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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 has the same name as its first story and is also notable for hosting 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.

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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