Agatha Christie, Close-Up

Four BBC Radio documentaries about the Queen of Crime

Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie, was a curiously private person and, despite living until 1976, very few recordings of her discussing her work have survived: she was from a very different time indeed.

In this remarkable audiobook, the BBC has brought together four radio programmes about Christie the woman, the writer and the phenomenon. For she captivated and fascinated a loyal readership from the very first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which she published in 1920, right up to the present day, almost one hundred years later.

The characters she created, including Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, to name just two, and her stories and plays, are just as much in demand today as they ever were: still in print, but also on the small and silver screens, and still regularly in amateur and professional theatre companies in the provinces and in the West End. She really is a truly singular literary phenomenon.

Because so little exists of recordings of Christie, some of the material in these programmes is heard more than once. But that matters not a jot. Each programme tells a different part of her extraordinary story, with contributions from, amongst many others, Richard Attenborough, Allen Lane, Marghanita Laski, Cliff Michelmore, A. L. Rowse and Nigel Stock. The programmes range in date from 1955 (for the Light Programme) to 1975 and 1982, with a new contribution for Radio 4 Extra produced by Peter Reed in 2015/16, and will delight any Christie devotee, of which there are many all over the world.

A perfect Christmas gift for aficionados of Agatha Christie, one interesting feature to note is the changing voice of the BBC – or rather the changing accent of the BBC. Vanished now is received pronunciation, or RP –  the educated voice of the privileged Home counties. How differently people speak today compared with the 1950s, 60s and 70s: even actors, broadcasters and other professionals. Does no one speak that way any more? And what, one wonders, will things be like in another fifty years?


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