A Killer Time at the Agatha Christie Festival

By Jaclyn A. Lurker

For the past eight years, the English Riviera has hosted the Agatha Christie Festival in honor of Torquay's most famous resident. This year was the first time I was able to attend the festival, which was held September 9 through September 16. One of the premiere events was the Greatest Works Panel, featuring Christie's grandson Mathew Prichard, author and Christie expert John Curran, and HarperCollins publisher David Brawn. During the event, guests were given the opportunity to vote on which ten book titles they think should appear next to the titles of Christie's own ten favorite novels on the new Agatha Christie statue that will be erected in London's theatre district. That exercise inspired me to write my own top ten list — the ten Christie titles that represent the top ten "killer" events of the 2012 Agatha Christie Festival.

1. Postern of Fate
I can't resist the obvious pun. The festivities began on September 9 with the traditional Agatha Christie Fete on the seafront near Princess Gardens. This event certainly was the perfect gateway to the rest of the festival, with vendors such as the Torbay Bookstore and the Torquay Museum providing prologue to the week's upcoming events.

2. Dead Man's Folly
The setting of this novel is a thinly disguised Greenway, Christie's summer estate, which is the subject of number two of the top ten. My first evening event of the festival was the Greenway Literary Dining Club with author John Curran. Before dinner, guests were given a tour of Greenway and benefited from John's explanations of the significance of certain aspects of the house and items contained therein.

3. Cards on the Table
This one needs hardly any explanation, except to say that the local Toads Theatre Company was performing this Christie play, and it was quite a deal — the plot, acting, direction, sets, and venue made for a straight flush!

4. The Hollow
The big four on this list belongs to the dinner and discussion of Agatha Christie's works in the 21st century. The hollow title refers to the location of the event — the Cary Arms is situated on a beautiful waterfront, but down some very narrow and precarious lanes. (In fact, the taxi drivers discuss amongst themselves what order they will leave the parking lot and proceed onward.)

5. And Then There Were None
Burgh Island is commonly thought to have inspired this novel's setting, as well as the setting for the novel EVIL NDER THE SUN. Truly, there were no other people around during most of my exploration of the gorgeous, yet potentially treacherous, island.

6. The Mystery of the Blue Train
This is the closest we get to literally a "killer" time, as actors run up and down the Dartmouth Steam Railway dining cars trying to stir our little grey cells into solving the mock murder.

7. The Body in the Library
The library isn't the only place a body appears — miniature body, that is. During Agatha Christie week, the always entertaining Babbacombe Model Village offers up several special scenes from Christie novels and challenges visitors to put the faces with the titles.

8. Death on the Nile
For the 2012 season, the Agatha Christie Theatre Company presents Murder on the Nile, Christie's adaptation of her novel of the (almost) same name. As a special treat, theatre-goers could take tea with the cast before the Saturday performance.

9. Sanctuary
You may accuse me here of playing unfair, but a short story title is honestly the best representative of number nine, Cockington Court. A superb way to learn about this historic estate is, oddly enough, to follow the clues of the self-guided murder mystery trail. The directions include some details and observations about the buildings and grounds which one might otherwise miss. One such detail is the wooden sanctuary bar at the entrance of the old church. I could not help but think of Ms. Christie.

10. The Mysterious Affair at Styles
As my final chapter, I refer not to any one particular event, but to the festival as a whole. While the events certainly are key to the festival, I cannot ignore my fellow travelers, who made the event such a truly killer time. Christie has worldwide appeal, and thus, fans of different countries, cultures, and yes, styles, gathered in Torquay for a festival in her honor. We may drive on different sides of the road, use our cutlery differently, and speak different languages (e.g. British versus American English), but on one topic we are all on the same page — our appreciation of the greatest mystery writer of all time, Dame Agatha Christie.

Jaclyn A. Lurker is a New York based writer and Christie fan who can be reached at JaclynALurker@aol.com and pinterest.com/JaclynALurker.

Copyright 2012 Jaclyn A. Lurker. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!

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