The Queen of Crime

If you want to know why Agatha Christie deserves the title of the Queen of Crime, you need go no further than read her 1932 short story collection The thirteen problems (published in the US as The Tuesday Club Murders). The collection featuring Miss Marple contains 13 short stories with many familiar characters linking the overarching narrative (Miss Marple's nephew Raymond, Sir Henry Clithering of Scotland Yard, and Colonel and Dolly Bantry, familiar from The body in the library).

Nobody doubts that Christie was brilliant at constructing ingenious crimes. She's also "fair" with the reader. She doesn't withhold clues or information, it's all there, it's your own fault if you don't spot it. Where she has been criticised is for her lack of characterisation, and occasionally for the simplicity of her language. The great thing about the short stories is that the lack of in-depth characterisation and the simple language work in Christie's favour here. And what really shines out is her cleverness and ingenuity. It's also interesting to spot what inspires her. Several of the Thirteen problems evidently owe their genesis to real life cases. It certainly struck me that there were some links to the Brides in the Bath case, and to some of the events surrounding the infamous Thompson / Bywaters case.

The cases range from non-murderous mysteries such as the enchanting Ingots of gold and the amusing Motive v opportunity to some really chilling murder mysteries including the clever Blood-stained pavement, Tuesday Night club and The idol house of Astarte. Each story is a little gem. They are pure Christie; and show what a clever writer she was.

This is a great collection of mysteries. Each one well crafted, with some truly stand-out tales. The Queen of Crime at her dazzling best.


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