The Folio Society’s Agatha Christie Books | Beautiful Mystery Books

Agatha Christie is considered one of the world’s
top selling novelists, with somewhere between 2 and 4 billion copies of her works having
been sold to date. However, the first Folio Society publishing
foray into Christie’s work was only in 1990, when they released a two-volume Railway Mysteries
set, including “4.50 from Paddington” & “The Mystery of the Blue Train”. “The Mystery of the Blue Train” was first
published in 1928, and features Hercule Poirot solving a murder aboard the luxurious Blue
Train running from London to the Riviera. It is bound in blue cloth with a 1930’s train
design by David Eccles and includes an introduction by biographer Tim Heald. First published in 1957, the British title
“4:50 from Paddington” refers to a train departing from Paddington Station in London,
but the US publishers considered the London railway stations not particularly well-known
at the time, and so the mystery was released in the US under the title “What Mrs McGillicuddy
Saw”. This mystery has Miss Marple solving a murder
on a local train assisted by housekeeper Lucy Eyelesbarrow. This edition includes an introduction introduced
by English crime writer Robert Barnard, and a matching green cloth binding featuring a
1950s train design by David Eccles. The books do include a few decorative elements
by Eccles, but somewhat disappointingly, neither of these two volumes are illustrated. The next major Agatha Christie outing by Folio
Society was in 2003, with two collections of short stories illustrated by Christopher
Brown. “The Complete Hercule Poirot Short Stories”
was released as a three volume set, with each book bound in different coloured linen and
featuring 10 black & white illustrations in each volume. This set includes stories taken from ‘Poirot’s
Early Cases’, ‘Poirot Investigates’, Murder In The Mews and Other Stories, The
Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and a Selection of Entrees’, ‘Problems at Pollensa Bay’
and ‘The Labours of Hercules’. It includes an introduction by crime writer
Maxim Jakubowski that explores the development of Poirot’s character, his depiction in
the books and on screen, and highlights some of his favourite stories. The Complete Miss Marple Stories was a single-volume
release, in a matching binding. It features an introduction by author Stella
Duffy, which explores some of the more spiky elements of Miss Marple’s personality, and
also rather hilariously warns against reading all the stories in one sitting, noting that
“after half a dozen stories in which no one else even guesses at the truth while Miss
Marple not only solves the equation, but also… explains to us how foolish everyone else was
to miss the clues, I was itching for her to get it wrong, just once”. These are cute volumes, but the linen bindings
are rather susceptible to fading if you’re not too careful. Folio revisited the Grand Dame of crime fiction
again in 2012, when they released a four-volume boxed set of Folio Society Miss Marple Novels,
featuring “The Murder at the Vicarage”, “The Body in the Library”, “A Pocket Full of Rye”
and “Sleeping Murder”. The series included a newly commissioned introduction
by Christie biographer Laura Thompson, which explores the life experiences that inspired
Christie to create Miss Marple, the ‘deceptive simplicity’ of the novels and their shrewd
grasp of human nature. The set was priced at £100. This series features delightfully nostalgic
colour illustrations by London based illustrator Andrew Davidson. For his Agatha Christie illustrations, he
uses gouache paint to lay down large blocks of colour, but Davidson is also well known
for his wood engravings and his work has been featured in many other interesting commissions,
ranging from Royal Mail postage stamps to designs for the glass doors at Wimbledon’s
Centre Court. Each book is bound in dark coloured buckram,
and contains seven colour plates. “The Murder at the Vicarage” was the first
novel to feature Miss Marple and the village of St Mary Mead. “The Body in the Library” has Miss Marple’s
intuition beat several other detectives involved in solving the murder of a young woman in the Bantry’s library. “A Pocket Full of Rye” has Miss Marple solves
a series of murders disguised within a nursery rhyme. And “Sleeping Murder” is Miss Marple’s last
case, which was actually written over 30 years before it was published, and left for her
husband Max to publish after her death. To match this set, Folio also gave the “Complete
Miss Marple Short Stories” volume a new look the next year by re-releasing it in a new
binding with 8 new colour illustrations by Davidson. This edition retains the earlier introduction
by Stella Duffy. This was followed in 2014 by a four-volume
set titled the “Folio Society Hercule Poirot Novels”. The introduction to this series is by Anthony
Horowitz, who adapted the Poirot novels for television. Again featuring Andrew Davidson’s illustrations,
and nicely matching the Marple set, the titles in this collection are: The Mysterious Affair
at Styles; Murder on the Orient Express; The ABC Murders; Death on the Nile. It was released at £110. “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” was the
first novel to introduce us to both Poirot and Hastings. “Murder on the Orient Express” is one of Christie’s
most famous novels, with an amusingly solution. “The ABC Murders” is an unusual novel that
employs multiple narrators. The FS edition is quite cute one of the illustrations
shows the ABC Guide resting open on the counter over which the policeman shines his torch. The back cover of the Guide features an advertisement
for The Folio Society (you can see the logo). And “Death on the Nile” is set in Egypt and
was inspired by Christie’s travels with her archaeologist husband. A final note on the slipcases for the boxed
sets. They are very, very tight, and the books were
also released as single volumes, so I recommend single volumes if you can get them, although
they are cheaper to buy as a set. 2016 saw publication of “The Floating Admiral”. This is an interesting novel that was written
by members of The Detection Club, which included Christie along with other leading lights of
the golden age of crime fiction, including Dorothy Sayers and Gilbert Chesterton. Each author contributed a chapter apiece,
often introducing a new twist to the story just before passing it on. As well as the ‘true’ solution provided
by Anthony Berkeley (in a final chapter appropriately titled ‘Clearing up the Mess’), each contributor’s
solution is included in an interesting appendix. It includes a preface by mystery writer Simon
Brett, who was himself President of the Detection Club from 2001 until 2015. The story is illustrated with 7 colour plates
by Mark Thomas, who also illustrated the Folio Society edition of The Princess Bride. Most recently, the FS released one of Christie’s
most famous mysteries that did not feature either of her signature detectives in 2017:
“And Then There Were None”. This volume is three-quarter bound in cloth
with a printed textured paper front board and includes haunting black and white illustrations
by David Lupton, who also illustrated A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin and The Narrative
of Arthur Gordon Pym by Edgar Allan Poe in 2015. This volume includes two double page spreads
including the title page, and 13 other integrated illustrations. I particularly love the author’s note for
this novel: “I had written this book because it was so difficult to do that the idea had
fascinated me. Ten people had to die without it becoming
ridiculous or the murderer being obvious. I wrote the book after a tremendous amount
of planning… but the person who was really pleased with it was myself, for I knew better
than any critic how difficult it had been.” Thanks for watching. I’d love for you to share your favourite
Christie novel in the comments below – mine is “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”, so I hope
the Folio Society consider releasing that one soon – and your favourite illustrator
of the novels. Please subscribe and thumbs up if you liked
the video, and let me know what you’d like to see in future videos. ‘Til next time, bye!

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