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21 Feb 13 2:14PM
Quite how I came across the news of the competition to select ten titles for inclusion on The Book, the splendid new memorial to Agatha Christie which now stands in the West End of London, I cannot remember. I only know that I thought it was a lovely idea to include fans in the design, and I set about selecting my ‘top ten’ carefully and assiduously but with no real expectation of winning the competition. I was therefore not only delighted, but also flabbergasted to receive an email from Mathew Prichard last September informing me of my win and inviting me to the unveiling of the memorial.
Two months later I made the trip to London, where Mathew invited me and my good friend Úna, also an avid Christie fan, to a pre-unveiling dinner and presented me with my prize of 6 limited edition Christie books, a beautiful box set which now has pride of place among my mushrooming ‘Agatha collection’ at home in Germany. I had perhaps anticipated a stiff, rather formal affair, but nothing could have been further from the truth; Mathew and his delightful wife, Lucy, made us feel extremely welcome and part of the occasion, and the relaxed, friendly atmosphere was something that will remain with us for a long time. Most of all, however, I was quietly proud to know that my selection of titles has now been preserved in bronze for posterity as a detail of The Book.
I can imagine that many fans will, on inspecting my top ten, be surprised and even aghast at my selection. Fans wouldn’t be fans, of course, if they agreed on everything, but I still think I owe any dissenters some sort of explanation.
The first difficulty I faced was that many of my own favourite titles (notably Endless Night, Ordeal By Innocence and Crooked House) were already on Agatha Christie’s own top ten list and thus already had places reserved on the memorial. For me, the only really glaring omission was Five Little Pigs, which I think is probably her masterpiece.
Secondly, I was struck by the fact that there were only two Poirot mysteries on Agatha’s list, and I thought that needed correcting in order for the memorial to include a representative selection of her work. My personal taste tends towards classic country-house family whodunits and cerebral puzzles, which is why After The Funeral, Cards On the Table and The ABC Murders got the nod, as it were. And I like Miss Marple best when she is uncovering murders from the past, which explains my choice of Sleeping Murder and Nemesis, the latter being the title that I imagine most fans will take exception to, it not usually being regarded as a classic. Taken as a whole, though, I do think that the twenty titles (since supplemeted by a further eight chosen by the selection panel) are representative of Agatha Christie’s best work. I rest my case.
Unlike many people reading this, I would be hard-pressed to describe myself as a life-long Christie devotee, which is why I feel not only proud, but also a trifle embarrassed to have won the competition. I got to know Agatha Christie’s work as a teenager – I can still remember the long bus journeys to school debating the merits of various books with my friend Clive and trying to second-guess Poirot and Miss Marple – with unerring inaccuracy. This was the era of the fabulous Tom Adams Fontana covers, still my favourites to this day. However, during my university days and my first ten or so years working as an English teacher in Germany, I admit that my interest waned. I only rediscovered Agatha Christie about seven years ago when I was sorting through some old things in my mother’s attic back in Britain (a Christie scenario if ever there was one!) and came across my old paperback collection in surprisingly good condition. I arranged to have the books transported back to Germany and began not only re-reading them, but also expanding my collection, mainly thanks to the wonders of ebay.
Re-reading Christie after a gap of around 25 years was a joy; these were the books I grew up with, my introduction to literature, and they were just as entertaining, mesmerising and unpredictable as I remembered them. Poirot was still my favourite, but the revelation for me was the excellence of some of the books featuring neither of her two most famous sleuths – Endless Night, And Then There Were None, Murder Is Easy, Death Comes As the End, Crooked House and, above all, the magnificent Ordeal By Innocence.
I think I can now safely say that I’m a fully paid-up, card-carrying member of the Christie fan club, but it took me 35 years to become one. And to think that the Agatha Christie memorial now bears the titles of ten books chosen by me - I still have to pinch myself.
So glad you enjoyed yourself, and thank you for the explanation of your choices. We all have different favourites, and sometimes our reasons for this can be as interesting and as open to debate as the chosen books themselves
Congrats....it sounds like you had a marvelous time....
Ten people, each with something to hide and something to fear, are invited to a lonely mansion on Soldier Island by a host who, surprisingly, fails to appear.Murder on the Orient Express
Travelling on the Orient Express, Poirot is approached by a desperate American. Afraid that someone plans to kill him, Ratchett asks Poirot for help ...The Murder at the Vicarage
When the thoroughly unpleasant Lucius Protheroe is found dead, there is no shortage of suspects with a motive for murder ...
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