Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Christie all the way

DG reader RPS got me all revved up about Dame Agatha Christie by responding to a recent post about writers' typewriters. Following the trail of suggested links produced these two great images. In the one below, the “Queen of Crime” sets a new Guinness world record for the thickest book. All of the Miss Marple tales (12 novels and 20 short stories) appear in one 4,032-page volume, with a spine 12.6 inches thick.
If you're on the lookout for choice Christie titles, here's a shortlist I pulled together a while ago for the Daedalus Facebook page.

On Agatha Christie's 120th birthday, The Guardian's John Curran put forth a list of his personal Top 10 titles by the world's bestselling novelist. I immediately secured five of the ones I hadn't read (or seen an adaptation of) and had myself a jolly little Agatha-fest. Poirot and his sidekick Captain Hastings starred in many of them, including 1975's exceedingly poignant (and dramatic) Curtain: Poirot's Last Case. Christie wrote it during World War II and had it held back until just before her own death. Here are the others:
1. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
A village murder mystery and then some, featuring Poirot and a stunning ending.
2. Peril at End House (1932)
Another Poirot and another corker of an ending. The clues are tremendously ingenious as well.
3. Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
An international cast of perplexing suspects is no match for Poirot, who reveals yet another surprise ending.
4. The ABC Murders (1935)
Poirot vies with a canny serial killer, but his "little grey cells" ultimately prevail.
5. And Then There Were None (1939)
Ten people with shady pasts are invited to an island and are murdered one by one in this superb combination of thriller and detective story.
6. Five Little Pigs (1943)
In this Rashomon-like novel, five characters tell Poirot their interpretation of events as he attempts to help a daughter obtain posthumous justice for a mother convicted of murder.
7. Crooked House (1949)
One of Christie's own favorites, this one is particularly creepy and was frowned on by her publishers. She employs her frequent device of a nursery rhyme and casts her detective as a suitor to one of the family members who live in the house.
8. A Murder Is Announced (1950)
In the village of Chipping Cleghorn—where Miss Marple happens to be visiting—a murder is predicted in the local paper's ads. Set in post-war Britain, this was Christie's 50th title, and her spinster heroine reigns supreme.

9. Endless Night (1967)
Writes John Curran: "Working-class Michael Rogers tells the story of his meeting and marrying Ellie, a fantastically rich American heiress. As they settle in their dream house in the country, it becomes clear that not everyone is happy for them. A very atypical Christie, this tale of menacing suspense builds to a horrific climax and shows that even after 45 years she had not lost the power to confound her readers. The best novel from her last 20 years."

Which are your favorite Christies? I recently read 1973's  Postern of Fate, in which Tommy and Tuppence are grandparents retiring to the country. It was almost all dialogue, with a canny grasp of the way people actually speak: lots of repeating what the other person said and beating about the the bush.
Left: T&T in their first appearance, 1923. Other images from facsimiledustjackets.com.
Guess what? I just looked and we currently have six of these titles in uniform hardback editions, as well as many other great Christie mysteries for less than $5 each. Even I am impressed!

6 comments:

  1. Ashamed to say I've never read a single novel she wrote! I have no excuse now, though:) Also, that Omnibus must have been designed by Charles Atlas...

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    1. I too have never read anything by Agatha but appreciate this post and the comprehensive list of titles to get me started! I'm looking forward to delving into her books, seeing her writing style and why she's the world's best selling novelist.

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  2. Along with Mr. Fink, I have never experienced Agatha Christie in print! Not sure if I could handle the 4,032 page volume, but now I am intrigued.

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  3. When you say that Ms. Christie was the world's best selling novelist, you were not exagerating! I took a deeper look & here is what I found regarding her popularity:

    '"Guinness Book of World Records" claims that 4 billion of her crime mysteries — she wrote 66 novels and 14 short stories — have sold, putting her behind only the Bible and Shakespeare.'

    I have a friend who's favorite of hers is: Murder on the Orient Express.

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  4. I remember the movie "Ten Little Indians", a screen version of "And Then There Were None", and its surprise (to not-so-acute me) ending. I think I'll look up "Crooked House", since I have never agreed with publishers. I love a mystery!

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