11 March 2011


  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Essentials; 2 edition (August 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • version: Kindle
  • Source: I bought it
  • ISBN 1-904048-60-9
This is almost like an Everyman's guide to Agatha Christie - all you need to know in a few pages.
The Foreword is by Simon Brett who pays tribute to the Dame, saying that he has always been an admirer:
    As an author, she achieved what she set out to do, and was more massively successful than she could ever have anticipated. 
    Agatha Christie had a comparable knowledge of her skills and limitations. She aimed to write literate, entertaining crime novels that would puzzle and confuse – but never cheat – her readers. And that’s what she achieved – magnificently. She also helped to define the crime novel.
In his first chapter, The Puppet-Master, Mark Campbell begins
    It was the covers that did it for me. I would peruse the crime shelves of our local Bournemouth bookshops – a scrawny ten-year-old with unruly blonde hair and National Health glasses – and drink deeply of those violent, nightmarish images: telephones dripping with blood, skulls grinning out of golf-balls, eyeballs poking from blood-spattered tennis racquets… it’s a wonder I wasn’t scarred for life.
He says that it took him quite a few years to pluck up enough courage to read one. Those nightmarish covers led him to assume that the stories were full of blood and violence. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
    Christie’s best stories are ones that make a feature of small settings and small casts. ....
    Christie is an absolute genius at using similar ingredients over and over, and yet each time providing new thrills, new twists, new rushes of anticipation and horror. .....
    Remember, she is the puppet-master, even when her creations seem to have a life of their own. People mainly read Agatha Christie for one reason – a book written by her is a guarantee of a good story, reasonably well told, with a hard-to-guess ending. There’s nothing too deep in her books (although she is, accidentally, a social historian of some note), but what there is is set down with such a casual air of authority that you feel obliged to pay attention. Her lowbrow reputation masks her highbrow techniques – she is one of this country’s finest novelists (crime or otherwise) – if you haven’t done so already, go out and buy, borrow or steal The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd and you’ll see I’m right. Those 1970s covers might have been scary, but the stuff inside is a whole lot scarier.
Chapter 2 contains a biography, Chapter 3 a Complete Checklist of Agatha Christie's Works, and then follow chapters devoted to her main protagonists. There are chapters devoted to Stage Plays, Radio and Television Plays, amd Adaptations for Plays, Film and Television. It seems to have been revised in 2008/9.

The Checklist includes 77 books and 157 short stories, so I am not sure where that leaves my 87 titles.

THE POCKET ESSENTIAL AGATHA CHRISTIE provides useful detail and lists without being overwhelming.

My rating: 4.2

I am counting this for the e-book challenge

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