I love Agatha Christie. Her crime novels keep me hooked from beginning to end, constantly guessing and subsequently gawping at the conclusion.
There are only a handful of murders I've guessed... "Five Little Pigs", "Mrs McGinty's Dead" and "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" and despite guessing the murderers I remained glued to the books, as the interweaving sub plots hammer away at my detective fathoming!
I think my all time favourites would be...
Stand alone mystery
"And Then There Were None"
Published in 1939 under the name "Ten Little Niggers" and re-named in the US in 1940 for obvious reasons. It was still published in Britain well into the 1980's under its original name, I own a Fontana edition published in 1981 with a rather bizarre and possibly offensive front cover. It is the best selling mystery novel of all time.
"Five Little Pigs"
Published in 1943 (in the US as "Murder in Retrospect"). It tells the same story, five times over. However, each account varies as they are told by one of the five witnesses to a murder that happened 16 years beforehand.
"The Body in the Library"Published in 1942. One morning Colonel and Dolly Bantry wake up to the discovery of a strange, flamboyantly dressed platinum blond lying dead in their library. Simultaneously a local Girl guide, Pamela Reeves, is reported missing and discovered dead a few days later in a burnt out car at the bottom of a quarry a few miles away. Are the incidents linked?
This book is seeping with some marvellous characters including Dolly Bantry and her husband, the Colonel. Their opening conversation once the corpse has been discovered lightens the mood of what is a pretty sinister novel.
I avidly collect her novels. My Granny got me started, and I now have all but four of her titles.
|the top shelf is all Agatha. Most are Fontana paperbacks published in the 60s and 70s.|
I am also collecting her green Penguin editions. these were the brain-child of Allen Lane, who, whilst travelling back from a weekend stay with Agatha Christie, was stuck at Exeter station. Unable to find anything worthwhile to read he had the idea to reprint popular hardbacks in a small, light and affordable format. (The cover price was 6d – the price of a packet of 10 cigarettes in the mid-thirties.)
The first ten Penguin paperbacks were published in July 1935, including the"The Mysterious Affair at Styles" by Christie. Each Penguin title was given a stylish but uniform cover look which was colour coded: orange for fiction, blue for biography, and green for ‘mystery and crime'
|I'm doing well, but many are extremely rare, expensive and hard to find|
Having had heard that many of her books draw inspiration from her life and places she frequented crop up in disguise as locations in many of her novels (for instance, the grand house Chimneys in "The Secret of Chimneys" is allegedly based on her Sister and Brother-in Law's house, Abney Hall, in Cheshire). It made me want to find out more, so I've recently started reading about Agatha as an individual. My initial problem was that I've always been a bit apprehensive about reading about authors, as I feel sometimes you can search too hard for comparisons between private lives and fiction and some statements can simply be hearsay.
However, I decided to bite the bullet and read her autobiography, which includes a great CD with her dictating book notes. The strange thing I found was that she completely misses out any reference to do with her famous missing days which I had heard were shrouded in mystery.
Like a real life mystery I found myself wanting to know what happened, so I begrudgingly purchased "Agatha Christie ad the Eleven Missing Days" by Jared Cade, telling myself that it'll all be speculation and fallacy! I ate my words and cannot recommend this book highly enough. Cade objectively looks into the disappearance and collates statements from those personally connected with Christie, as well as witnesses to the occurrence. What made the "mystery" more gripping to me was the fact that her car was discovered not too far away from where I grew up, Newlands Corner in Surrey. I have always loved this area and have spent many a lazy Sunday driving around the Surrey Hills, so all of the descriptions of searches around the area are wonderfully vivid to me. I shat ruin what Cade's theory is over her disappearance, but it does make a lot of sense and hold a lot of substantial evidence. He also talks about her second marriage to Max Mallowman which, if true, is a scenario that makes me very angry with the male species! However, if statements about Agatha throwing teapots are in fact correct, then maybe she was not the easiest person to live with... in spite of the possible broken crockery I'm still on Ms. Christie's side though and exclaim "naughty men!" BOO!"
It is speculated in Cade's book that she based many of her Mary Westmacott novels (a pseudonym under which she penned more romantic works) upon the emotions she experienced in her personal life. The first Westmacott novel "Giant's Bread" was published in 1930 and she continued to pen 6 titles under this name, only being discovered in 1949 (after her fourth publication). Henceforth she was required to state that she was using an alternative Nome de plume. In the 15 years, before her "outing" only one person guessed it was Agatha writing these novels. I think I'll have a read of these at some point, just to see if I like the style and can see any similarity in tone to her mysteries.
My aim in 2011...
Anyway, I've waffled enough. The main point of this post is that, now that my Christie collection is almost complete, this year I plan to read her mysteries chronologically (I make it 78). She wrote from 1920 to 1973 and had two posthumous novels "Sleeping Murder" (pub. 1976 but written approx. 1940) and "Miss Marples Final Cases" (pub. 1979, believed to have been written during the war along with Poirot "Curtain").
I intend to read each novel and discover which era of her writing I prefer and if any outside influences can, in fact, be seen through her pen.... my findings will be posted up here. I can't wait!