When Jane Marple comes up from the country for a holiday in London, she finds what she's looking for at Bertram's: a restored London hotel with 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.
With the extinction of some stinker short stories, and one or two gems of novels, most of the Miss Marple stories hover squarely around average. Years after reading this novel, I’m still not sure how I feel about it. "At Bertram’s Hotel" avoids many of the predictable aspects of Christie’s well-worn premises, and maintains an oddly sinister undertone throughout. Ultimately, though, I can find very little to recommend it. Miss Marple does nearly no actual investigating here, and there aren’t even really any clues. I find it hard to believe she solves this one, given that it’s all divination. (There is one marvelous piece of all-encompassing misdirection, which is cleverly disguised for the entire novel.)
Christie seems a little torn here over what genre she’s writing in and most notably – as in a few of Christie’s most flawed works – the few charismatic characters far outweigh the majority, leading to an uneven reading experience. There are two potential problems with books like this: a) the murderer(s) will turn out to be someone who never stood out against the livelier characters, or b) the murderer(s) won’t be as much of a shock, since they dominated the proceedings.
"At Bertram’s Hotel" isn’t execrable, but it’s for die-hards only. I wouldn’t recommend this to a Christie novice. (Having said that, the Joan Hickson adaptation is really quite fine.)
Marple ranking: 11th of 14
Not the strongest of the Miss Marple mysteries but the novel is still 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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
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
…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.
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.
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.