Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mysterious London: Agatha Christie

Last year Kerry Hammond traveled to Ireland and she blogged about her adventures on Mystery Playground. You can revisit her travels, which included a trip to the Trinity College Library and a walk through James Joyce’s Dublin. This year Kerry visited London and would like to tell us about all of the literary, and sometimes non-literary, things she experienced. Join us each Wednesday for the next five weeks (or until she runs out of stories) for a recap of her trip.

England has always fascinated me, mostly because of the amazing mystery authors who hail from the small country. The most famous, of course, is the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. I love the books she wrote, the TV shows and movies that were based on those stories, and everything in between. Agatha Christie wrote many standalone novels, short stories and plays. She created three different series that I fell in love with: Hercule Poirot, Miss Jane Marple and Tommy & Tuppence. During my trip to London, I decided to visit some sights to celebrate my favorite Christie characters.

Hercule Poirot was the Belgian detective who appeared in 33 novels, over 50 short stories and one play. Many actors were honored to play the role of this iconic detective, but in my opinion, no one played him better than David Suchet. From the very first appearance of Monsieur Poirot in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Suchet immortalized the detective in a way that no other actor has. While In London, I decided to visit the location of Poirot’s apartment at Whitehaven Mansions, which is actually called Florin Court, as seen in the BBC series Agatha Christie: Poirot. It is a beautiful art deco building just a few tube stops away from the center of the city. I have to admit, I did not look at the listing of residents because I didn’t want to see that none was marked with “M. Poirot.”

Miss Marple appeared in 12 full-length novels and 20 short stories. One of my favorite Miss Marple books is At Bertram's Hotel. One of the possible inspirations used by Dame Agatha to write this book was Brown’s Hotel on Albemarle Street, Mayfair. In the book, she says, “Inside, if this was the first time you had visited Bertram’s, you felt almost with alarm, that you had reentered a vanished world. Time had gone back. You were in Edwardian England once more.” My favorite screen version of the book stars Joan Hickson, by far the best Miss Marple. I strode through the hotel lobby to get a feel for what Christie may have experienced when she stayed at the hotel.

I also visited the Seven Dials neighborhood as a tribute to one of Christie’s standalone novels The Seven Dials Mystery. A murder takes place at a house party at a manor house called Chimneys. One of the clues revolves around the existence of seven clocks and an unexplained letter penned by the victim mentioning “that Seven Dials business” leading investigators to the Seven Dials neighborhood of London. This monument sits in the center of the neighborhood and contains seven sundials at the top.

Finally, I located Scotland Yard, but alas, Inspector Japp was not available for questioning.

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