Christie shorts

I've always enjoyed Agatha Christie's short stories; and as I've got to be more a fan of her work, and read more (most!) of her novels I enjoy the short stories even more. The short stories often seem to be a testing ground for ideas that will be expanded into full length novels; or else they are really different from her usual writing. Problem at Pollensa Bay is a great example of this. Published in the UK ONLY (apologies to readers elsewhere) in 1991; the book contains eight stories, all of which had been previously published although not necessarily in book form. All had been published in other collections in the United States.

And a fascinating little collection they are too. Two of the stories feature Poirot, two Parker Pyne, two Harley Quin, and the final two are very different from Christie's usual output. The second gong and Yellow iris would later be expanded into novels (Dead Man's Mirror and Sparkling Cyanide), although the latter especially would be substantially altered. It's interesting to see Christie's earlier thinking about these.

My two favourites were The love detectives, which features a very cleverly arranged murder with a brilliant piece of framing. Christie is at her most humane here, and brings out the humanity of the minor characters, often overlooked in detective novels. The other lovely story is Next to a dog. Ok, it does come over as rather sentimental now in some ways, but any dog owner will probably understand the sentiments in this short story only too well; and Christie was clearly a dog lover as Terry, the dog, is beautifully realised. He rather reminded me of my own elderly dog.

The least successful to my mind was The Harlequin Tea Set, which appeared to be part-ghost story, part-detective, with cardboard thin characters, and an oddly unsatisfactory ending - where do the central characters go from here? Magnolia Blossom was perhaps the most unusual. In which Christie creates an independent female character trapped in an unhappy marriage. I did wonder here how much of Christie herself was included in the central character reflecting on her own earlier unhappy relationship with Archie Christie.

It's a fascinating set of divergent tales. Eminently readable, as you would expect from Agatha Christie, and often surprising. Well worth getting hold of.


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