What Mrs. Mcguillicuddy Saw! By Agatha Christie

DISCLAIMER I here confess to reading every single Sherlock Holmes ever written, and about a hundred other mysteries besides.

PLOT Jane Marple, our sleuth, knows she can solve the mystery. It will just happen. Mrs. Mcguillicuddy just happened to witness a murder, but the victim just happened to seem connected to an old mansion, that just happens to need a maid, but the side kick just happens to get a job there, so she can just happen to witness five more deaths, that just happen to occur during a family reunion, that just happens to involve a conversation about old letters, so the gardener can just happen to be burning that day, and our maid can just happen to find a clue, that just happens to lead to the body, so the murderer can just happen to kill two more people, before our heroine just happens to come over for tea, and just happens to get Mrs. Mcguillicuddy to recognize the murderer, from an angle she couldn’t possible be in but that doesn’t matter, because the police just happened to be there already, and thus our sidekick’s upcoming nauptils will, presumably, just happen. The end is quite cheerful, since our murderer just happens to be a nice guy and the courts will probably just happen to let him off, and… oops! Did I just happen to drop my copy? And does that just happen to be a garbage bin? Dear dear… well, these things just happen.

Positives: All the cutting and pasting has to have come from some book she wrote that’s not this bad.

Negatives: The publishing business today operates on the celebrity factor as much as Hollywood, maybe even more. Once an author writes one successful book, it is assumed that the next twenty will be bought by her legions of fans. Publishers make contracts for x-number of books a year, without regard to the quality or content. The problem with that is, most people don’t have enough imagination to write twenty individually good books, let alone two or three times that many. Thus we get books like “What Mrs. Mcguillicuddy Saw!”, that read like a cut-and-paste-with-new-names-and-different-color-coats. The plot is there, but the author clearly did not have enough time to get around to explaining how it all happens. The way the murder is witnessed is next to impossible (clearly designed to give the book its eye-catching title), the reaction of everyone to the murdering spree is pathetic (four out of eight people in the house have been poisoned in the last two days, you say? Well, bring me some more tea, Martha…), and the way the murderer is identified is just plain lazy (the witness “recognizes” the murderer from a completely different angle than she was supposed to have seen him in the first place, in a position she couldn’t possibly have been standing unless she was in the chimney). As if the clichéd writing wasn’t bad enough. Its like the author decided to write an explanation of the title, and then got lazy and just happened to forget how each of the plot lines was resolved.

OVERALL: “What Mrs. Mcguillicuddy Saw!” is a sterling example of the serialization of the book market today. Recommended for those interested in studying the art of lazy writing. Otherwise, you could just happen to get lost in the library and hit the biography section.

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10 thoughts on “What Mrs. Mcguillicuddy Saw! By Agatha Christie

  1. Great review; I love the biting humor. Although I am not huge on mysteries, I have read far too many Gilbert Morris books, and unfortnately he too falls victim to the cut-and-paste syndrome. How many House of Winslow books does he have out now? Thirty? Forty? By number 25 the plotlines feel old, and the story predictable. I’ve just stopped reading them altogether, especially since, in his last book, he had two of his characters go to a Red Sox-Yankees game…and one of the characters is a Yankee fan. Forget over-worked plots; THAT is unforgivable!

  2. Oh my word! I’ve read the House of Winslow books too! Aren’t they hilarious? His winchester-somethingseries is worse, though. Talk about cut and paste!

  3. p.s., the yankees thing is utterly unforgivable. Who would write a book where the characters go to a sports game anyway?

    Just kidding, just kidding! Glad you liked the reveiw

  4. Winchester books…it seems I’ve read some of those too. Is that the one set in 16th century England? Yes, the Winslow books can be comical. Especially when they get overdramatic. Some of the converstion scenes are especially dramatic. If you want a good historical Christian novel, though, check out Lynn Austin. The Refiner’s Fire series and A Women’s Place are especially good. No cutting-and-pasting, I assure you.

  5. Yep, 16th century England, 21st century cliche’. The House of Winslow books, to their credit, only seem cliche after you’ve read enough of the series. Winchester, on the other hand, is blantantly cliche, which always saddened me, since Christian series on that era are few. Havn’t read Lynn Austin yet: have you heard of Brother Cadfael? Granted, he is in the 12th century. But mystery-based, like Agatha Christie (only the authoress quit before falling into the enternal recycling trap of cliche).

  6. Hey, now wait a minute! : )

    Agatha Christie is one of the best novelists ever–definitely the best in her favorite genre (mystery/suspense). Certainly some of her work is better than others, but what do you expect after more than sixty novels. Her studies of human nature were absolutely brilliant, and many of the things I learned in college Psychology I had already read in Christie’s novels.

    She was and still is Dame of the mystery novel. Very little of the rubbish found in today’s mysteries can even hold a candle to her! Indeed, much of what you call “cut and paste” in today’s fiction came from Christie’s work! She practically invented the “cozy, English murder story,” and the literary world would be a very sad place without her.

    Okay….I’ve had my say! : )

  7. One more thing… ; )

    “What Mrs. McGillycuddy Saw” is not new fiction at all–it was written in 1957. Also, if you want a better example of Christie’s work, try “The A.B.C. Murders,” (1936) a classic piece of literature in my opinion, or “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?” (1934).

  8. Its interesting to hear that you enjoyed Agatha Christie’s work. I never did a study on the sources for many of today’s mystery cliche’s except perhaps for the noir genre, so you are probably right about that. Now I have to read the ABC’s of Agatha Christie and see for myself.

    I knew the book was written awhile ago, and probably should have deliniated that more specifically (my copy gave 1960 as the copyright date). I should note, the literary world started going downhill in the 1950s in my opinion (the serious serialization of books and novels had started before that, but as I understand it, it became much more commercialized by the mid twentieth century).

    It was nice of you to comment, though. 🙂 I am always up for a good philosophical discussion. There were some threads of psycology in the book, but none of them went anywhere that I could tell (but you said this was her, what, 61st book?)

  9. Oh, good, I’m glad I didn’t offend you! Sometimes it’s hard to come across pleasant when typing–I really was just trying to discuss, not argue. : )

    I like your theory about literature going downhill after the 1950’s. I think you are right.

    Yes, definitely try “ABC”, it was written about twenty years before “Mrs. McGillycuddy.” I found a list of her books on Wikipedia and counted 60 books total (not including plays), with Mrs. McGillycuddy being the 49th.

    Thanks for the invigorating discussion! It sparked one at my family’s dinner table last night, as well! : )

    Blessings…

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