Midsummer Mysteries by Agatha Christie

The Queen of Crime presents…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

HarperCollins seem to be doing a series of special edition hardback collections of some of Agatha Christie’s short stories, and this is one of them. First off, the books themselves are lovely, much nicer even than the cover images make them appear. They have touches of foil to make them appealingly shiny, the spines are as nicely designed as the fronts, and they all have endpaper patterns suited to the theme of the collection. I’ve been lucky enough to receive a few of them and they look great on the shelf.

This one has a seasonal theme – all the mysteries are set in the types of places we all long to visit for some summer sun. Sadly, I am of course reviewing it in entirely the wrong season, but I comfort myself with the knowledge that in book-blog world it is always summer for somebody, somewhere!

There are twelve stories, plus a short extract from Christie’s autobiography about a rather unpleasant incident in her childhood (which, to be honest, I felt jarred a little with the overall fun tone of the collection even if it did fit the summer vacation theme). The stories have been culled from various other collections, so that all of her recurring detectives are represented. Poirot and Miss Marple appear, of course, as do Tommy and Tuppence, Mr Satterthwaite and Harley Quinn, and Parker Pyne, plus there are a couple of stories which don’t feature a ‘tec at all. As always the standard is variable to an extent, or at least my enjoyment is – I’ve never been a fan of either Parker Pyne or Harley Quinn, but I know a lot of people appreciate them far more than I do. In total, I gave five of the stories the full 5 stars, and the rest ranged between 3½ and 4½, so no duds and a very high standard overall.

Agatha Christie

I’ve highlighted a couple of the five-star stories previously on the blog – The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim and The Idol House of Astarte – so here’s a brief flavour of my other favourites from the collection:

The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman – A doctor friend is visiting Poirot when he receives a message from one of his patients, Count Foscatini, who says he has been attacked and is dying. Sure enough, when Poirot and the doctor get to his house, the Count is dead. Suspicion falls on two Italian men who were apparently the Count’s dinner guests that evening, but Poirot is not convinced! This is quite a slight story, but well done – a proper mystery complete with clues, etc., and rather Holmesian in style as the title would suggest.

The Rajah’s Emerald – James Bond (Ha! Not that one!) is in Kimpton-on-Sea and feeling left out. His girlfriend is staying at the posh Esplanade Hotel while he’s stuck in a cheap boarding house, and she seems more interested in her well-off pals than him. They decide to go for a bathe – the hotel crowd have private changing huts, but James must use the public huts which he discovers are queued out. So he nips into a private bathing hut that has been left open and quickly changes. However, after the swim, he inadvertently pulls on the wrong trousers – a pair that had been left in the hut by its owner. And then he finds something unexpected in the pocket… (see title for clue). This is great fun! A likeable lead character, lots of humour and a good little story – and yes, our James gets his own back on his snobby girlfriend in the end – hurrah!

Jane in Search of a Job – Jane is desperately seeking paid employment, so answers an advertisement in the paper. She finds that the job is to act as a double for a foreign princess, who fears an attempt is to be made on her life. Jane happily takes the job since not only is the pay generous, but she will get to wear some fabulous frocks as she pretends to be the princess. But all is not as it seems, and Jane will soon be in peril! What luck that she should meet a charming and heroic young man at just this time… Another one where the reader is completely on the side of the lovely lead character, and the story has just the right amount of danger, some humour and a smidgen of romance. What more could you want? This is another one that plainly shows the Holmesian influence on Christie’s early stories, but as always she takes an idea and makes it her own.

So a thoroughly enjoyable collection of stories in an attractively designed hardback. Perfect gift material, I’d say, for either existing fan or newcomer. Or for yourself, of course…

(Ooh, and as I went to get links, I’ve just discovered they’ve issued an Audible version too with Hugh Fraser, David Suchet and Joan Hickson narrating the various stories! Sounds fab!)

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, HarperCollins.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

40 thoughts on “Midsummer Mysteries by Agatha Christie

  1. I’ve very much enjoyed these stories from other collections, FictionFan, and I’m sure I’d love a re-read. The book itself sounds lovely, and I’ll bet it does look great on the shelf. That might be reason enough to get it! And it’s great to hear it’s coming out in such a good audio version, too. What interests me as well is the bit from Christie’s autobiography. I don’t think I’ve read a collection that included that before. Tempting…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d read a few of them in other collections, but there was a fair sprinkling of ones I hadn’t come across before, or had read so long ago I’d pretty much forgotten them. They seem to be doing a series of the hardbacks – they’ve sent me three so far and they all look lovely, though again I know a lot of the stories in them from elsewhere. I don’t know if they each have a bit from her autobiography – I haven’t looked at them properly yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. How nice that this series comes in hardback. I might be tempted if I weren’t trying to cut back on “real” books (serious lack of shelf space… and I have TONS of shelves!)

    Your comment about it being summer somewhere in world made me smile. After all, it’s always five o’clock somewhere in the world, as well. 😉🍻

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I know! I hardly buy paper copies at all now for space reasons – the occasional classic but not crime or SF – but I get sent them and my house is beginning to look like the storage room of a bookshop!

      Haha, always time for coffee and cake! 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this collection as well; about half the stories I knew from before and the rest were new to me. I thought they gave one a great flavour of all her detectives.

    Like you I enjoyed the Jane story and also James Bond (I actually looked up when the first Bond was published). I read the book via NetGalley and thought the cover lovely but your description is making me want to have a copy on my shelves.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We can never go too far wrong with the queen of crime of course. I think I may have come across a couple of these before in other anthologies, but the collection as a whole sounds great. Thanks forthe heads up about the audiobook, I’ll download it tomorrow I think, I’m in need of a treat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d read a few of them before too, but there were several I hadn’t come across before, and anyway my memory’s so terrible I can happily re-read Christies several times before I start remembering the solutions! I was thrilled when I saw the audiobook, and that they’d used existing recordings from the three greats rather than getting a new narrator to do them. I hope you enjoy it! I may well get it too sometime (after I’ve forgotten the stories… 😉 )

      Like

  5. Hm, not sure I’d want to become a body double for someone fearing for her life, just so I could wear some fancy clothes and earn $$$. With my luck, I’d never get to spend it, LOL. I do love Christie’s plots….and may be tempted unless another book bauble catches my eye and supplants this one’s place in line.

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    • Haha, yes, I felt the salary would have to be very generous before I’d take the job, but Jane was made of more adventurous stuff! It’s such a fun story. 😀 I enjoy her short stories more now than I used to – I think all my horror reading has made me like short genre stories better in general. Hope you enjoy it if you don’t get distracted! 😀

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  6. The three stories you’ve highlighted here are really enjoyable, especially ‘The Rajah’s Emerald’, a favorite of mine. I’ll have to pick it up again soonish. And ‘Jane In Search of a Job’ is fun even if the man has to come riding in to her rescue!

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      • As Australian poet called Dorothea Mackeller wrote a poem called My Country that says how much she loves Australia, regardless of, or because of, “droughts and flooding rains.”
        As for bushfires, it’s hard to tell. Rain now mean growth which could be fuel for bushfires by the end of summer.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Generally speaking people seem to love the kind of conditions they grow up with. I love rain, which is just as well! When I look at the heat in places like Australia, or the freezing cold of Iceland, or the lack of seasonal variety in California, I shudder, but the people who live there seem to like it!

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        • Haha, yes, you must get very fed up when we all bang on about cold and snow when you’re soaking up the sun and vice versa. I have never been able to imagine having Christmas in summer! When I was a child I assumed you probably had Christmas in June… 😂

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          • Through reading a lot as a child I think became quite used to the idea of an alternate seasonal experience. At that time most literature was from the Northern Hemisphere. Now it’s almost reassuring when others have a summer and I send warming thoughts in their winter. A summer Christmas has an informality I like, though it has worked better since many of us gave up trying to do the traditional English dinner on hot summer days.

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            • I’ve tried to think if I read any books from NZ or Aus when I was a kid and I can’t think of any. I think the most exotic we got was Canada with Anne of Green Gables. However, I did watch a lot of Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo! 😂 Now I’m going to have the theme tune in my head all day! Ha, yes, I can’t quite imagine a huge roast and stodgy pudding being quite the thing for a hot summer day.

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            • It is unlikely as I didn’t read any/much NZ children’s literature until after I left childhood. There wasn’t much children’s literature published until the 70s. Where we had access to NZ writers was through the School Journal, a free publication provided (quarterly/monthly) to schools. This gave a start to many notable NZ authors such as Margaret Mahy and Joy Cowley. I do remember reading a book my mother had called Seven Little Australians which I see was published in 1894, possibly the only Australian author I read in childhood. My childhood story world was very much an English one, with some American interludes.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, mine was the same, mostly English and some American. It was also similar in that I can’t remember reading any Scottish writers either, and my mind is blank trying to think of any Scottish children’s writers now – I don’t really count JM Barrie since the book he was famous for was set in London. Lots of Scottish comics and comic strips though – the Dandy, the Beano, Oor Wullie, The Broons. Happy days!

              Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, yes, I quite like reading summery books when it’s freezing outside, and it’s definitely blanket and hot chocolate weather here at the moment! I love getting sent these hardbacks – I hardly ever actually buy a hardback these days so it’s a real treat. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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