Agatha Christie’s Golden Age by new author John Goddard, with an Introduction by Dr John Curran, is a must for Poirot fans. John uses his forensic skills, acquired over 30 years as lawyer in a leading London firm, to analyse the solutions, plots and clues in the 21 Poirot novels published during the Golden Age of detective fiction. He does so in a way that is logical, informative and readable and the dustjacket looks very stylish, with some of Poirot’s most memorable clues in jigsaw pieces. Crime Time asked John what inspired him to write the book and what he found most difficult.
I spent many summer holidays with my family sitting on a sunbed on the beach, doing logic and crossword puzzles in a relaxed way until one day in 2005 I decided that, although this was intellectually stimulating, I just wasn’t achieving anything. I wondered if there was something productive I could do with puzzles. Then, as a lifelong Christie fan, I remembered Professor Robert Barnard’s comment that the plot of one of her novels (The Man in the Brown Suit) would not stand up to examination “if anyone were to take the trouble”. So, regarding her novels as puzzles, I decided that I would myself ‘take the trouble’ and try to write an analysis of that novel. And, having done that, I then analysed another novel… and then another, breaking each one down into the three puzzle elements of solution, plot and clues, even though I had not seen crime puzzles deconstructed in that way in any books I had read about detective fiction. Thus my book was born and after that I was never without a Christie novel and notebook on my family holidays as I lay on the sunbed.
I think it is quite a bold book because of its assertions about the accuracy or fairness of points in the 21 novels. So, when assessing, for example, the accuracy of the plot or the fairness of a clue or deduction, I do sometimes assert that there are errors or inconsistencies in a novel and explain what these are. Generally speaking, since I preferred being complimentary, this was the most time-consuming and nerve-racking part of writing the book because each time I made such an assertion, I had to read the novel again to double-check that I was right for fear that I might be gainsaid by a reader. And then, having done so, another point would occur to me, requiring more double-checking and another complete re-reading of the novel. So, I read all of them ten to twenty times. No wonder it took 12 years to write the book.
More specifically, the analysis of Five Little Pigs was the most intricate to prepare because it contains more potentially relevant facts, described in more different ways, than any other Christie detective novel, so much so that it was difficult to decide even where to start my analysis. The second most difficult was probably her best plotted novel Murder on the Orient Express because, as I explain in my book, there are really five versions of events, not just Poirot’s “two solutions” as suggested in the title of that novel’s final chapter.
Agatha Christie’s Golden Age was published by Stylish Eye Press www.stylisheyepress.com on 11 July 2018 (ISBN 978-1999612009) and retails on Amazon (and hopefully soon in bookshops) for £18.99 (hardback) and £14.99 (paperback) as well as being available electronically on kindle and ibooks (both £5.99).