Published on September 15th, 2016 | by Michelle Roper-Shaw
The Queen of Crime Fiction
She is known as the “Queen of Crime” and with more than two billion book sales worldwide, crime writer and playwright Agatha Christie has only been outsold by Shakespeare and the Bible. The Agatha Christie catalogue consists of 66 crime novels, 6 romance novels, 150 short stories and 19 plays. Her works have been widely adapted and produced across most media platforms around the world, including TV, film, radio, publishing, stage and very successful digital games.
Since her debut in 1920, Agatha Christie’s books have never been out of print. She was the first crime writer to have 100,000 copies of ten of her titles published by Penguin on the same day in 1948 – A Penguin Million. She has sold over 2 billion copies of her books worldwide, 1 billion in English and 1 billion in over 100 different languages. Her books and fictional creations continue to live on, with book sales averaging 3-4 million books a year worldwide and around 30 feature films and 200 TV productions having been screened based on her novels.
Agatha Christie’s Legacy and Most Famous Characters
While her books are quintessentially English in their settings as are most of her characters, the subject matter is surprisingly less cosy: murder, adultery, forgery and blackmail fill the pages. Her two most famous characters are Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple.
Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective, featured in 53 novels, one play and more than 50 short stories, making him one of the most famous fictional characters of all time. Christie apparently tired of Poirot quite quickly and referred to him as “insufferable”. When Christie finally killed off Poirot the character received an obituary in the New York Times, the only fictional character to have been honoured in this way. There have been many memorable Hercule Poirot portrayals over the years including Sir Albert Finney, Sir Peter Ustinov and more recently David Suchet, all using their “little grey cells” to solve Christies’ wonderful murder mysteries.
Miss Marple appears in 12 novels and 20 short stories. She was based on Christie’s own step grandmother and also the character Caroline Sheppard who appeared in her most critically acclaimed novel “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”.
Jane Marple first appeared in Christie’s book of short stories “The Thirteen Problems”. The first description of Jane is of her eyes of “faded blue”, her hair white under a black lace cap and even in the first story she was aged 65 or more. Later stories refined her appearance: a tall, elderly lady wearing an old-fashioned tweed coat and shirt, a couple of scarves and a small felt hat with a bird’s wing. She is frequently found knitting whilst shrewdly taking in all the curious goings on around her in the village of St Mary Mead.
Mystery and Hidden Clues
This is the first time that a discrete set of Special Stamps have been dedicated to the author. A Prestige Stamp Book was launched back in 1991 which focused on some of her most famous novels but the only stamps contained in it were Definitives.
Each of the Special Stamps depicts a key scene and principal characters from six iconic novels. Intrigue has been added to the stamps by incorporating hidden elements in each stamp using a combination of microtext, UV ink and thermochromic ink. Will you discover the clues?
The Agatha Christie Presentation Pack also sets out all of her novels in the order in which they were published which makes this the ideal gift for anybody who is an Agatha Christie fan or somebody who loves their books and authors.
Murder on the Orient Express (1934): This novel was shortlisted by the Crime Writers Association poll for the greatest crime novel of all time. While travelling through Istanbul on the Orient Express, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot finds himself embroiled in an intriguing mystery after a fellow passenger is found murdered.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles (written in 1916, published in 1920): This is the first introduction to Poirot, the story is told by his faithful sidekick Captain Arthur Hastings, on sick leave in Essex after being invalided while serving in the First World War. Styles Court, a grand country residence near the Essex village of Styles St Mary, provides the setting for Agatha Christie’s debut crime novel.
The Body in the Library (1942): This is Christies’ biggest selling book that features the classic character of Miss Marple. After Colonel and Mrs Bantry awake one morning to find the body of a young blonde woman in their library at Gossington Hall, the intuitive detection skills of Miss Jane Marple are immediately sought.
And Then There Were None (1940): This is one of her novels that does not feature her most famous two characters. Instead it focuses on eight people who are invited to an island attended by a butler and his wife with a strange outcome for them all.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926): A classic whodunit story plot with a twist in the final chapter that has divided critics and readers ever since it was published. The book was voted the “Greatest Crime Novel of All Time” by the 600 members of the Crime Writers Association. Narrated by Dr James Sheppard, who lives with his sister Caroline in the village of King’s Abbot, the story tells of the demise of the eponymous Roger Ackroyd, a man who knew too much.
A Murder is Announced (1950): ‘A Murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30pm. Friends please accept this, the only intimation’. This peculiar pronouncement in the Chipping Cleghorn Gazette would draw a number of curious visitors to the home of Miss Blacklock. This once again features the iconic Miss Marple and the book is in the top list of Agatha Christie novels.