Review of “The New Bedside, Bathtub, & Armchair Companion to Agatha Christie” edited by Dick Riley and Pam McAllister

 

This is a guide to nearly everything Agatha Christie wrote, with blessedly spoiler-free plot summaries. It not only describes novels, short stories, and plays, but it gives character profiles and asides on topics like poisons and English country house life. If that weren’t enough, the editors have thrown in some crossword puzzles. Fair warning: only the diehard Christie fan has a prayer of solving these without resorting to the keys.

With many quotes from Christie’s autobiography, the cleverly-named An Autobiography, the reader at times gets the feeling of looking over the author’s shoulder. Under the entry for Murder on the Orient Express, a blow-up quote notes, “All my life I had wanted to go on the Orient Express. When I had travelled to France or Spain or Italy, the Orient Express had often been standing at Calais, and I had longed to climb up into it.”

While the book doesn’t cover every short story, it makes a valiant effort to cover many, particularly those in collections. It also describes in detail some of Christie’s less well-known characters, like Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, with as much attention paid to detail as to Hercule Poirot or to Jane Marple.

The entries are generally two to four pages long and, like Christie’s works themselves, allow for humor. The items are arranged chronologically, with the earliest book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) preceded by some introductory material. Sleeping Murder (1976) is the last book. It’s followed by articles on movies,  an essay on Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote fame, a first-person account of a murder mystery theater, and other such items.

It is it a great browse book. If there’s a book you haven’t read (or haven’t read for a while), the chapter will give you a précis without telling you whodunit.

The editors are generous with illustrations. It is the rare page not graced with a picture of Christie, a reproduction of a book cover (or two) or actors from movie portrayals.

Since the book has nearly sixty contributors, whose day jobs range from reporter to taxi driver to freelance writer, I’m not going to try to sum up a bio for them all.

The two editors, Dick Riley (b. 1946) and Pam McAllister, have written The Bedside, Bathtub, & Armchair Companion to Arthur Conan Doyle and The Bedside, Bathtub, & Armchair Companion to William Shakespeare. Riley has worked as a journalist and a freelance writer. He served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of America.

Pam McAllister, in addition to the books mentioned above, has The Bedside, Bathtub, & Armchair Companion to Mark Twain and Death Defying: Dismantling the Execution Machinery in 21st Century U.S.A. On her website, she says, “My writing and music grow out of my identity as an ACTIVIST, a feminist and pacifist-with-attitude, a woman of faith bent on finding the sacred in the ordinary.”

 

 

Title: The New Bedside, Bathtub, & Armchair Companion to Agatha Christie
Author: Dick Riley and Pam McAllister, eds.
First published: 1989, rev ed.  of 1979 book

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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