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2 December 2016: Cosy Tales

 Given this chilly December air we have decided to discuss some cosy mysteries and other crime fiction for this week's blog. More specifically, the queen of crime fiction - Agatha Christie. 

Agatha Christie is the best-selling female novelist of all time. Her works of Crime and Detective fiction are known worldwide and the only works to have outsold her are Shakespeare's and The Bible. In total she wrote 66 detective novels, 150 short stories and 19 plays. Her play The Mousetrap is the world’s longest running play, and has been on stage since its initial opening on the West End in 1952.
 
Here at Rooke Books we have several first editions of the Queen of Crime’s works. We have decided to share five of our personal favourites (it was hard to choose!) with a short synopsis of each. Don’t worry, no spoilers! 
 
1. The Murder at The Vicarage
 
The Murder at the Vicarage is the first of Christie’s novels to feature her well-known and loved elderly detective, Miss Marple. Prior to this work Marple had only featured in short stories published in The Royal Magazine and Story Teller Magazine. Interestingly, the character of Miss Marple was said to be based on Christie’s own step-grandmother and her cronies. 
 
This work is also the first Christie novel to be published by the infamous Collins Crime Club. The Crime Club was an imprint of William Collins and Sons, who issued a total of 2,025 eagerly sought first edition crime novels. 
 
The Murder at the Vicarage is a classic ‘whodunit’ novel under the ‘village mystery’ genre. It follows Miss Marple and her mission to solve the murder of despised villager, Colonel Lucius Protheroe. Protheroe was found murdered in the Vicar’s study.  Due to Protheroe’s less than amiable reputation, Marple has several suspects as to who committed the crime. 
 
To view our copy of this terrific tale click here
 
2. Ordeal by Innocence
 
This lesser-known Christie work caught our eye as it is notably one of her darkest works. It draws a strong focus on psychology of innocence as well as trust between family ties. Alike to many of Christie’s works Ordeal by Innocence has several adaptations including a 1985 film staring Donald Sutherland, a 2007 television adaptation for ITV’s Marple series (despite the original novel not featuring the detective) as well as a graphic novel and a radio adaptation. 
 
The story opens with news of the character Jacko Argyle dying whilst serving a prison sentence for the murder of his adoptive mother - a crime he swore he didn’t commit. Everyone was sure of Argyle’s guilt and even his own widow believed him to be responsible for the crime he was incarcerated for. Two years after Jacko’s death a mysterious stranger, who could have supported Jacko’s alibi, arrives on the family doorstep. He explains that he could not have given the alibi sooner. Therefore the family then must come to terms with Jacko’s innocence and the fact that one of them is the true murderer.. 
 
To view our copy of this gripping work click here. 
 
3. Destination Unknown
 
Here we have a slightly more obscure Agatha Christie’s work which does not feature any of her popular detectives. Interestingly, Destination Unknown is one of the only four of Christie’s novels to not receive an adaptation of any kind, and one of five to not have an adaptation for screen. 
 
A deserted wife and bereaved mother, Hilary Craven, is plotting her suicide at the start of the novel. It is then that she is approached by a secret agent named Jessop to undertake a dangerous mission instead of her planned suicide of sleeping pills. Her mission is to impersonate a dying woman to help find the woman’s missing nuclear scientist husband who may have been defected by the Soviet Union. 
 
To view our copy of Destination Unknown, click here
 
4. Hickory Dickory Dock
 
It would not be a list of Agatha Christie novels without including a work featuring a certain Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’. Hickory Dickory Dock features famous detective Hercule Poirot. This particular novel is noteworthy for it being the first full length novel to include Poirot’s secretary, Miss Felicity Lemon, who was previously only in Poirot’s short stories. 
 
The novel follows an outbreak of kleptomania at a student hospital. The thefts arouse Poirot’s interests due to the peculiarity of the items stolen or vandalised. The curious items include a stethoscope, light bulbs, chocolates, a slashed rucksack among many more. Poirot successfully uses his detective skills to sole the mystery. 
 
To view our copy of Hickory Dickory Dock, click here
 
5. They do It With Mirrors
 
We end our list with another tale of elderly detective Miss Marple. They do it with Mirrors is a very popular and regularly adapted story by Agatha Christie.
 
The plot of this story opens with Miss Marple visiting her friend Ruth Van Rydock. Ruth is worried that her sister is in danger at the Stonygates mansion and asks Miss Marple to visit her and assess the situation. Subsequently, upon Miss Marple's visit, there is a murder to solve and her services are required.
 
To view our copy of They Do it With Mirrors click here
 
There we have just five of our many Agatha Christie titles. We also have many other works from the crime/detective genre such as work from Arthur Conan Doyle and Nicholas Blake (Cecil Day-Lewis). 
 

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