THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF AGATHA CHRISTIE: A Biographical Companion to the Works of Agatha Christie

Charles Osborne, Author . St. Martin's $25.95 (421p) ISBN 978-0-312-28130-4

Though she has been dead for 25 years, was fond of self-deprecating comments ("What I'm writing is meant to be entertainment") and many of her later books suffered from faults that would have derailed the career of a lesser author, Agatha Christie remains a beloved figure. She also remains a reliable source of mystery sales and a subject of critical attention. Osborne, who has successfully novelized three of Christie's plays (Black Coffee; Spider's Web; and The Unexpected Guest), here offers a (largely) chronological listing of the author's oeuvre complete with biographical notes that form a useful context for readers. In the preface, the author assures the reader that nowhere will he reveal the identity of any of Christie's murderers. In fact, he warns readers of instances where Christie reveals in one novel who the murder was in a previous case. Osborne does, however, offer frequent advice about clues the reader should pay particular attention to—advice not all readers will welcome. Osborne is an exceedingly forgiving critic; he acknowledges the frequent anti-Semitic elements in the early writings, the careless errors throughout her work and the increasingly sloppy efforts that marred the last of her novels, but he always finds redeeming value. At the end are bibliographies of novels, short stories, plays and films, as well as a useful index. Television treatments are dealt with in the text. (June 4)

FYI:Matthew Bunson's The Complete Christie: An Agatha Christie Encyclopedia (2000) provided extensive descriptive coverage of the same material but only a brief biographical sketch.

Reviewed on: 04/23/2001
Release date: 06/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
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