Let me preface this review by saying that I love short story collections, and it’s the gateway format for many of my now-favorite authors. However, I must admit that reviewing an Agatha Christie collection is a cause for hesitation because, one, much has already been said (or written, to be more accurate) about her body of work, and two, I’m what you would call a casual Christie reader. I don’t think this book will pique the interest of longtime Dame Agatha readers, let alone get them to buy a copy of it.
But I’ve been wrong before.
The Usual Suspects
A Deadly Affair is a collection of previously-published short stories written by Agatha Christie, but with a twist: they’re love stories. Or stories that involve romance, at least: more Harley Quin, less Harlequin. The usual suspects — Poirot, Miss Marple, the Beresfords — are all accounted for. Some of the stories are about crimes of passion, others merely have lovers as characters, main or supporting. One story involves a couple finding jewelry in their picnic basket that leads into a comedy of errors.
What’s the Point?
You’re probably scratching your head and asking yourself, what’s the point? Aren’t these stories already published in one form or another? Indeed they are. A beloved author like Agatha Christie would have had all her works published by this time, which means if you have a fair-sized library of her works, chances are you don’t need to own this collection.
I’d like to think of these collections as a way to present existing works in a different context. Putting it in a different perspective, let’s take The Beatles as an example. The main body of their musical work consists of thirteen albums and a collection of odds and ends. If one were inclined to own all of these, one can find the complete run in CD or vinyl in conveniently collected box sets. Thanks to music streaming services, listening to their complete works has never been easier.
Given how easy it is to find their original work, compilations of Beatles songs still exist. There’s the single-disc 1, the sprawling “red” and “blue” double albums, some few live albums...all of which sold well, despite the fact that the original albums still exist and have never gone out of print.
A Deadly Affair is like one of these compilations. A reader who has followed and read Agatha Christie’s stories in the order of publication probably would not have paid attention to the fact that a significant portion of her canon involves romance, either as a main plot point or as a minor detail. This collection highlights that aspect, resulting in a surprisingly cohesive selection. Underlining the romance angle is an essay-slash-coda titled “Affairs of the Heart: Agatha’s Early Courtships,” where the author shares anecdotes about men who had courted her in her younger years.
Casuals Are Welcome
I think casual readers who are into romance novels and would like to curl up with a few murder mysteries (without straying too far from their comfort zone) will enjoy having this in their shelves. Seasoned Christie collectors aren’t likely to buy this for their collection — chances are, they already have the stories across other books and probably wouldn’t want to “double-dip”. But then again, I know quite a few people who would buy anything that is Beatles-related, so what do I know?
Clifford is a content writer, musician, and caffeine fiend who co-hosts comic book podcast Those Fcking Nerds (@thoseeffingnerds) on Facebook. He posts book hauls, custom slipcase and box set builds, and other stuff on Instagram (@tapsilogic). Follow him at your own peril.