Miss Marple. She's definitely off my guest list.
Private-eyes are professional investigators who are hired by a client
and who get paid for what they do. They might take on a pro-bono case
every once in a while as a favor, and they might have to do some
investigating every once in a while to get themselves out of a jam. But
in the main they do what they do, whether they like what they do or not,
to make money to make ends meet. It's a business, not some sort of a hobby.
Then there are sleuths. Sleuths are amateur investigators who don't get
paid and who basically just go around sticking their noses into other
people's business whether people ask them to or not — and they usually
don't. They tend to be rich dilettantes or well-off widows who associate
with the middle or upper classes.
Sleuths don't seem to know how to drive, or at least don't own a car.
They take taxis or have somebody pick them up at the train station. The
rich sleuths occasionally have limousines. The limousine driver is usually
an inscutable Frenchman who spends most of his time when he's not driving
leaning up against the car with his arms crossed.
Sleuths do other things, of course. Some of them knit or crochet. Some
are gourmet cooks. And some are experts at croquet.
But the one thing that's certain about sleuths is that wherever they go,
trouble inevitably follows. Whether it is Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher,
sleuths seem to run into mysterious deaths all over the damn place. Which
is kind of creepy when you stop to think about it. Sleuths go to a nice
formal dinner, and somebody gets whacked over the skull with a candlestick.
They go on a long summer pleasure cruise, and somebody ends up getting
murdered with a candlestick. They take an overnight train trip, and the
next thing you know a dead body is found lying next to a bloody candlestick.
Not that the murder weapon is always a candlestick, mind you. Sometimes it's
a fireplace poker.
Every once in while some criminal will try to use poison — only to end up
getting the glasses switched somehow and end up killing the wrong person.
They seldom use guns. Guns are big, noisy contraptions that tend to leave
powder residue all over your new silk jacket. A butcher knife is good if
you really hate the person you are murdering. But knives are such messy
things, too. You'd hate to get blood on that nice new gown that your secret
lover and co-conspirator bought for you on that last secret trip to Brighton.
Better to just keep with the candlestick idea. And if you can wipe it clean
with the monogrammed handkerchief that you have stolen off of your sister's
unfortunate ass of a boyfriend and leave next to the body to frame him for
the murder, so much the better.
Just a little bit of advice for my readers. If you want to invite that
sociable if rather sartorially unkempt private-eye to dinner, then by
all means do so. You shouldn't have any problem as long as you keep the
booze flowing. But if you run into one of those sleuthing types, turn
around and head the opposite direction as fast as you can — before
you become the next person to be on the receiving end of a candlestick.