hotel called Bertrams and an almost completely different plot! But all the Miss Marple recent TV dramas muck up the plots - perhaps
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the dears in the script department think we can't cope with the originals - how patronising!
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LibraryThing member DirtPriest
At Bertram's Hotel is an interesting story but lacks in the mystery department. I can see why it isn't overly popular compared to others. It's actually more of a tale about the hotel than an actual murder mystery.
LibraryThing member mrtall
One of Christie's later works, At Bertram's Hotel is more an elegy for an age of lost elegance and social order than an actual murder mystery. Christie never really got comfortable with the 1960s, and this uneasiness stands out here on every page. Miss Marple goes to stay in the eponymous hotel,
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and although it's a carefully-preserved Edwardian dream, she soon realizes it's too good to be true.

This is a poor effort in terms of plot intricacies or twists, but it remains one of my favorite Christies for its reminiscing on a world long lost.
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LibraryThing member dougwood57
Bertram’s Hotel is located in London’s fashionable West End; Mayfair to be precise. A stay at Bertram’s is like a visit to the past; Late Victorian England to be precise. Miss Marple arrives for a two-week visit and indulges (to a surprising degree) in nostalgic trips around London to the
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places of her girlhood (many of which are no longer extant).

Bertram’s is pricey, clearly beyond Marple’s meager pocketbook, but her niece picks up the tab. When her niece initially suggests a stay at Bournemouth (an old resort town on the south coast), Marple characteristically rejects that sleepy destination and states her preference for a trip to the capital instead.

Anyway, something isn’t quite right about Bertram’s. It’s too good to be true in its defiance of the march of time and progress. Of course, while Marple is thinking that something is fishy, the reader gets to indulge in Christie’s descriptions of a bygone time and place. And Christie populates her tale with charming stock characters, such as the forgetful cleric and the out-of-touch uncle. Marple is right about Bertram’s, of course, and in the end we find out what is really behind the place.

Christie acknowledges that time marches on, while simultaneously juxtaposing the old values with the new much to the detriment of the new. The yearning for the past is no surprise and certainly no impediment to enjoying the story. The biggest problem I have with this story is the insufficient amounts of Marple. She resides in the periphery of the story until about the last fifth of the book when she helps the old chief inspector (known as ‘Father’) solve the crime. Jane and Father don’t like all the changes in society, but are flinty-eyed realists. Not bad, but not first rate Christie.
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LibraryThing member mauveberry
I had watched the BBC version of At Bertram's Hotel before I read the book, so I already knew who did it at the beginning of the book. The story and characters are different enough that most of it was new to me. However, I did not like the characters as much as I did in the BBC version. I also felt
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that the ending of the story was too abrupt.
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LibraryThing member lahochstetler
Bertram's, a central London hotel, attracts a wealthy and staid clientele. It specializes in creating an old-world ambiance for those who want to relive days past. But not all is right at the hotel, which Miss Marple discovers when she spends a holiday in its quarters. What exactly is amiss in the
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hotel is unraveled over the course of the book.

This book was somewhat different from the other Christies I've read. Most begin with a murder, and the rest of the book is spent sorting out whodunit. When I'd reached the halfway point of this book, I realized that no one had died yet; quite unusual for Christie. Instead, much of Miss Marple's time is spent trying to determine what, if anything is wrong. Several parallel story lines converge by the end of the book at Bertram's.

The unique format makes a nice diversion for the Christie fan, though I don't think that this is one of her best, it is still solid.
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LibraryThing member miyurose
I've always had a special place in my heart for Agatha Christie, despite not actually reading many of her books. In fact, I don't think I've read one since elementary school. There's just something about her stories that are classic. I listened to this one, and it was more a radio play than a
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straight reading, which just made it even more sweet and quaint somehow. There's a very Scooby-Doo like explanation of the events at the end, but it works.
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LibraryThing member riverwillow
This is one of my favourite Christie novels.

Miss Marple's nephew has paid for her to spend a couple of weeks at her favourite London hotel Bertram's, which has remained marvellously unchanged despite the passing years and the always on the ball Miss Marple, who is enjoying her nostaligic journey
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wonders why and how this has been achieved. As always Miss Marple's curiosity and interest in others gets her involved in the emotional entanglements of others which inevitably lead to murder.
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LibraryThing member Jiraiya
I enjoyed this particular story very much. Not the most imaginative beginning to a review but that's the first thing I wanted to say! Gone here, are the orderly presentations of suspects. Mrs Agatha Christie here departs from her usual structure-although the style is as sterling as ever- and I
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can't for the life of me imagine who was she copying with such a fearless endeavor.

While reading the bits where Miss Marple appears, I was regretting that she doesn't exist-she is a relic as much as the Hotel Bertram itself was. Pardon the irrelevancy, but I'd be interested in reading even a fan fiction of her, regardless of genre or quality! Miss Marple is witness to 2 or 3 crucial occurrences that propel Inspector Davy (Father) to fulfill the completion of bringing a criminal gang to justice, to stop an entire organisation in its tracks. But Miss Marple herself never takes center stage, she is a glorified witness, who understands what she sees. Very different beast, this book is.

I like old fashioned detective stories most when the motive for the murder is money. Thankfully here this is the case. But the murderer needs the money for her lover. This was, I think, an unnecessary addition. It makes the dated(in a good way) scenery more theatrical, and that is not so good. Take Lady Sedgwick, one of the main suspects, she doesn't to me, come across as a believable person. The way she exits the story is laughable and not convincing, plus it's oh so melodramatic. I felt nothing for her. I couldn't view her as a believable adventuress, mother, or mastermind. But maybe that's just me. I kept my focus throughout this book. No part of it was tedious because you felt that bits of the puzzle would ultimately come together. And the revelations, interceded between blurbs of Lady Sedgewick, kept coming till the very end.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
A quiet select hotel with an excellent Mayfair location, Bertram’s Hotel has been in business for many years. It’s like a small slice of Edwardian London and it’s appeal is growing among American tourists as well as the older clientele that it has been serving for generations. Offering the
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perfect English tea, glowing coal fires, quiet studies, and impeccable staff, Bertram’s seems too good to be true.

Miss Jane Marple is enjoying her stay at Bertram‘s, as usual she sits quietly in a corner, knitting and sipping her tea and observing all the comings and goings. Yes, things aren’t all what they seem at this exclusive hotel. From a missing clergyman, to a young impressionable heiress, and a flamboyant woman who lives her life on the gossip pages, Miss Marple has a lot to ponder upon.

Another excellent Agatha Christie mystery story where the mystery isn’t nearly as important as the atmosphere or the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Bertram's Hotel.
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LibraryThing member NellieMc
Classic Ms. Marple -- what's not to love?
LibraryThing member smik
I have seen the TV versions of the novel several times and in fact did wonder whether it was worth my while reading the book, it being next in my list for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.

I hadn't realised how much the story had been modified for television, with characters left out, and
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others inserted. There are a number of plot changes.

The main import of the novel is that nothing at Bertram's Hotel in 1955 is as its seems: all is a facade, from the appearance of the hotel, to the people who visit it, to the people who run it. Miss Marple realises that it is a mistake to try to step back to pre-war days. In fact the Bertram's Hotel she remembers is much older than that, a memory from her childhood.

The story also illustrates Agatha Christie's conviction of the prevalence of organised crime rings that underpinned facades of normality. The police inspector who carries out the investigation into Bertram's shady dealings and the disappearance of Canon Pennyfather is an avuncular old chap who has seen it all, but he is not the same as the bouncing lad of the television production. Nor is there the romantic element that TV gave us for public consumption.

I don't think Miss Marple comes out of thebook particularly well - Christie portrays her as an old busybody who eavesdrops on people's conversations when she can. On the other hand she does recognise evil when she sees it and she demonstrates an understanding of the foibles of the elderly. For example she knows that Canon Pennyfather had mistaken the day he should be flying to Lucerne, and when he returns to Bertram's Hotel, she instantly knows he is not the person she saw descending the stairs at 3 am.

So an interesting read. Perhaps not Christie's best.
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LibraryThing member esilke
I'm a fan of Christie's work, but I really can't recommend this. It's almost incorrect to call this a Marple mystery, since she features in it so little, and is hardly involved in the solving of the mystery at all, a solution in which I found myself completely uninterested. Dull.
LibraryThing member brokenangelkisses
It is perhaps rather surprising that I have previously had such little contact with Agatha Christie. She is apparently the most published author of all time and in any language (excepting Shakespeare and the Bible) and I am an avid reader with a particular tendency towards crime writing. Yet, apart
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from reading ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ in my teens, I had avoided reading her – not consciously, but more through a lack of genuine interest. However, I always vaguely intended to read her one day and, when she turned out to be this month’s crime writer for my reading group, I was rather pleased. Why is this writer so popular? I looked forward to finding out. Would I be disappointed? (After all, Jodi Picoult’s books are hugely *popular*; it doesn’t mean that I enjoy reading them. And I still refuse to even begin Harry Potter.) I was given one of her Miss Marple books and soon settled down to read it.

Bertram’s Hotel

…is rather unusual. Miss Marple, apparently enjoying a few days away to relax after her last sleuthing escapade, is pleased to be able to experience life in the respectable London hotel as she did sixty years previously as a mere girl, but soon feels something isn’t quite right. Why does an old acquaintance, Selina Hazy, think she sees so many familiar faces who turn out, on closer inspection, not to be familiar at all? How is the hotel able to survive with so many guests on a pension? And where do they get such fabulous staff from? Initially these questions, voiced by various characters, seem almost irrelevant, but as the plot develops they all develop a sharp pertinence.

The opening, as you might have guessed from the above questions, is rather slow and yet somehow I feel as if I’m doing the story a disservice by noting it. The pace is certainly gentle, but it wasn’t irritating (and I’m the first to become impatient when I feel writers are dragging things out). The opening chapters felt like I was being gathered into the life of the hotel and its characters. Gradually, the relationships between the characters begin to develop a clearer shape and they become convincing (if perhaps rather one-dimensional) people. This may sound dull and I agree that it wasn’t compelling, but the interesting setting and the clear sense of time and place meant that I felt sufficiently engaged to keep reading. I was never bored.

Interestingly, the ‘action’ seems to start rather a long way through the story (although there is a robbery very early on that is dealt with in one short chapter). A forgetful man disappears. At first, no one is worried; Canon Pennyfather is the sort of chap who stands in the Church and tries to remember whether he has just given the service or is about to do so. Indeed, his worried Housekeeper soon realises that he had tried to go to the airport to catch a flight on the wrong day. But where did he go after that? After three days with no word, it seems something serious has occurred… Even then, this disappearance seems a rather slight premise for a crime novel.

And yet, by the end, when all the threads of the story came together, I realised that important things had been simmering and happening all along. I felt a real sense of satisfaction on reaching the end of the novel. There were suitably sedate twists and turns, a rather old fashioned denouement and a good level of explanation. Some readers might find the plotting a little too contrived but I really liked the way everything came together at the end.

Miss Marple

What really surprised me was Miss Marple’s involvement in the mystery. I had understood that she was an amateur sleuth who often embarrassed local police officers by using her insight into human nature to make connections that they had missed. However, in this story she really does seem to be little more than a nosy old woman who happens to overhear and see a few intriguing incidents. The real detective is, well, the detective. Chief-Inspector Davey, to be precise (who is rather bizarrely known to other officers at Scotland Yard as ‘father’). Davey knowledgeably puts pieces of the puzzle side by side before anyone else even realises they are part of a puzzle and Miss Marple’s role is reduced almost to a Watson-esque position: she notices things but the great man puts them together.

I found this slightly disappointing, simply because it wasn’t what I’d expected. I think this may be atypical of books featuring Miss Marple but do not know for certain. However, it was interesting to follow Davey’s insights and often gently amusing to read of their conversations. Take the following:

“[Miss Marple reveals an important detail about the victim to ‘Father’. He repeats this, rather stunned at the revelation.]
‘Yes,’ said Miss Marple and added: ‘I thought it was odd at the time.’
Father looked at her for some moments.
‘Miss Marple,’ he said, ‘why haven’t you told anyone this before?’
‘Nobody asked me,’ said Miss Marple simply.”

I found the idea of the respected detective being momentarily flummoxed by an elderly lady (and her age is really emphasised in this story) mildly entertaining. Although Miss Marple did not take the leading role, the narrative often follows her actions and the way the mystery was resolved was focused on an understanding of people and their nature, rather than simply physical clues, so I think it was typical of the series in that respect.

Final thoughts

I found this quietly enjoyable. While it wasn’t a compelling read, I liked the book more because it didn’t depend upon shocking cliffhangers and terribly detailed descriptions of violence. It all felt rather genteel (there is one moment near the end which seems rather shockingly underemphasised). I liked the sense that I had entered into another world, and not just because of the inevitable difference in social attitudes which naturally permeate a book written in 1965. The hotel and its characters were convincingly created and there was sufficient mystery to engage and keep my interest. I felt the ending was satisfying though some readers might find the style and complexity slightly irritating. I would certainly read another book by Agatha Christie and would recommend this to anyone who enjoys the kind of crime writing that focuses on motives and personalities rather than forensics and embittered, lonely detectives.

This edition is a nice size to hold for reading and, at £6.99 RRP, seems reasonably priced for 320 pages, especially since one could happily reread this and enjoy noticing all the clues one may not have really focused on the first time round. That said, I’m sure it could be found much cheaper second-hand or even just online. (My copy belongs to my lovely local library!) I also liked the way the Miss Marple books were listed discreetly and chronologically on the back next to the blurb and the title of this book was printed in red. A fan of Christie could create a very nice set using these, despite the rather depressing shade of green chosen for the cover of this one.
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LibraryThing member RaiAren
All is not as it seems…

Agatha Christie mysteries always provide an intriguing cast of characters that are so lively, you can picture them sitting across the table from you. The sense of place is another wonderful feature of these novels, and nowhere is that more pronounced and remarkable than in
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this book – At Bertram’s Hotel.

I found this to be a different kind of mystery with some interesting characteristics. The book certainly held my interest, but surprisingly not because of the plot, which I find okay. For me, this was a slower, more disjointed, and meandering plot and mystery. There are a number of places where I thought the story could have been tightened up and better focused, but it is a charming one still. What really struck me and has stayed with me is the sense of place. Bertram’s Hotel is an enigma – a place out of time. As the world has sped up and sped by, it is an oasis of old-fashioned traditions and values. It is remarkably unchanged and has become a popular spot for those people, now elderly, who knew it from years gone by, as well as tourists seeking a taste of authentic and original London. However, as we all know, time touches on everything. Bertram’s Hotel may seem unchanged on the surface, but as you peel away the layers, and peer behind the veil as it were, all is not as it once was. To remain a place suspended out of time, other things must change, and change they have. There is the core of the mystery of this book.

Only through the keen observation of Miss Marple, her notice of the minutest of details, do we get to uncover what is really going At Bertam’s Hotel. There are very sinister goings-on, but there is also a larger social and societal shift underway, one that left me with a distinct melancholy for what is sometimes lost to time, and a sadness that we cannot stop it from happening. A thought-provoking and worthy read.

Rai Aren, co-author of Secret of the Sands
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LibraryThing member RubyScarlett
This is very different from anything I've read by Christie. It's out there in terms of scope of the plot and the investigation is a lot of police procedural with a tiny bit of detection thrown in. However, it's still a book I couldn't put down as usual with the author. You can feel the end is near
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though as many characters comment on how much society has changed, even down to the outing of the ritual of afternoon tea. I didn't love At Bertram's Hotel but it did manage to entertain me more than most books.
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LibraryThing member buildingabookshelf
Not my favorite Miss Marple - probably because she is hardly in the book. It seems like Agatha Christie had a great idea for a murder mystery and added Miss Marple as an afterthought.
LibraryThing member ParadisePorch
Miss Jane Marple takes a two week holiday at Bertram’s Hotel, of which she has fond childhood memories. So! At Bertram's Hotel, Agatha ChristieIt’s 1965 and Bertram’s hasn’t changed since King Edward V’s time. And that, dear reader, is part of the mystery. Although the hotel seems
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charming at first, it takes on a sinister face. There’s a great cast of vintage Christie characters, but Jane Marple plays only a peripheral part in the whole investigation.

Read this if: you’d like to see Christie acknowledge the modern world encroaching on her country-house-cozy formula that was successful and more or less unchanged for decades. 3 stars
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LibraryThing member Auntie-Nanuuq

Bertram's Hotel is the paragon of good taste & times gone by. At Bertram's Hotel all is "perfect" and the clientele is of the most upper class. At Bertram's Hotel one can satisfy their memories and their need for nostalgia. At Bertram's Hotel many people are recognized as friends from days past,
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but may not actually be. At Bertram's Hotel all is not what it seems.........

Miss Marple is sent on a vacation by her niece.... a fortnight at Bertram's Hotel. Sitting with Lady Selina Hazey, a friend from days gone by, it is innocently pointed out to Miss Marple that many people whom appear to be acquaintances from days past are not whom they appear to be and marked as as aging mind.

Other guests of the hotel include: Beth Sedwick (a famous adventuress), Elvira Blake (Bess's daughter, whom Bess gave up 2 weeks after her birth), Colonel Luscombe (Elvira's legal guardian), and Canon Pennyfather (who suffers from frequent memory lapses). Then there are: Hotel Commissionaire Michael "Mickey" Gorman (Bess's first husband/Elvira's "unknown" father), Ladislaus Malinowski (a famous race car driver, Bess's former lover & Elvira's secret fiancee), Henree (the concierge who makes everyone's stay perfect to the last detail), and Chief Inspector "Father" Davy (who happens to believe everything is not quite as it seems at Bertram's Hotel).

Everything is going smoothly until the disappearance of Canon Pennyfather who never showed up to the conference in Lucerne that he was scheduled to attend and the murder of Mickey Gorman......

This was a very interesting plot and it was well written.....
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LibraryThing member jrsearcher
This is about the 5th or 6th Agatha Christie book that I've read in a row. Whole I found the plot to this book captivating, I was frustrated that the ending answered as many questions as it opened up, thus was left feeling unsatisfied. I also find that reading AC books sometimes feels (to me) like
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I'm reading a play. The characters are 2-dimensional and I don't really connect.
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LibraryThing member ChelleBearss
My first Agatha Christie novel. It was a nice, light murder mystery but a tad bland in spots.
Miss Marple is on a two week vacation at the distinguished Bertram's hotel. Bertram's is a traditional old English hotel where guests can expect whichever style vacation they please: English folks can have
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traditional tea with buttery muffins and American travelers can have cereal with orange juice if they wish.

Police are called in when an absent minded clergy member goes missing from the hotel and luckily they are still on scene when a hotel employee is murdered. Miss Marple conveniently blends into the background and hears many things that others wish she hadn't heard.

Nice light book that didn't take much brain power to read through.
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Dodd, Mead & Company

Original publication date





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