Wherever you have turned lately, it has seemed impossible to escape Agatha Christie. But that’s all right by me, as reading Christie remains one of my favourite forms of escapism, and my complaint about the latest episode of Marple was simply its lack of fidelity to the Queen of Crime’s original plot.
I’m eagerly looking forward to a chance to read Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks, the book by John Curran which has attracted so much attention. Curran is a real Christie buff, and I liked his list of top ten Christies. It was especially good to see the inclusion of Curtain, which is so often under-estimated. My own list wouldn’t be very different.
I think I would, however, probably substitute The Mysterious Affair at Styles for Crooked House, despite the daring nature of the solution in the latter. Styles is a terrific novel for a debut whodunit writer, remarkably intricate and assured.
But wait a minute. What about Cards on the Table, with its focus on just four suspects? Very clever. Or Towards Zero, in which murder comes at the end, not the beginning – a dazzling concept, executed in gripping style.
Wait a moment. I’ve forgotten Evil Under the Sun, a classic Poirot with a memorable island setting and cunning misdirection. And I couldn’t overlook The Pale Horse, which supposedly inspired a real-life killer. And then there is…
No, the problem with these lists is that, despite occasional misfires, some dodgy thrillers and the tired late novels, Christie wrote a startling number of ground-breaking stories. It is no accident that she has become a legend. As a crime writer, she is unique.