|Title:||The Listerdale Mystery|
|Publisher:||Pan Books Ltd|
This is my first short story collection from the queen of crime fiction, and it is utterly brilliant. Each story takes a life of its own and draws you in from the first sentence. I guess that is always a good sign when reading short stories – it is imperative that you are drawn in as there is little room to convince the reader they should continue.
However that being said I was expecting a bit of a mixed batch of plots and the only (very minor) downside to this collection is its reliance on the notion of ‘mistaken identities’ and the ‘misplaced valuables’ element. These were common themes in crime fiction during that era, and it is of course not Christie’s undoing because this collection is still completely extraordinary. In fact it becomes more and more clear in this collection the amazing sense of humor (albeit morbid) that AC had. She was very aware of the intricate conversations that went on behind closed doors, as well as the inner desires of those living in the working classes. In fact the class struggle is a common motif in Christie’s collection. The title story The Listerdale Mystery begins with a family seeking better living arrangements merely because the daughter will probably be engaged soon and the mother can’t see how their dingy little bedsit will suffice in making sure that the engagement is to be a success. Another character, oddly named James Bond, in the story The Rajah’s Diamond, confesses to constantly feeling shamed by the elite rich. In The Golden Ball George Dundas is fired by own uncle and quite by accident ends up meeting a rich socialite who could change his reality forever.
The other common motif of misplaced riches occurs in several stories including the delightful A Fruitful Sunday in which a married couple take a Sunday drive, one happy with the status quo and the other dreaming of riches that end up literally appearing in a basket of fruit innocently bought off the side of the road. In The Manhood of Edward Robinson the title character of Edward is married to a woman named Maude. Edward finds his whole life very dull until he wins some money, buys a fancy car and gets involved in a case of stolen diamonds that certainly adds some spice to his dreary existence.
There are 12 stories of delicious intrigue, but it is the last story Swan Song that manages to showcase Agatha Christie’s uncanny ability to make the reader think they know what’s really going on but they never really do. This particular story involves an Italian opera singer named Paula Nazorkoff whose mysterious dark past is even more fascinating than her ability to sing some of the most challenging operas.
I always find that reading Christie can cure any sort of reading slump that you may find yourself having, and even if you aren’t a huge fan of short stories I am pretty sure that this mystery collection will give you a change of heart.
Other Agatha Christie’s for your reading enjoyment: