Murder, Mystery, Stamps?

13 September 2016

Agatha Christie celebrated

An intriguing set of stamp designs coming out this Thursday gives our Director, Adrian Steel, the chance to reveal one of his passions: crime fiction…
 
I am often asked if I am a stamp collector. I’m not, although I did write some years ago about my grandfather’s stamp collection, which I still have, on this blog. On hearing my answer some are disappointed, but many understand that – given my job – I feel it would be inappropriate to run my own specialist collection.

But I do know what it is to collect: I collect crime fiction, particularly inter-war crime fiction, and particularly Agatha Christie. This collection is not limited to books – mugs feature highly too – but it is the novels that I am most interested in and I collect them to read them.
 

Five mugs based on Agatha Christie book covers

My personal collection of Agatha Christie mugs

Royal Mail’s stamp issue marking 40 years since Christie’s death, and 100 years since the first of her detective stories The Mysterious Affair at Styles is set, is the first time my own collecting interest and my work have overlapped.

The stamps, issued on 15 September, are in my opinion superb images representing the best of her work and the best of what it is to enjoy a good mystery novel.
 

Images of 6 stamps from the new issue

Agatha Christie Special Stamps by Royal Mail

The stamps have secret or mysterious features to interest purchasers, revealed for example under magnifying glass, UV light, or the application of a thumb. But the designs, by Jim Sutherland (of Studio Sutherl&), are particularly striking. They are worthy of the best of the front covers in my own Agatha Christie collection for their ability to intrigue and stimulate interest in the story they depict.

Given the link already established with the Christie family (her grandson has written for the Presentation Pack) it is surely only a matter of time before editions with the stamps as cover images are available.

Photo of 8 Agatha Christie books

A few of my favourite front covers

The stamps are not Christie’s first connection with the post. Last summer I visited her Devon home, Greenway, and in the dim interior light saw her enormous collection of stamp boxes.

Christie went through phases of collecting, focussing on one thing, and then moving on to another, and her changing interests are reflected in the contents of Greenway as now displayed by the National Trust.

A desk with stamp boxes on show under the glass top

The author’s stamp boxes at Greenway

The postal service also features in her stories. It is central to the plot of The Moving Finger, the story of a poison-pen letter writer and related deaths, and to The ABC Murders, where letters from the killer taunt Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot – until one letter in the sequence gives a clue which helps him solve the murders.

We also hear of the letter received by Roger Ackroyd, solemnly given to him with the evening post by his butler Parker in the presence of Dr Sheppard… Well, I cannot say more, but all I would say is that The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is the book I recommend to anyone who has never read Christie. If that’s you, and you are inspired by the excellence of these stamps, why not give it a try?

A copy of the novel

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: Recommended!

– Adrian Steel, Director