Nemesis is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie (1890–1976) and first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in November 1971 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. The UK edition retailed at £1.50 and the US edition at $6.95.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 Plot summary
- 3 Characters
- 4 Locations
- 5 Literary significance and reception
- 6 References or Allusions
- 7 Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
- 8 Publication history
- 9 International titles
- 10 References
Miss Marple receives a posthumous letter from the recently deceased Mr Jason Rafiel whom she had met earlier in A Caribbean Mystery. The letter asks Miss Marple to help correct an injustice but does not specify what it is or how to begin going about it.
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
Miss Marple receives a letter from the recently deceased Mr Jason Rafiel, a millionaire whom she had met during a holiday on which she had encountered a murder, which asks her to look into an unspecified crime; if she succeeds in solving the crime, she will inherit £20,000.
Rafiel, however, has left her few clues, not even when or where the crime was committed and who was involved.
Miss Marple's first clue is a tour of famous houses and gardens of Great Britain, arranged for her by Mr. Rafiel prior to his death. She is accompanied on the trip by fourteen other people, at least one of whom she suspects to be related to her enquiries. She learns that one of her companions, Elizabeth Temple, is the retired headmistress of the school which a girl who was engaged to Rafiel's ne'er-do-well son, Michael, attended. Another member of the tour group, Miss Cooke, is a woman she had previously met and discussed gardening with.
Her next clue comes in the form of a woman named Lavinia Glynne; Rafiel had written to Mrs. Glynne and her two sisters before his death, suggesting that Miss Marple spend the most physically challenging few days of the tour with them. Miss Marple accepts Lavinia's invitation, assuming it to be the next part of Mr Rafiel's instructions. She then meets Lavinia's sisters, Clotilde and Anthea Bradbury-Scott and immediately feels there is something odd about Anthea. On talking to the servant, Miss Marple learns that the girl engaged to Michael Rafiel had been adopted by Clotilde after the death of her parents.
On the morning of her return to her party, Miss Marple is told by another member of the tour group that Miss Temple had been knocked unconscious by a rockslide during their hike of the previous day, and was lying in a coma in hospital. The group stays over an extra night to wait for news from the tour guide about Miss Temple's health. It turns out that Professor Wanstead, a pathologist and psychologist interested in the different types of criminal brains, had been instructed by Mr Rafiel to go on the tour. He had examined Michael Rafiel at the request of the head of the prison where Michael was incarcerated; he came to the same conclusion as his friend: Michael was not capable of murder. He also tells her how uninterested Michael's father seemed.
Professor Wanstead then takes Miss Marple to see Miss Temple; in a moment of consciousness, Miss Temple had asked for Miss Marple. Miss Temple wakes only long enough to tell Miss Marple "search for Verity Hunt", and dies that night without reviving again. The three sisters extend their invitation to Miss Marple when she returns to the tour, and she promptly accepts. That night, she discovers that Verity was the girl Clotilde had adopted.
After the inquiry into Miss Temple's death, Miss Marple is visited by Archdeacon Brabazon, who was a friend of Miss Temple's. He then tells Miss Marple that he was going to marry Verity Hunt and Michael Rafiel, but had been sworn to secrecy by Verity. While he disapproved of the secrecy and of Verity marrying Michael, he agreed to marry them because he could see that they were in love. He was most surprised when neither turned up for the wedding.
Miss Marple decides to stay another few nights with the three sisters when the tour moves on. Professor Wanstead travels to London by train on an errand for Miss Marple. Miss Barrow and Miss Cooke decide they would like to visit a nearby church. Later that evening, Miss Marple talks with the sisters about what she thinks may have happened and, while they are doing so, Miss Barrow and Miss Cooke appear, to talk to Miss Marple. They stay for a time and are then invited back for coffee that evening.
As they talk about Miss Temple, Miss Marple suggests that Joanna Crawford and Emlyn Price pushed the boulder, and their alibis are mere fabrication. As they get ready to leave, Miss Cooke suggests that the coffee wouldn't suit Miss Marple, as it will keep her up all night and Miss Marple instead asks for some warm milk. The two ladies soon depart, though each forgets an item and has to return for it.
At three o'clock the next morning, Clotilde enters Miss Marple's room. Miss Marple reveals that she knows that Clotilde murdered Verity and hid her in the now-destroyed greenhouse, because she could not stand to see Verity love someone else. She also reveals that she knows that Clotilde killed another girl, Nora Broad, merely in order to (mis)identify the body as Verity's and thus throw suspicion on Michael Rafiel. Just as Clotilde advances toward her, Miss Marple blows on a whistle, which brings Miss Cooke and Miss Barrow—they are bodyguards employed by Mr. Rafiel to protect Miss Marple.
Michael Rafiel is set free. Miss Marple collects her 'fee'.
Famous Houses and Gardens tour
- Miss Marple
- Mrs Sandbourne
- Professor Wanstead
- Miss Elizabeth Temple
- Miss Cooke
- Miss Barrow
- Other members of the coach tour
Acquaintances from A Caribbean Mystery
- Jason Rafiel
- Esther Anderson (née Walters)
- Arthur Jackson (mentioned)
- Joan Prescott and her brother Canon Prescott
The Bradbury-Scott family
- Clotilde Bradbury-Scott
- Lavinia Glynne (née Bradbury-Scott) - Mr Glynne (d)
- Anthea Bradbury-Scott
- Verity Hunt - ward of Clotilde and Anthea
- See the Bradbury-Scott family tree
From Jocelyn St Mary
Police and officials
St Mary Mead and others of Miss Marple's circle
- Cherry Baker, George, Henry Clithering
- Village parallels: Dame Emily Waldron, Jonathan Birkin
- Emily Waldron
- St Mary Mead
- St George Hotel
Literary significance and reception
As Agatha Christie herself was surely aware given her education, "Nemesis" is a female personification of divine revenge, an inexorable inevitable and unavoidable balancing of fate and final judgement. As such, given the inevitability that Miss Marple will indeed always succeed in uncovering the murderer and see justice done, and given Miss Marple's thoroughly Victorian attitudes to punishment, it is an extremely apt descriptor of the character and a wonderful final story. It is the final story since the "Sleeping Murder" novel was written years earlier albeit published later.
Matthew Coady in The Guardian of November 4, 1971 concluded, "Not a Christie classic but the old hand is astonishingly fresh and the mixture as relaxing as a hot bath."
Maurice Richardson in The Observer of October 31, 1971 said, "The showdown when, alone in bed, quite defenceless with not even a knitting-needle, she is confronted by a brawny great fiend of a butch, is devilish fine. Not one of her best, perhaps, but remarkably inventive, quite worthy of the Picasso of the detective story."
The Daily Mirror of October 28, 1971 said, "With this first-rate story Dame Agatha triumphantly returns to the traditional detective novel after a spell of psychological suspense."
Robert Weaver in the Toronto Daily Star of December 4, 1971 said, "Christie richly deserves the loyalty offered up to her by devotees of the traditional mystery. She is readable and ingenious, and in Nemesis she has going for her the amateur lady sleuth Miss Jane Marple deep in a murder case as she tries to carry out a request that comes in effect from beyond the grave. Beyond 80 Miss Christie remains unflagging."
Robert Barnard: "Miss Marple is sent on a tour of stately gardens by Mr Rafiel. The garden paths we are led up are neither enticing nor profitable. All the usual strictures about late Christie apply."
References or Allusions
- In the novel Mr Rafiel likens Miss Marple to the Greek goddess Nemesis. According to some ancient sources, Nemesis was the sister of the three Moirai (also known as the Fates). Their names were Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos. These names appear to mirror the names of the three Bradbury-Scott sisters: Clotilde, Lavinia and Anthea.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
BBC's Miss Marple
BBC made a 100-minute TV film adaptation in 1987 as the seventh episode of their Miss Marple TV series. This starred Joan Hickson in the title role as Miss Marple and was very faithful to the original novel.
ITV's Agatha Christie's Marple
A later adaptation was produced by ITV in 2007 (and first aired on 1 January 2009) with Geraldine McEwan as part of the third season of her Marple series. As with other adaptations made for this series, this version was only very loosely based on the novel, with the plot, motives and backstories and identities of most of the characters and the scenes altered. This was Geraldine McEwan's final film in Agatha Christie's Marple.
BBC Audiobook dramatisations
Nemesis was also adapted as an audiobook/dramatisation by the BBC starring June Whitfield.
- 1971, Collins Crime Club (London), November 1971, Hardcover, 256 pp
- 1971, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), Hardcover, 271 pp
- 1973, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback, 229 pp
- 1974, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 192 pp
- 1976, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 421 pp ISBN 0-85456-476-4
- 2006, Marple Facsimile edition (Facsimile of 1971 UK first edition), May 2, 2006, Hardcover, ISBN 0-00-720859-6
The novel was first serialised in the UK weekly magazine Woman's Realm in seven abridged instalments from September 25 (Vol 27, No 702) to November 6, 1971 (Vol 27, No 708), with illustrations by Len Thurston.
In North America the novel was serialised in the Star Weekly Novel, a Toronto newspaper supplement, in two abridged instalments from October 16 to October 23, 1971 with each issue containing the same cover illustration by Laszlo Gal.
- Czech: Nemesis (Nemesis)
- French: Némesis (Nemesis)
- German: Das Schicksal in Person (Destiny in Person)
- Finnish: Neiti Marple koston jumalattarena (Miss Marple as the Goddess of Revenge)