It has been a whole entire year of Are You Sitting Comfortably? so to celebrate Rebecca and I have returned to our natural home – crime…ok, we don’t quite fit the profile for gangsta criminals but we do love a ruddy good mystery and wanted to return to where AYSC began: with a good old Agatha Christie.
We picked three popular Agatha Christie novels (also included in her own top ten!) and asked Instagrammers to vote for which novel we should read for this month. I assumed the Roger Ackyroyd would romp home but poor Roger actually got left behind at the starter gates. It was a close run thing between “And Then There Were None” and “A Murder is Announced” but the winner with 51% of the overall vote was…
“A Murder is Announced” is one of my favourite Agatha Christies so I am delighted to revisit this old friend. One of the criticisms often levelled at poor Agatha is her sketching of characters, that most are quick stereotypes with no depth. I rather enjoy this type of characterisation when reading a mystery, it allows the reader to quickly understand the situation and plough on. In this book however, there is a village worth of fabulous characters. The relationship between old school chums Letty Blacklock and Dora Bunner is sublime, Agatha finds every nuance in this decades old friendship and also provides us with all the obligatory Christie characters to create a wonderful tapestry for Jane Marple to unpick.
“A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, 29 October, at Little Paddocks, at 6.30 pm. Friends accept this, the only intimation.”
Over to Rebecca Fletcher for the denouement on the rest of the month’s mysterious choices…
I still can’t believe that Are You Sitting Comfortably is a year old this month. What a year of fabulous authors and bookish Lives we’ve had. Rebecca and I have loved hearing from all of you about all the books we’ve talked about and would love to thank you all for joining us each month with such enthusiasm and love for our guests. We hoped we’ve added some new reads and new authors to your bedside reading pile – it’s been so much fun sharing bookish chat with you all.
Now we couldn’t let a year go by without taking us back to the author it all began with – the remarkable AGATHA CHRISTIE.
Our classic this month was published in 1950 and was Agatha’s fiftieth book. A Murder is Announced is often considered one of her best novels.
‘In an English village, you turn over a stone and have no idea what will crawl out.’
An ordinary village. A shocking announcement. When an advertisement appears in the local paper, the villagers of Chipping Cleghorn, including our beloved tea drinking Miss Jane Marple, are rapt with curiosity. ‘A murder is announced and will take place on Friday October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30 p.m.’ Could this be a murder mystery game? The work of a childish prank? Perhaps a hoax intended for unsuspecting Letitia Blacklock? All unable to resist the mysterious invitation, they gather at Little Paddocks at the appointed time. But what awaits when the lights go out…?
Celebrating all things Christie, our wildcard had to be Lucy Worsley’s Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman. There’s been so much written about Agatha Christie over time, but this is a wonderful deep dive into the life of the Queen of Crime from one of our best loved historians. With previously unseen papers and access to Christie’s personal letters, Worsley offers a chance to see the author in a new light, not only as an extraordinary person who defied class and gender to become a successful working woman but as a truly witty and marvellous character, more than worthy of inclusion in one of her own novels. It’s the perfect detective story all of its own. Antonia Fraser called this biography ‘One brilliant woman writing about another: an irresistible combination’ and I couldn’t agree more.
That leads us to our special guest this month. She’s been called the ‘Agatha Christie of the 21st century’, the mistress of modern murder mystery – our guest author for March is none other than bestselling super sleuth writer of The Appeal and The Twyford Code, Janice Hallett.
Janice’s latest novel, “The Mysterious case of the Alperton Angels”, begins some years before with the story of the Alperton Angels: a cult-like group convinced that the baby of a teenage girl, a member of the cult, was the anti-Christ. Their divine mission? To kill the infant. Before they had a chance, the baby’s mother, Holly, came to her senses and called the police. Rather than go to prison, the Angels committed suicide and Holly – along with the baby – disappeared into the care system. When nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is commissioned to write a book, it becomes the true-crime scoop of the year, one which might just save Amada’s flagging career. However, rival author Oliver Menzies is also on the case and turns out to be just as smart and connected as Amanda. Who will find the baby first? Forced to collaborate, Amanda and Oliver realise everything about the case reads wrong and the truth could be much darker and stranger than they ever imagined. The story of the Alperton Angels is far from over – and it won’t have a happy ending. Gripping and more than a little haunting, Janice Hallett’s The Mystery of the Alperton Angels is the perfect puzzle where the reader holds all the pieces. Highly original in its style, “The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels” has all the thrills, twists and turns we all look for in the best of crime novels.
Here is the link if you are interested to learn which of her other books Agatha classes in her personal top ten https://www.agathachristie.com/en/about-christie/christies-favourite-christie
For true Agatha Christie fans you may be interested in this fabulous reading joy:
Read Christie 2023
Read Christie 2023 is the official reading challenge from Agatha Christie Ltd, which explores 12 stories and themes throughout the year. This year’s theme is Methods and Motives in Agatha Christie stories. They select 12 books to cover in detail, writing an introductory article at the start of each month. They then explore themes covered in this story, share facts, trivia, an audio clip, and images of the various editions published in the past and present around the world throughout the month. If a theme has plenty of books to choose from, they might cover them in a reading list, or if it is a popular favourite we might seek opinions on why this is so from an expert. They usually finish the month with a live typed Q&A with readers on our Facebook and Instagram pages, discussing what they liked and found interesting about the book. To find out more click here Read Christie 2023.