Agatha Christie's Poirot farewell revealed at 'dark' crime exhibition

Culture  |
Editor : Fatima Rehman
| Last update :

The last Poirot mystery, in which Christie's fabled Belgian detective dies, was written in the early 1940s during World War II

Agatha Christie's Poirot farewell revealed at 'dark' crime exhibition

Agatha Christie's 1930s typewriter and the manuscript of her final Hercule Poirot novel kept for decades in a bank vault, will be displayed Saturday in a new exhibition delving into the "dark stuff" at the heart of crime fiction.

The faded and fragile manuscript's cover has Christie's handwriting in capital letters, and the book's title, "Curtain," along with her name and address – Greenway House in Devon, southwest England – written in spidery longhand.

"She wrote it as a nest egg for her daughter Rosalind, 'something to cheer you up when you come back from the funeral,'" said crime novelist Nicola Upson, curator of the "Murder by the Book," exhibition at Cambridge University Library in central England.

The last Poirot mystery, in which Christie's fabled Belgian detective dies, was written in the early 1940s during World War II in case she did not survive.

At the time "nothing was guaranteed," Upson told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Christie went on to write many more Poirot novels before she died in 1976.

However, with the final installment already written, fears that Poirot's demise might be leaked dictated that the manuscript be kept secret.

'Murder by the Book'

"It's Poirot's last case and she wanted that to come out after her own death and for the royalties from it to benefit her daughter," said Upson.

Poirot's fate was finally revealed in 1975, and it was so culturally significant that a front-page obituary in the New York Times marked it.

"It was published four months before her death in January 1976, so when you read Poirot's final words in that book, they read a bit like Christie's farewell to her readers; there's a poignancy to them," Upson added.

Christie, who also wrote the Miss Marple series, is the best-selling fiction author. During her lifetime, she sold an astonishing 300 million books.

Nearly half a century after her death, objects such as her clunky 1950s dictaphone and portable 1937 Remington typewriter – on which she would have written one of her most famous works "And Then There Were None" – still have the power to fascinate.

"There is something so evocative about the first to witness all those thoughts and stories," said Upson, author of the Josephine Tey series of mysteries.

Dark stuff

The exhibition draws on the library's one million-strong fiction collection of first editions – still in their original dust jackets – by highlighting nearly 100 of the most famous, influential, best-selling crime novels in U.K. history.

Upson said she wanted to examine the "so-called cozy mysteries," and "the dark stuff, the kind of nuts and bolts of crime fiction, after all, violence and death."

Forgotten classics also feature, such as "A Pin to See the Peepshow" by F. Tennyson Jesse, inspired by the conviction and 1923 execution of Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters.

In Jesse's 1934 novel, protagonist Julia Almond meets a similar fate in an ordeal described as amongst the "most horrific in all crime fiction."

The book was influential in the U.K.'s abolition of the death penalty for murder three decades later in 1969.

The exhibition features early fictional characters such as Miss Marple, Poirot, and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, as well as more recent creations such as Lynda La Plante's Jane Tennison and Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse.

And despite changes in style over the decades, Upson said the essentials of good crime writing remained the same: "Strong characters... a realistic, atmospheric world... and a strong story with a beginning, middle and end, not necessarily in that order."

"Murder by the Book" at Cambridge University Library runs until Aug. 24.

Source: AFP

WARNING: Comments that contain insults, swearing, offensive sentences or allusions, attacks on beliefs, are not written with spelling rules, do not use Turkish characters and are written in capital letters are not approved.