Sunday, 15 April 2012

Clues to Christie: The Definitive Guide to Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and all of Agatha Christie's Mysteries

The ultimate introductory guide to Agatha Christie and her detectives, including stories featuring Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and Tommy & Tuppence.
Ever wondered how Agatha Christie became the world's best-selling storyteller? Never read one even though you know someone who loves her? Too bewildered by the choice of books to know where to start? Then CLUES TO CHRISTIE could be the key that unlocks the door to a world of mystery, thrills and romance that has captivated readers from 9 to 90 for the last 90 years.
With more than two billion book sales, Agatha Christie is the world's best-selling novelist, translated into more languages than Shakespeare. And with more than 100 books and plays to her name, and over 150 short stories, it is no surprise that one-third of all fiction readers have read an Agatha Christie, and millions have seen the films and TV series.
This exclusive eBook sampler includes a specially written introduction by the award-winning author and world's foremost expert on Agatha Christie, John Curran. Together with other useful and enlightening material to help readers navigate the world of Agatha Christie, such as reading lists, suggestions on different ways to read the books, a Poison Primer, and an A to Z of characters, CLUES TO CHRISTIE also includes three specimen stories by the Queen of Crime, to introduce her world-famous detectives of Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple and Tommy & Tuppence Beresford, and to help you decide which Agatha Christie books you want to read next.

Calling this a definitive guide to anything, let alone to 'all of Agatha Christie's mysteries, is definitely taking artistic license too far. The introductory sections about Agatha Christie and the later section about her interest in poisons are certainly interesting, but don't really contain anything you wouldn't get from reading her autobiography, and the rest of the book is simply a reprint of three of her short stories and then lists of her works divided in different ways (by the means of death, by the detectives involved, by location, and so on) and a reprint of the covers of the novels the author says were Christie's personal favourites.

The choice of story for Tommy and Tuppence is really silly as it's the introductory story from Partners in Crime which merely reminds readers who Tommy and Tuppence are and provides the set up for the rest of the book by explaining how they come to be running a detective agency. There is no actual crime in the story and it really isn't a good introduction for readers who have never tried the Tommy and Tuppence stories and will be well known to those of us who already love them. I would, however, heartily recommend the Tommy and Tuppence books to any crime fan who hasn't read them, so at least the inclusion of this story gives me an opportunity to do that!

The Miss Marple story, 'Greenshaw's Folly', was new to me and I thought it was quite a good choice. Miss Marple solves the crime from a set in her nephew's sitting room, without having interacted with any of the main players in the crime, and only visits the scene after she has given her solution to the investigating officer in order to confirm it. The poor policeman has clearly never come across Miss Marple before and reacts as most professional detectives probably would to a 'harmless' little old lady solving his crime for him - ie he doesn't believe her until the facts are scientifically proven. I really enjoyed this entry in the book and I feel an urge to reread some of her longer adventures now.

The Poirot story, 'The Affair at the Victory Ball', was another one that I hadn't read although I had seen this one dramatised as part of ITV's excellent series with David Suchet, so I knew the outcome before Poirot revealed it. Not that that spoilt the story for me - as always the joy of Agatha Christie's stories is as much in the characters as in the solution to the mystery.

I'm not sure I can really recommend this book as the rating I give it is pretty much entirely going to be due to the Marple and Poirot short stories, however at only 49p if you haven't read 'Greenshaw's Folly' and 'The Affair at the Victory Ball' then it might be worth buying. The introductory information about Christie is certainly interesting to read, but, as I said earlier, if you've read her autobiography it won't be new to you.

VERDICT 2 out of 5

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