Can the great Hercule Poirot make the connection between five interlinked cases in this handsome new gift edition of Agatha Christie’s classic festive collection?
Perfect summertime reading, this short story collection from the undisputed Queen of Crime features fiendish whodunits perpetrated in the full glare of the sunshine.
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“There’s nothing like boredom to make you write.” - Agatha Christie
Few could challenge Agatha Christie’s reign as the eternal queen of crime fiction. Born in Torquay in 1890, the largely home-educated Christie continued to live in Devon for much of her life, the county and its coastline looming large in the later crime fiction that brought her almost unparalleled global fame.
From faded Paris pensions to the grand palaces of Cairo, an early peripatetic existence brought her into contact with the many locations that would soon furnish her stories and simultaneously inspiring her desire to begin writing. A wartime spell at a Red Cross hospital dispensary provided yet more invaluable lessons, with Christie developing a fascination for poisons and their effects. It was also around this time she began her first detective novel.
Although completed in 1916, it took four more years for her debut, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, to finally see print. With it the book introduced one of the most famous literary figures of all time, the former Belgian Police Officer turned detective, Hercule Poirot. Standing at just five foot four inches tall, pompous, incurably vain, with famously full and expertly coifed moustaches, Poirot preferred to outwit his opponents purely by use of his ‘little grey cells’, rapidly cementing the sleuth into the public consciousness. 33 novels, a play and more than 50 short stories followed, with Christie ultimately killing off her most enduring creation in the final novel Curtain. Poirot remains the only fictional character to have ever had an obituary in The New York Times.
The Lady VanishesSuccess however lay in the shadow of a weak and disintegrating marriage. Her husband, handsome aviator and womaniser Archie Christie, finally declared he wanted a divorce and intended to spend the weekend with his mistress: the same evening Christie kissed her sleeping daughter and drove out into the darkness.
The resulting manhunt occupied a thousand police officers and fifteen thousand volunteers, with suspicion falling on Archie. Christie was finally found ten days later in a spa hotel in Harrogate apparently suffering from amnesia. This unexplained real-life mystery has inspired various novelists in turn, including Dorothy Sayers who made it the subject of her novel Unnatural Death.
By 1930, happiness was restored through her second marriage to Max Mallowan and their initial meeting on an archaeological dig - whilst Christie was travelling on the Orient Express - would go on to inspire probably the most well-known crime title of all time.
In Murder at the Vicarage, that fruitful year also saw the creation of the elderly-but-cunning Miss Marple, a very different sort of detective whose studied observations of human motivation gave her a keen eye for murderous intent.
Agatha Christie passed away in 1976 as a household name that left behind an enormously rich body of published work. Much of her later life was devoted to the many theatrical productions of her work including of course The Mousetrap, a play so successful it has been running continuously since its first performance in 1952. To this day she also stands as the world’s most translated author, with her ingenious and sometimes fiendish plots appearing in something like an extraordinary 103 languages.
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