Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition

The Listerdale Mystery is a short story collection written by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by William Collins and Sons in June 1934. The book retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6). The collection did not appear in the US however all of the stories contained within it did appear in other collections only published there.

The collection is notable for the first book appearance of the story Philomel Cottage which was turned into a highly successful play, two feature films and was also televised twice in the UK.

The Short stories

The collection comprises 12 short stories which were first published individually in various magazines between 1924 - 1929. These feature a variety of themes, including the supernatural. Only a few are straight-forward crime and detection stories. None of the stories feature Christie's recurrent characters.

Literary significance and reception

The Times Literary Supplement of July 5, 1934 after introducing the title story, stated, "After a heavy meal of full-course detective stories these friandises melt sweetly – perhaps a shade too sweetly – on the tongue: but they are, without exception, the work of an experienced and artful cook, whose interest it is to please. And just as one accepts and swallows, without misgiving a green rose, knowing it to be sugar, so one can accept the improbabilities and the fantasy with which Mrs. Christie's stories are liberally sprinkled. The little kernel of mystery in each tale is just sufficient to intrigue the reader without bewildering him. Here is no Hercule's vein: indeed Poirot would find little worthy of his great gift of detection in these situations, where one knows from the start that everything will come delightfully right in the end."

The Scotsman of June 14, 1934 summarised its review by stating, "They are all good stories with plausible ideas neatly handled. A capital book for odd-half-hours."

Robert Barnard: "Most of the stories in this collection are 'jolly', rather than detection. The final story is a dreadfully obvious one based on Tosca. The two stories with detective interest are the often reprinted Philomel Cottage (good but rather novelettish in style), and the clever Accident"

References to other works

  • In Mr Eastwood's Adventure, Anthony Eastwood misquotes from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám when he states "Tomorrow I may be Myself with Yesterday's ten thousand years". The quote should be for seven thousand years.
  • In The Rajah's Emerald, James Bond quotes "Thanking heaven fasting, for a good man's love" from Act III, Scene 5 of As You Like It. The name of James Bond is pure coincidence to the famous literary secret agent, The Rajah's Emerald having first appeared in print twenty-seven years before the first Bond book, Casino Royale.
  • In Swan Song, Paula Nazorkoff's final words, "La commedia è finita!" are taken from the opera Pagliacci. This opera is also referenced in The Face of Helen, a short story in the 1930 collection The Mysterious Mr. Quin.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

Philomel Cottage

Philomel Cottage was, before the Second World War, the most successful short story written by Agatha Christie in terms of number of adaptations.

It was adapted as a highly successful West End stage play in 1936 by Frank Vosper called Love from a Stranger.

Main article: Love from a Stranger (play)

In turn, this adaptation was filmed twice, in 1937 and 1947.

Main article: Love from a Stranger (1937 film)
Main article: Love from a Stranger (1947 film)

It was also televised twice in the UK, in 1938 and 1947.

Main article: Love from a Stranger (TV)

A further adaptation was produced by Hessischer Rundfunk for broadcast on West German television on December 5, 1967 under the title of Ein Fremder klopft an starring Gertrud Kückelmann and Heinz Bennent.

It was adapted three times for the American half-hour radio programme Suspense (CBS) under its original name Philomel Cottage, first airing on July 29, 1942, starring Alice Frost and Eric Dressler. This episode has apparently been lost. The second adaptation aired October 7, 1943, with Geraldine Fitzgerald as Alix Martin and Orson Welles as Gerald Martin. A third aired December 26, 1946, with Lilli Palmer as Alix Martin and Raymond E. Lewis as Gerald Martin.

Philomel Cottage was also adapted as a half-hour BBC Radio 4 play broadcast on Monday, January 14, 2002 at 11.30am.

Adapator: Mike Walker
Producer: Jeremy Mortimer

Lizzy McInnerny as Alex
Tom Hollander as Terry
Adam Godley as Richard
Struan Rodger as Merlin

Music was by Nick Russell-Pavier.

The Agatha Christie Hour

Three stories of the stories in the collection, The Girl in the Train, Jane in Search of a Job and The Manhood of Edward Robinson were adapted for by Thames Television in 1982 as part of their ten-part programme The Agatha Christie Hour, a series of one-off plays from short stories by the writer. These episodes were numbers 3, 9 and 10 in the series respectively (see Parker Pyne Investigates for other episodes in the series).

The Girl in the Train

Transmitted: September 21, 1982

Adaptor: William Corlett
Director: Brian Farnham

David Neal as Rogers
Roy Kinnear as Cabbie
James Grout as William Rowland
Ernest Clark as Detective Inspector Jarrold
Ron Pember as the Mysterious Stranger
Sarah Berger as Elizabeth
Osmund Bullock as George Rowland
Harry Fielder as the Guard

Jane in Search of a Job

Transmitted: November 9, 1982

Adaptor: Gerald Savory
Director: Christopher Hodson

Tony Jay as Count Streplitch
Elizabeth Garvie as Jane Cleveland
Stephanie Cole as Princess Anna
Geoffrey Hinsliff as Colonel Kranin
Amanda Redman as the Duchess Of Ostravia
Andrew Bicknell as Nigel Guest
Helen Lindsay as Lady Anchester
Julia McCarthy as Miss Northwood

The Manhood of Edward Robinson

Transmitted: November 16, 1982

Adaptor: Gerald Savory
Director: Brian Farnham

Rupert Everett as Guy
Cherie Lunghi as Lady Noreen Elliot
Nicholas Farrell as Edward Robinson
Ann Thornton as Maud
Julian Wadham as Gerald Champneys
Margery Mason as Mrs. Lithinglow
Tom Mannion as Herbert
Sallyanne Law as Millie
Patrick Newell as the Major
Bryan Coleman as Lord Melbury
Nicholas Bell as Jeremy
Riona Hendley as Poppy
Simon Green as Sebastian
Georgina Coombs as Diana
Rio Fanning as Barman
Frank Duncan as Grosvenor

Swan Song

Swan Song was adapted as a thirty-minute play for BBC Radio 4 and broadcast at 11.30am on Monday January 28, 2002.

Adaptor: Mike Walker
Director: Ned Chaillet

Maria Friedman as Polina
Emily Woof as Beth
Sylvester Morand as Bréon
Ray Lonnen as Dominik

Publication history

First publication of stories

The first UK publication details of all the stories contained in The Listerdale Mystery are as follows:

  • The Listerdale Mystery: First published in issue 250 of The Grand Magazine in December 1925.
  • Philomel Cottage: First published in issue 237 of The Grand Magazine in November 1924.
  • The Girl in the Train: First published in issue 228 of The Grand Magazine in February 1924.
  • Sing a Song of Sixpence: First published in Holly Leaves, the annual Christmas special of the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in December, 1929 with illustrations by C. Watson.
  • The Manhood of Edward Robinson: First published in issue 238 of The Grand Magazine in December 1924.
  • Accident: First published as The Uncrossed Path in the September 22, 1929 issue of the Sunday Dispatch with an uncredited illustration.
  • Jane in Search of a Job: First published in issue 234 of The Grand Magazine in August 1924.
  • A Fruitful Sunday: First published in the Daily Mail on August 11, 1928 with an uncredited illustration.
  • Mr Eastwood's Adventure: First published as The Mystery of the Second Cucumber in issue 233 of The Novel Magazine in August 1924, with an illustration by Wilmot Lunt.
  • The Golden Ball: First published as Playing the Innocent in the Daily Mail on August 5, 1929 with an illustration by Lowtham. The line early in the story where Ephraim Leadbetter tells his nephew that he has failed to grasp "the golden ball of opportunity" is missing from this version but the reference to the "Golden Ball" is intact at the end of the tale.
  • The Rajah's Emerald: First published in issue 420 of the fortnightly Red Magazine on July 30, 1926, with an illustration by Jack M. Faulks.
  • Swan Song: First published in issue 259 of The Grand Magazine in September 1926.

Publication of book collection

As with Parker Pyne Investigates, this collection did not appear under the usual imprint of the Collins Crime Club but instead appeared as part of the Collins Mystery series. Along with The Hound of Death and Other Stories, this make The Listerdale Mystery one of only three major book publications of Christie's crime works not to appear under the Crime Club imprint in the UK between 1930 and 1979.

US book appearances of stories

The stories contained in The Listerdale Mystery appeared in the following US collections:

  • The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories (1948) - Accident, Mr Eastwood's Adventure (under the revised title of The Mystery of the Spanish Shawl), Philomel Cottage and Sing a Song of Sixpence.
  • The Golden Ball and Other Stories (1971) - The Listerdale Mystery, The Girl in the Train, The Manhood of Edward Robinson, Jane In Search of a Job, A Fruitful Sunday, The Golden Ball, The Rajah's Emerald, Swan Song

International titles

  • German: Etwas ist faul (Something is Rotten)
    Etwas ist faul (Something is Rotten)
    Haus Nachtigall (House Nightingale)
    Das Mädchen im Zug (The Girl in the Train)
    Ein guter Freund (A Good Friend)
    Der Traum vom Glück (The Dream Of Good Fortune)
    Der Unfall (The Accident)
    Jane sucht Arbeit (Jane In Search of a Job)
    Sonntag (Sunday)
    Gurke (Cucumber)
    Die goldene Kugel (The Golden Ball)
    Der Smaragd des Radschas (The Emerald of the Rajah)
    Schwanen-Gesang (Swan Song)
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