Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 48 seconds
‘Will you pour out tea, Miss Brent?‘ The elder woman replied: ‘No, you do it, dear. That tea-pot is so heavy. And I have lost two skeins of my grey knitting-wool. So annoying.’ Vera moved to the tea-table. There was a cheerful rattle and clink of china. Normality returned. Tea! Blessed ordinary everyday afternoon tea! Philip Lombard made a cheery remark. Blore responded. Dr. Armstrong told a humorous story. Mr. Justice Wargrave, who ordinarily hated tea, sipped approvingly.
– Agatha Christie, from her book, “And Then There Were None”
Everyone knows that reading and a cup of tea go hand in hand. No one knew this better than Agatha Christie. She was an avid tea drinker and often wrote about it in her books. (By the way, did you know that Christie has been outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible?)
I’m like Christie, in that I am also an avid tea drinker and a lover of great British cozy mysteries. In a Christie village, the tea table offers far more menace than one would ever imagine; and my tea table–albeit minus the menace – is often laden with numerous mysteries and of course a pot of tea!
The other night as usual I couldn’t fall asleep, and watching TV, usually ends up being the answer. I found myself surfing one of my most favorite television options – Acorn. Acorn TV is an American subscription streaming service offering television programming from the United Kingdom, as well as Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. I LOVE IT, especially the mysteries. Since it was late, and my goal was to get to sleep, I didn’t want to watch something dark and gritty, and full of explicit murder and mayhem, like Wire in the Blood, so I opted for the frail, fluffy and fleecy Miss Marple.
Hopefully, there isn’t anyone out there who doesn’t know this famous female sleuth created by Agatha Christie. We always find her sitting in her chintzy drawing-room in St. Mary Mead. Here this armchair detective watches the world go by with her eagle eyes, sharp mind, and with her ever-present knitting in her lap. She is forever being underestimated by the people surrounding her, but she inevitably demonstrates her cunning methods of crime-solving, often to the amazement of the police. So, sleep came while watching “Murder at the Vicarage”.
Sleuthing the Tea and Mystery Connections in Agatha Christie Novels
The next morning, I found myself pulling down all my Christie books–from rather dusty shelves, I’m embarrassed to say–and YES, by the way, I do have all of her books. I organized them in piles according to detectives and then pulled the Miss Marple ones aside. After some perusing, I realized that in many of the books, the characters are drinking tea within the first two pages.
For example, the first paragraph in Nemesis, we find Miss Marple drinking tea and reading the paper. At Bertram’s Hotel, everyone seems to come for afternoon tea, described as, ”…the best Indian, Ceylon, Darjeeling, Lapsang…” In A Pocket Full of Rye, Rex Fortescue, a wealthy businessman, meets his end after drinking his morning tea. It’s not surprising that Ms. Christie would refer to tea again and again in her novels.
Christie once admitted that she did her best thinking while “eating apples and drinking tea.” (Ariadne Oliver, a mystery novelist and friend of Hercule Poirot, is another of Christie’s characters who is VERY fond of apples.) And how about Hercule Poirot and his beloved his “tisanes”? He would often try to unravel a crime while sipping from a steaming cup of his herbal infusions and urging Captain Hastings to “use his brain cells.”
But I digress, back to Miss Marple… I realized after thinking about the books in which she appears, there were a lot of bodies found in libraries, vicarages, hotels: All great places for afternoon tea!
In St. Mary Mead, her little village, teatime is the hub of village life – a time when Miss Marple can use her razor-sharp mind while seeming like nothing but a harmless pink-cheeked old lady. Throughout the 12 novels and 20 short stories that she appears in, Miss Marple solves some 43 murders through the simple expedient of using logic and drinking tea. ”One does see so much evil in a village,” murmured Miss Marple in an explanatory voice. Her soft blue eyes have witnessed the depths of evil, but there is always the solace in another cup of tea. Her most sociable meal is afternoon tea, when many of her cases are solved over scones and sandwiches; and she often commends her maid Florence for making the “most delicious tea cakes.”
So once again, two of my passions overlap – tea and books. I’ll leave you with this statement from Miss Marple, “I think, my dear,” she said, “we won’t talk any more about murder during tea. Such an unpleasant subject!”
A Miss Marple Challenge
Here’s a brain teaser for you…How many cups of tea did Miss Marple drink over the 12 novels and 20 short stories in which she appears?