Nemesis (Christie novel)

For other uses, see Nemesis (disambiguation).

Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
Author Agatha Christie
Cover artist Unknown
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Crime novel
Published November 1971 Collins Crime Club (UK)
1971 Dodd, Mead and Company (US)
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 256 pp (first edition, hardcover)
ISBN 0-00-231563-7
OCLC 2656647
LC Class PR6005.H66 N4 1971b
Preceded by Passenger to Frankfurt
Followed by The Golden Ball and Other Stories

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[1] and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year.[2][3] The UK edition retailed at £1.50[1] and the US edition at $6.95.[3] It was the last Miss Marple novel the author wrote, although Sleeping Murder was the last Christie novel to be published.

Miss Marple first encounters Jason Rafiel in A Caribbean Mystery, where they solve a mystery. Miss Marple receives communications from him, sent posthumously, setting up the plot of this novel.

Plot summary

Miss Marple receives a post card from the recently deceased 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 has left her few clues. She begins by joining a tour of famous British houses and gardens with fourteen other people, arranged by Mr Rafiel prior to his death. Elizabeth Temple is the retired school headmistress who relates the story of Verity, who was engaged to Rafiel's ne'er-do-well son, Michael, but the marriage did not happen. Another member of the tour group, Miss Cooke, is a woman she had met briefly in St Mary Mead.

Her next clue comes from 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. She then meets Lavinia's spinster sisters, Clotilde and Anthea Bradbury-Scott. On talking with the servant, Miss Marple learns that Verity joined the family after both her parents died, becoming quite attached to Clotilde. Verity is dead now, brutally murdered, and Michael Rafiel is in prison.

On the morning of her return to her party, Miss Marple learns that Miss Temple had been injured by a rockslide during the previous day's hike, 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. Professor Wanstead, a pathologist and psychologist interested in 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 conclusion that Michael was not capable of murder. He tells Miss Marple how uninterested Michael's father seemed. He mentions a missing young local woman, Nora Broad, and he fears she will be found murdered. Wanstead takes Miss Marple to see Miss Temple; in a moment of consciousness, Miss Temple had asked for Miss Marple. Miss Temple wakes long enough to tell Miss Marple to "search for Verity Hunt", and dies that night. The three sisters extend their invitation to Miss Marple when she decides not to return to the tour, and she promptly accepts. That night, Mrs Glynne tells the story of Verity in their household to Miss Marple.

After the inquiry into Miss Temple's death, Miss Marple is visited by Archdeacon Brabazon, a friend of Miss Temple. He tells Miss Marple that he was going to marry Verity Hunt and Michael Rafiel in a secret ceremony. While he disapproved of the secrecy and worried about their prospects, he agreed to marry them because he could see they were in love. He was most surprised when neither turned up for the wedding, nor sent a note. Miss Marple stays 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 will 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, albeit dissembling, that Joanna Crawford and Emlyn Price (two of those on the tour) pushed the boulder, and their alibis are mere fabrication. As they get ready to leave, Miss Cooke suggests that the coffee would not suit Miss Marple, as it will keep her up all night. Clotilde then offers some warm milk. The two ladies soon depart, although each returns to retrieve a forgotten item. At three o'clock in the morning, Clotilde enters Miss Marple's room, surprised when Miss Marple turns on the light. Miss Marple tells her that she did not drink the milk. Clotilde offers to warm it up, but Miss Marple tells her she still would not drink it because she knows that Clotilde killed Verity Hunt and buried her body in the wreck of the greenhouse, because she could not bear Verity leaving her for someone else. She also knows that Clotilde brutally murdered Nora Broad to (mis)identify her body as Verity's and thus throw suspicion on Michael Rafiel. Clotilde murdered Miss Temple as well. As Clotilde advances toward her, Miss Marple blows on a whistle, which brings Miss Cooke and Miss Barrow to her defence — they are bodyguards employed by Mr Rafiel to protect Miss Marple. Clotilde drinks the milk herself, which is poisoned. Miss Marple tells the story to the Home Secretary, including that Verity is buried on the property of the Bradbury-Scotts. Michael Rafiel is set free. Miss Marple collects her inheritance, confident she completed the task given her.


Literary significance and reception

Matthew Coady in The Guardian of 4 November 1971 concluded, "Not a Christie classic but the old hand is astonishingly fresh and the mixture as relaxing as a hot bath."[4]

Maurice Richardson in The Observer of 31 October 1971 said of Miss Marple in this story, "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."[5]

The Daily Mirror of 28 October 1971 said, "With this first-rate story Dame Agatha triumphantly returns to the traditional detective novel after a spell of psychological suspense."[6]

Robert Weaver in the Toronto Daily Star of 4 December 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."[7]

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."[8]

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations


In 1987, Nemesis was broadcast by the BBC as a 100-minute film in the eighth adaptation (of twelve) in the series Miss Marple starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple, in two 50-minute parts on Sunday, 8 February, and Sunday, 15 February 1987. It sticks relatively close to the novel, with the exception that Miss Temple is killed by a stone bust pushed off a balcony while she tours a library rather than by a rock slide during a hike, Michael Rafiel never spent ten years in prison, and Nora Broad's name is changed to Norah Brent. Miss Marple stays in a larger, more luxurious hotel. Jason Rafiel's secretary/PA Esther Walters is eliminated from the dramatization. A new fictional nephew/godson of Miss Marple, Lionel Peel, accompanies her; he is staying with her after his wife chucked him out. At the time of the broadcast, the 'prequel' story of "A Caribbean Mystery" had not been produced or broadcast. The part of Jason Rafiel was eventually played by Donald Pleasence and not by Frank Gatliff who portrayed the character in this production.

Adaptor: TR Bowen
Director: David Tucker

Barbara Franceschi as Miss Kurnowitz
Frank Gatliff as Jason Rafiel
Peter Tilbury as Lionel Peel
John Horsley as Professor Wanstead
Jane Booker as Miss Cooke
Alison Skilbeck as Miss Barrow
Valerie Lush as Lavinia Glynne
Margaret Tyzack as Clothilde Bradbury-Scott
Anna Cropper as Anthea Bradbury-Scott
Jonathan Adams as Carter
Oliver Parker as London Policeman
Bruce Payne as Michael Rafiel
Roger Hammond as Mr Broadribb
Patrick Godfrey as Mr Schuster
Joanna Hole as Madge
Helen Cherry as Miss Temple
Liz Fraser as Mrs Brent

In 2007, ITV broadcast Nemesis (aired 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 identity of most of the characters and scenes altered, and almost everything about the character of the murderer substantially changed. Miss Temple and Professor Wanstead are eliminated, the murder of Norah Broad is missing, the characters of Madge and Miss Barrow are merged into one and the Bradbury-Scott sisters are nuns.

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn Cast:
Laura Michelle Kelly as Verity Hunt/Margaret Lumley
Dan Stevens as Michael Rafiel
Richard E. Grant as Raymond West
Amanda Burton as Sister Clotilde
Anne Reid as Mother Agnes
Ronni Ancona as Amanda Dalrymple
Ruth Wilson as Georgina Barrow
Lee Ingleby as Detective Constable Colin Hards
Will Mellor as Martin Waddy
Emily Woof as Rowena Waddy
George Cole as Lawrence Raeburn
Johnny Briggs as Sydney Lumley
Adrian Rawlins as Derek Turnball
Graeme Garden as Matthew Broadribb


Nemesis was adapted for radio dramatisation by BBC Radio 4 starring June Whitfield. It first aired in November–December 1998 and again in later years, including 2011 and 2013.[9][10]

June Whitfield as Miss Marple
George A. Cooper as Mr Rafiel
David Swift as Professor Wanstead
Louie Ramsay as Lavinia Glynne
Thelma Barlow as Anthea Bradbury-Scott
Mary Wimbush as Clotilde Bradbury-Scott
Jill Balcon as Miss Temple
Desmond Llewelyn as Archdeacon Brabazon
Tricia Hitchcock as Miss Cooke
Delia Lindsay as Miss Barrow
Molly Gaisford as Joanna Crawford
Jane Whittenshaw as Cherry
Geoffrey Whitehead as Mr Broadribb

Publication history

The novel was first serialised in the UK weekly magazine Woman's Realm in seven abridged instalments from 25 September (Vol 27, No 702) to 6 November 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 16 to 23 October 1971, with each issue containing the same cover illustration by Laszlo Gal.


  1. 1 2 Peers, Chris; Spurrier, Ralph; Sturgeon, Jamie (March 1999). Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions (Second ed.). Dragonby Press. p. 15.
  2. Cooper, John; Pyke, B.A. (1994). Detective Fiction – the collector's guide (Second ed.). Scholar Press. pp. 82, 87. ISBN 0-85967-991-8.
  3. 1 2 "Twilight Years 1968-1976". American Tribute to Agatha Christie. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  4. The Guardian. 4 November 1971 (p. 14).
  5. The Observer, 31 October 1971 (p. 31)
  6. Daily Mirror, 28 October 1971 (p. 25)
  7. Toronto Daily Star, 4 December 1971 (p. 51)
  8. Barnard, Robert (1990), A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie (revised ed.), Fontana Books, p. 201, ISBN 0-00-637474-3.
  9. "Nemesis". Miss Marple on BBC Radio: June Whitfield. 23 November 2001. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  10. "Miss Marple - Nemesis". BBC Radio 4. 4 April 2011. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
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