Postern of Fate is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie that was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in October 1973 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. The UK edition retailed at £2.00 and the US edition at $6.95.
The book features her detectives Tommy and Tuppence Beresford and is the detectives' last appearance. It is the last novel Christie wrote, but not the last to be published.
Explanation of the novel's title
Now in their seventies (though the authoress never states their age clearly), Tommy and Tuppence move to a quiet English village, looking forward to a peaceful retirement. But, as they soon discover, their rambling old house holds secrets. Who is Mary Jordan? And why has someone left a code message in an old book about her 'unnatural' death? Once more, ingenuity and insight are called for as they are drawn into old mysteries and new dangers.
- Tommy Beresford
- Tuppence Beresford
- Albert Batt - The Beresfords’s manservant
- Andrew - Tommy and Tuppence’s grandson
- Colonel Atkinson - Tommy’s contact
- Beatrice - The Beresfords’s cleaner
- Mrs Boldicott - Isaac’s daughter-in-law and Henry’s mother
- Clarence - Henry’s friend at Junior Brigade
- Miss Collodon - The woman Tommy has employed to do some research
- Mr Crispin - A British agent who takes cover as a gardener for the Beresfords
- Deborah - The Beresfords’s daughter
- Miss Dorothy “Dotty” Little - ‘The Parish Pump’ – of the local Women Institute
- Gwenda - Beatrice’s friend, who works in the post office
- Hannibal - The Beresfords’s dog
- Henry Boldicott - Isaac’s grandson
- Isaac Boldicott - An old gardener, Henry’s grandfather
- Janet - Tommy and Tuppence’s granddaughter
- Miss Iris Mullins - a.k.a. ‘Dodo’ by Mr. Crispin, a fascist
- Mrs Lupton - an elderly woman, who walks with two sticks
- ‘Mutton-chop’ - A nickname for Tommy’s friend, an inactive agent
- Miss Price-Ridley
- Colonel Pikeaway
- Mr. Robinson - In the Intelligent posing as a City banker
- Rosalie - Tommy and Tuppence’s granddaughter
- Mrs Winifred Griffin - (née Morrison) an elderly neighbour who knows about the Parkinsons
- A grizzled man - Tommy’s friend and old contact
Literary significance and reception
Most critics remarked how noticeable Agatha Christie's old age is in this book. For example the main characters Tommy and Tuppence seem to have completely forgotten in one chapter what they discussed just a chapter before. Some conversations seem to be repeated again and again, before any action takes place. Some puzzles which are obvious and easy to solve for the reader take various chapter to be tackled by the main characters. Nevertheless, the reader is able to follow the main story line.
Maurice Richardson in The Observer of November 11, 1973 was positive in his review: "Now in their seventies, the Beresfords, that amateur detective couple of hers whom some of us found too sprightly for comfort, have acquired a Proustian complexity. A code message in an Edwardian children's book puts them on to the murder of a governess involved in a pre-1914 German spy case. Past and present go on interlocking impressively. Despite political naivety; this is a genuine tour de force with a star part for Hannibal, the Manchester Terrier."
Robert Barnard: "The last book Christie wrote. Best (and easily) forgotten."
Postern of Fate has been criticized as of lower quality than the bulk of Christie's output. According to The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English, this novel is one of the "execrable last novels" where Christie "loses her grip altogether".
- 1973, Collins Crime Club (London), October 1973, Hardcover, 254 pp
- 1973, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), Hardcover, 310 pp
- 1974 Bantam Books, Paperback, 276 pp
- 1974 GK Hall & Company Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 471 pp ISBN 0-8161-6197-6
- 1976, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 221 pp
- 1992, Ulverscroft large-print Edition, Hardcover, ISBN 0-7089-2708-4
References to other works
The book has many references to other Tommy and Tuppence books as well as cultural references. We learn that Tuppence and Tommy's twin daughter Deborah is now mother of twins herself, that the adopted daughter Betty lives in Kenya and that the wife of Albert, the loyal valet, has recently died. Mr. Robinson, the "yellow, big man" from Passenger to Frankfurt, appears here, as do Colonel Pikeaway and Horsham, posing undercover as a gardener.
- German: Alter schützt vor Scharfsinn nicht (Old age doesn't prevent from sharp wit)
- Hungarian: Sors-rejtekajtó (Postern of Fate)
- Turkish: Kader kapısı (Postern of Fate)
- Italian: Le Porte di Damasco (Damacus' Gate)