As a child, whenever I grew bored with my own books,
I'd sneak into my brother's room and forage through his bookshelves. In this
way, I was introduced to Encyclopedia Brown, the Hardy Boys, and Donald
Sobol's TWO MINUTE MYSTERIES.
Seeing a trend in my pillaging, my brother gave me
two Agatha Christie novels: MRS. MCGINTY'S DEAD and
MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD. After that, I hit the bookstores in search of
every Christie title I could find. And not far into this process, I brought
home THE REGATTA MYSTERY.
When I realized the book wasn't a novel but a
collection of short stories, I was disappointed. I wanted a nice long read,
something meaty that I could sink my brain into. Then I began reading. The
stories were incredibly well-crafted—but of course, I didn't realize this
until I became a writer myself. I simply knew how much I enjoyed reading them.
When I finished "In A Glass Darkly," the eerie mood and amazing
ending stayed with me for days. Not long after, I added
WITNESS FOR THE
PROSECUTION—Christie's finest short story anthology—to my
collection. At that point, I was hooked.
Every mystery fan I've met has at least heard of
Christie's novels, but very few readers seem to realize that Dame Agatha not
only wrote short stories (more than 160 of them!), but that she was a master
of the short form.
Bedside companion books examining Christie's writings
have usually concentrated on the novels, at best giving the story collections
a brief mention, and rarely discussing individual tales. They can't be blamed.
She produced so many works in her lifetime that no one volume could possibly
do them all justice.
And so, that we might see and appreciate the flowers
in the forest, I'm going to remove the trees. This book will deal exclusively
with the short stories. A novel or play may be mentioned here and there, but
only those expanded from or directly related to the shorts.
If you're exploring Dame Agatha's short fiction for
the first time, or looking for tales you may have missed, or perhaps taking a
second or third read through them all, I hope this book will be a helpful
companion. If you're a writer, I encourage you to examine the craft in
Christie's short stories. You can't ask for a better mentor.