Christie is considered the queen of the “cozies”—murder mysteries that feature colorful characters and dastardly deeds committed in elegant country homes, picturesque villages, or glamorous continental resorts. Christie was also an ingenious plotter—almost anyone could be a killer. Among Christie’s legion of fans is, unexpectedly, the sardonic essayist and quintessential New York cosmopolitan Fran Lebowitz, who cheerfully admits that she’s read the same Christies over and over, because she can never remember who did it, and doesn’t care!
Christie’s two most famous characters were Hercule Poirot, a Belgian-born detective with a vast mustache and an ego to match (most recently played by Kenneth Branagh in a remake of Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express) and village spinster Miss Marple.
Miss Marple is given to dithering and self-deprecation, but has a mind like a trap and is a shrewd judge of human nature. Her ego is much smaller than Poirot’s, but she does boast a little in “Miss Marple Tells a Story,” read by Lois Smith.
Not all Christie’s stories featured her signature characters. She was equally capable of infusing dread in any ordinary setting, such as the peaceful village in “Accident,” where a former CID man is sure he’s spotted a murderer. “Be very careful,” warns the fortune teller at the village fete. And is he? Well, you’ll hear whether he is or not in this read by Hugh Dancy.
ACTORS & ARTISTS
Megan Abbott is the author of nine novels, including Queenpin, which was honored with an Edgar Award in 2008; Dare Me, recently adapted into a television series; The Fever; You Will Know Me; and Give Me Your Hand, as well as the nonfiction work The Street Was Mine. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications, and in anthologies including The Best American Mystery Stories. Abbott is the editor of the collection A Hell of a Woman: An Anthology of Female Noir, and she is currently a staff writer on HBO’s The Deuce.
Agatha Christie (1890-1976) is lauded as the “Queen of Crime” for her 66 crime novels and 14 short story collections as well as the world’s longest-running play, The Mousetrap, which continues on the West End in London today. Her novels and short stories have been adapted for stage, screen, radio, video games, comics, and more than thirty films, including the recently released Murder on the Orient Express. Christie was the first recipient of the Grand Master Award, the highest honor presented by the Mystery Writers of America, and her novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was voted the best crime novel ever by the Crime Writers’ Association.
Hugh Dancy is perhaps best known for his work on Hannibal, for which he earned a Saturn Award and two Critics’ Choice Television Award nominations. Additional film and television credits include Black Hawk Down, Ella Enchanted, King Arthur, Adam, the television mini-series Elizabeth I, Blood and Chocolate, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Big C, Deadline Gallipoli, The Path, and Late Night. On stage, Dancy starred off-Broadway in The Pride and Apologia, and on Broadway in Venus in Fur and the revival of Journey’s End. Dancy will be featured in the forthcoming final season of Homeland.
Lois Smith’s film career began with East of Eden and includes Fried Green Tomatoes, How to Make an American Quilt, Dead Man Walking, Twister, Minority Report, The Nice Guys, and most recently, Lady Bird. Recent television credits include Grace and Frankie, Younger, Sneaky Pete, The Son, On Becoming a God in Central Florida, and Ray Donovan. Smith is a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and her many stage credits include the original production of Orpheus Descending, 100 Saints You Should Know, The Trip to Bountiful, for which she received Obie, Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, and Outer Critics Circle Awards, The Grapes of Wrath, Marjorie Prime, and most recently The Inheritance on Broadway. In 2007, Smith was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame and was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Obie Award for excellence in Off-Broadway performances in 2013. She will appear in the forthcoming film Uncle Frank, The French Dispatch, and The Gettysburg Address.
David Strathairn was nominated for an Academy Award for portraying Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, And Good Luck. In addition to appearing in seven films written and directed by John Sayles, his film work includes Howl, The Bourne Ultimatum, Dolores Claiborne, American Pastoral, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Godzilla, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Lincoln, Fast Colors, An Interview with God, UFO, and The Devil Has a Name. On television, he starred in HBO’s Temple Grandin, for which he received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor. Additional television appearances include the role of Dr. Lee Rosen in Alphas, as well as recurring roles on The Blacklist, Z: The Beginning of Everything, Billions, McMafia, The Sopranos, and The Expanse, among others. Strathairn’s upcoming films include Walkaway Joe, The Gettysburg Address, Nomadland, and Nightmare Alley.