Why was Mrs. Kendell walking around with a knife? Mrs. Kendell herself certainly could not say. Indeed, the poor woman did not even realize that during one of her recent blackout spells a body had been discovered stabbed to death. This is just one of several murders that occur at the Golden Palm, a small resort in the West Indies that Miss Jane Marple checks into for a holiday.
Sunshine, fresh air, and plenty of rest are just what the doctor ordered for Miss Marple, and so she headed to the Caribbean only to discover mystery, mayhem, and murder awaiting her!
It all began with Major Palgrave.....
"Want to see a picture of a murderer?" he asks. While working on his memoirs, the Major offers to show an incriminating photograph to Miss Marple but then he suddenly recognizes one of the people at the resort as the face in the photo and quickly tucks it away. Shortly thereafter he dies of a "heart attack". Coincidence? Miss Marple thinks not, and the spinster from St. Mary Mead has solved enough crimes to recognize the signs of foul play.
Among the many suspects are: Mr. and Mrs. Kendell, the proprietors of the resort ( Jameson Parker and Season Hubley ); "Lucky" and her husband ( Cassie Yates and Stephen Macht ), Mr. and Mrs. Hillingdon ( Beth Howland and George Innes ), Dr. Graham ( Brock Peters ), and that old tycoon Mr. Rafiel ( Barnard Hughes ).
A Caribbean Mystery was a made-for-television production that aired on CBS on October 23, 1983. It was one of several Agatha Christie TV movies made by The Stan Margulies Company. It took Margulies three years to acquire the rights to convert Christie's novels into television features, and, once having obtained them, he was anxious to focus on the Miss Marple stories. After the success of the first Christie production Murder is Easy ( based on her 1939 mystery of the same name ), Margulies set to work on producing an adaptation of her 1964 novel "A Caribbean Mystery", which previously had not been filmed.
Helen Hayes, the first lady of the American Theatre, took on the character of Miss Marple with her usual sweet command. She had a brief role in Murder is Easy but this was the first time she was cast as the famous senior sleuth. In spite of her spunky Americanization of the part, Agatha Christie fans adored her and she returned to the role two years later in Murder with Mirrors.
Miss Marple is an elderly granny-type, who enjoys knitting and listening to bits of gossip when she can overhear it. Nobody suspects that she has a shrewd intellect and, therefore, she can go about her detecting unnoticed. Unlike Joan Hickson or Geraldine McEwan's interpretations of the character, Helen Hayes brilliantly nails this unsuspecting nature of Miss Marple.
Christie's "A Caribbean Mystery" was praised when it was first published with crime-writer and reviewer Anthony Berkeley Cox exclaiming that the writer was back in her old form after a series of disappointing novels. "In 'A Caribbean Mystery' she tells the reader explicitly what is going to happen; and yet when it does, nine out of ten will be taken completely by surprise – as I was. How does she do it?"
Well, this television adaptation of the story receives praises among Agatha Christie fans too, and justly so. It stays true to her novel, meandering along at a gentle pace unraveling new layers of delightful puzzles as it progresses. The cast, while not particularly well known outside of their television work, are perfect in each part. Barnard Hughes is especially entertaining as the wheel-chair bound grouch Mr. Rafiel. The film added a hint of romance between him and Miss Marple which is another pleasant touch.
For a respite from the approaching rainy autumn weather, sit back and enjoy the winning combination of sunshine and murder to be found in A Caribbean Mystery.
This post is our contribution to the Agatha Christie Blogathon being hosted by Christina Wehner and Little Bits of Classics. Be sure to head on over to their sites to check out more posts about the famous mystery writer, her books, and the film adaptations of her work.