by Hank Phillippi Ryan

A quiz for you today! Especially all of you who are fans of crime fiction. Read these brief excerpts, from different places, and see if you can name the main character. Also: see if you have a thought about who may have written them.

(Do you hear a voice? Do you hear a note of familiarity? Do you get a sense of personality?)

How about this one:

1, To have one murder in one vicarage is unfortunate; to have a second looks remarkably like carelessness, or worse.

Was that easy? How about this one:

  2. “Oh dear.” (Character name) became at once a little flustered. “Well, yes and no. But it’s so difficult to be sure, you know, and I don’t quite like to say anything. I suppose they found a window open?”
Sir Henry’s other eyebrow rose at that, but he gave a nod.
“As a matter of fact, yes. The one in the little boot room by the back door. But what made you say that?”

We know you’re getting this now, right? Here’s another one. And there’s a big clue.

3. (Name of character) looks up sharply. I don’t know how old she is, exactly, but one thing’s for sure: no matter her age, nothing gets past her.
“Are they not?” she asks.

You’re hearing it now, aren’t you? There’s only one person these stories to be about. Here’s the final one.

4. “I shouldn’t worry too much about him,” said character name. “I imagine he’ll console himself with that actress, the one we saw in that most… interesting adaptation of Macbeth. He couldn’t have cast her for her talent, so he must be very much in love with her indeed.”  Character name smiled, and returned to her knitting.

Yes, of course, you have certainly guessed by now that these are stories about Miss Marple. Agatha Christie’s – – oh golly, I have to use the word iconic, but it is true – – beloved sleuth.

This week, twelve incredible authors have joined together to provide  twelve  brand new Agatha Christie “Marple” mysteries–in a new anthology from William Morrow called MARPLE.

From the standpoint of Career Authors, this is not only fun to read, but such a brilliant exercise in voice and tone. As well as in writing a classic mystery.

Those twelve authors – – including Val McDermid, Ruth Ware, Lucy Foley, Leigh Bardugo, Alyssa Cole, and more — were asked to face the task of coming up with a brand-new Marple story honoring Agatha Christie. And they were all brave enough to undertake to write “like” her!

Author Karen McManus, who writes young adult New York Times best sellers, said she was honored with the assignment, and said wanted to have a teen protagonist who looks up to Miss Marple as a mentor. She says “I think Miss Marple is quite perceptive when it comes to young women, so it was fun to create that dynamic.” And like so many of us, she started reading Christie early on.  “The first Agatha Christie book I ever read was And Then There Were None, when I was about 13.  years old. I remember closing the book and sitting silently in my chair while trying to absorb the brilliance of that plot twist..”

Jean Kwok also grew up with Miss Marple–in fact, she says,  “they were an integral part of my learning English as a first generation immigrant. I emigrated to New York from Hong Kong when I was a child but it takes many years to achieve true fluency.  I not only loved her twisty and thought-provoking mysteries but they helped me master English because I enjoyed them so much, I read them constantly. Furthermore, Agatha Christie herself and Miss Marple were real inspirations to me as independent women who followed their own paths.”

But how do you become an icon? What was it, we wondered, that gives Agatha Christie mysteries their recognizable essence?

Karen McManus says “When you pick up and Agatha Christie book or short story you know exactly what you’re getting – – her style and voice are both incredibly strong – – but you’re constantly surprised. That ability to both comfort and confound is what makes is part of what makes her great.”

Jean Kwok says “It made me realize how very talented Christie was. Her work may seem deceptively simple because she stays away from gore and violence on the page but her stories are so brilliantly crafted. She manages to sprinkle all of the necessary clues without giving away the solution. And most of all, there’s so much humor and subtle social commentary in her writing.”

Do you have this powerful voice in your own work? Would twelve  authors be able to write a story that reflects that depth and texture and multi-level understanding? As Karen McManus says “Agatha Christie is so iconic that a dozen different authors can give their own take in a dozen different ways, but she – – Miss Marple – – remains herself throughout.”

This anthology is a master class in voice and tone and style and storytelling – – and not only entertaining, but, for Career Authors, instructive. And reveals the true power of voice.

And oh, here’s who created these new Marples! 

Our first example is from Val McDermid’s  “The Second Murder at the Vicarage.”

The second example is a Ruth Ware‘s  “Miss Marple‘s Christmas.”

Number three is from Karen McManus’s “The Murdering Sort.”

And the final one is Leigh Bardugo’s “The Disappearance.”

Didn’t they all capture her?

Jennifer Hart, senior vice president and associate publisher of William Morrow, says “With Miss Marple, Christie gave a voice to women who were often overlooked. And we are deeply honored that these 12 writers have come together to pay homage to that ambition.”

As Career Authors, we all share an ambition to create a powerful voice, right?  Don’t forget that when you are writing your own manuscripts.  Any thoughts about voice?  (Or MIss Marple?) Tell us on the Career Authors Facebook page.  And then,  get writing.


Bringing a fresh twist to the hallmarks of a classic Agatha Christie mystery, these twelve esteemed writers have captured the sharp wit, unique voice, and droll ingenuity of the deceptively demure detective. A triumphant celebration of Christie’s legacy and essential reading for crime lovers, Marple is a timely reminder why Jane Marple remains one of the most famous detectives of all time.