Author: Agatha Christie
A cozy mystery fan and recent addict to Agatha Christie, thanks to discovering Miss Marple audiobooks at my library, I picked up The Listerdale Mystery and Eleven Other Short Stories for a ten hour trip with the boyfriend to Tennessee. My motives were not pure. I was looking not only to addict him to books to my own obsessive degree, but to have someone to discuss the twists and turns for which Christie is so famous. Mysteries are fun, engaging, distracting, and a good mental workout when squishing into an overfilled pickup and counting blurred white lines for hours. I’ve only read Miss Marple mysteries previously and the short story complication, The Tuesday Club Murders. The Listerdale Mystery and its package of assorted short stories were a bit of a surprise then. It was less about the mystery, certainly not entangled with nearly as many murders, and more plain fun, playful even. The boyfriend was certainly engaged (read addicted, the scheme was a success) and while I quite enjoyed the frolicsome stories, it wasn’t my favorite Christie moment. I supposed I’ve been spoiled by her novels.
A little online research explains the difference between Christie’s novels and her short stories which are written (at least in this collection) with a focus on young people (namely couples) and morality (aka to follow the law or the heart.) The themes of continual marriage that populate most of the short stories with the overdramatized sense of adventure create a stereotype, one that the author masterfully perpetuates and seems to be using with intention. This is where the playful nature of the series comes along. Rarely concentrated on murder, this collection of stories, which fit well thematically, is a jovial sprint through a glittering world of wealth and intrigue. Somewhat kitschy in spots, don’t expect the Agatha Christie novel experience (or at least, the more serious mysteries of Miss Marple). With that proviso that your mood be set for some quirkiness, this collection is a delightful experience.
The following stories, read by BBC actor Hugh Fraser, are provided in this audiobook collection:
- “The Listerdale Mystery” in which a family of ruined aristocracy finds both love and hope while trying to solve a disappearance.
- “The Rajah’s Emerald” is one of my personal favorites within this collection. A rags to riches, underdog wins type of story, a grouchy narrator comically gets himself involved in a jewel heist.
- “The Golden Ball” tells the story of a lazy young man, a tantalizingly dangerous woman, an enraged man with a gun, and some gold-digging love, revenge style. This particular story had my boyfriend and me in stiches of laughter. Another personal favorite from this collection and exceptionally well read.
- “Mr. Eastwood’s Adventure” is another pseudo-mystery comical adventure story. When writer’s block effects production of “The Mystery of the Second Cucumber,” an enchanting woman with a secret and some grade A thieves give Mr. Eastwood a story idea. But the writer must pay dearly for his inspiration. And yes, another personal favorite from this collection.
- “Philomel Cottage,” my very favorite in the collection, is more traditional Christie. With murder most foul and more homicide on the way, a suspicious wife has to use her wits to save herself and stop a killer before she becomes the next victim.
- “A Fruitful Sunday” is the story of a young couple who, upon buying a cheap basket of fruit, discover a ruby necklace.
- In “Jane in Search of a Job” a young lady with a lust for danger finds herself in a new job where she’s the double for a famous personage. The only problem? Looks like the assassins have really fallen for the switch-and-bait and Jane has more adventure than she ever bargained for, or probably wanted.
- “Swan Song” is the story of an opera singer/diva who wants to go out on top. The only way to realize this is some old school vengeance.
- In “The Girl on the Train” recently fired and down-on-his-luck George helps a strange female hide in his train compartment and insists on being included in all the intrigue.
- “Sing a Song of Sixpence” introduces us to an elderly gentlemen who has become involved in a murder case thanks to a long ago love affair. Strung up by his honor, he has to determine the killer from a group of unlikely family members. Can his judicial training help him spot the error in the tale?
- “The Manhood of Edward Robinson” depicts a weak man who through a midnight adventure acquires the spunk to be masterful of his woman.
- “Accident,” another favorite of mine, is back to the traditional Christie with murder and a last minute twist that will leave readers reeling at the conclusion of this compilation.
As with all Christie stories, the dastardly worlds are peopled with some exceptional personalities. Each story has its own unique Christie twist mixed with some unexpected humor and cozy descriptions. BBC actor Hugh Fraser, who appears in many televised productions of Christie classics, gets the verve of the characters and stories to a tee. It’s a pleasure to hear his expressions and his reading brings our adventure seekers and underdogs to vibrant life. While Miss Marple remains my favorite Christie sleuth so far, these stories were delightful and addicting. Both cozy and mystery lovers will enjoy this collection and its professional representation. Recommended.
- Frances Carden