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Miss Marple is back!

July 3, 2009 |  3:00 am

Dame Agatha Christie remains the gold standard of mystery writers not only for her productivity -- the woman wrote 80 detective novels -- but also for her permanence. One could argue that Sherlock Holmes is the most universally famous detective, but Arthur Conan Doyle had but one iconic offspring while Christie had two -- Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. (Four if you count the wonderful Tommy and Tuppence; five if you add, and I do, Mr. Satterthwaite of the Harley Quin stories.)

Of these, Poirot is probably the best known -- there are more than twice as many Poirot novels -- but Miss Marple is the best loved. Also the most influential. Poirot, like Holmes, was an actual detective, whereas Miss Marple was an aged spinster living in the seemingly tranquil village of St. Mary Mead. It is Miss Marple who introduced the notion that detecting is more about understanding human behavior than about analyzing evidence with the gray cells or knowing far too much about tobacco ash and the various soils of London. It is Miss Marple who introduced the revolutionary notion that people are essentially the same wherever one goes and that while it is sad to believe the worst of people it is also often the truth.

In other words, everybody lies.

Not surprisingly, both Poirot and Miss Marple have been portrayed countless times in film and television, their most recent PBS incarnation being on "Six by Agatha," which began in June on "Masterpiece Mystery!" with two Poirot mysteries. But while Poirot was once again played by the redoubtable David Suchet, it's a different Jane who kicks off the Marple run Sunday with "A Pocket Full of Rye."

Read the full story.

(Photo courtesy PBS)