Like many other writers, Christie went through an apprentice period during which she created the particular style we recognize as unique to her work. Novels from this early period are hit and miss--and MURDER AT THE VICARAGE, which introduces the famous Miss Marple, might best be described as a bit of both.
VICARAGE offers the story of the widely unpopular Col. Protheroe, who seems determined to vex every one he encounters--including his daughter from a former marriage and his current wife, the latter of which has undertaken a liaison with a local artist. One evening the Colonel pays a call to vicarage only to find the Vicar out on a call... and while waiting is shot dead under what seem impossible circumstances. No sooner is the body discovered than people who could not possibly have committed the crime begin to confess, and the Vicar and his neighbor, the meddlesome Miss Marple, form a somewhat uneasy alliance to ferret out the truth.
The Miss Marple of this particular novel is not the character we know from later books; although the outlines of the character are well established, she is not greatly sympathetic and she lacks the disconcerting twinkle found in such works as THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY and A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED. Moreover, the other characters, the setting, and the plot seem extremely stiff. The solution, when it comes, is also rather gimmicky in a way which Christie cannot yet make entirely plausible. I would not recommend this particular Christie to newcomers--but I do recommend it longtime fans, who will enjoy seeing how Christie developed the character of Miss Marple and how she herself evolved as a writer, particularly since the outline of the plot is a device to which she would return with considerably greater effect in later and more substantial novels.