The final panel at the recent Bodies From the Library event (much covered on this blog and others) was called Ask the Experts: the audience was invited to submit questions to a gang of the day’s speakers. This was as enjoyable and funny and light-hearted as you would hope. I was asked if I thought those attending were well-dressed… Of course they were!
The other question I grabbed was one about a favourite Agatha Christie murder method. And I had an answer without having to think too hard (though I could have thought of several others) - though it’s more of a ‘choice of a scene I would like to re-enact’.
In Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage – the first Miss Marple novel, 1930 - a young woman’s innocence depends on this strange exchange when Miss M is questioned about her. It has been suggested that Anne Protheroe shot her husband:
Miss Marple shook her head slowly and pityingly… "What did she shoot him with?"
"Where did she find it?"
"She brought it with her."
"Well, that she didn't do," said Miss Marple, with unexpected decision. "I can swear to that. She'd no such thing with her."
"You mightn't have seen it."
"Of course I should have seen it."
"If it had been in her handbag."
"She wasn't carrying a handbag."
"Well it might have been concealed - er - upon her person."
Miss Marple directed a glance of sorrow and scorn upon him.
"My dear Colonel Melchett, you know what young women are nowadays. Not ashamed to show exactly how the creator made them. She hadn't so much as a handkerchief in the top of her stocking.''
When I wrote a blogpost on Vicarage covering this very aspect a few years ago, it became one of my most popular posts, with many a commentator coming to argue the toss on whether an early 30s dress was so light, tight and flimsy that a gun couldn’t be concealed. The contributions from readers (here and online) were a joy to read. [In all modesty I do recommend the post, with its search for vulgarity in the book, and examination of Miss Marple – and don’t miss the comments.]
So my idea is that I would like to test out this theory, sashaying around an English vicarage garden in a variety of elegant summer frocks, sometimes with a gun about my person and sometimes not. Proper criminology research.
It would be great to hear others’ similar ideas.
The top white dress might make it hard to conceal a gun, though it is also very definitely a beach dress.
The next one down doesn’t seem a likely dress in the circumstances, but the model (the singer Ruth Etting) does not seem to have a gun in her stocking top.
The four Paris models: surely you could have a whole armoury under them….
All pictures from Kristine’s photostream, from 1929 or 1930.