And here we go! The #1936Club is up and running! It’s become a kind of tradition for me during recent club weeks to start off with a revisit to the Queen of Crime – the very wonderful Agatha Christie. We tend to pick club years from a period during which Christie was writing regularly, and so there’s usually one of her books to read if you want to (much like Simenon and his Maigret titles). However, 1936 is something of a bumper Christie year – as can be seen from the picture below…

Now three mystery novels in one year would be achievement enough for any writer, and Christie produced three Poirot titles – amazing! They’re good ones, too; I’ve read them all over the years, and have a particular fondness for “The ABC Murders”, as one of the crimes takes place in Andover, where I grew up!

However, looking at the three novels, I felt I knew all of them too well to revisit at the moment (despite the fact that “Cards on the Table” features Mrs. Oliver, who I love). So I cast around to see if there were any short stories from 1936 and there were – and I have them scattered around in the two collections shown. Therefore, I spent a happy hour or so with three of Christie’s shorter works – and they were just as enjoyable as her longer ones!

First up, let’s turn to “Murder in the Mews”; this is a collection of four stories in one volume, originally published in 1937. However, the story “Triangle at Rhodes” was originally published in The Strand Magazine, Issue 545, May 1936 under the title “Poirot and the Triangle at Rhodes”, so I do feel justified in reading it for the club! Interestingly, I can see from the pencil scrawl inside the book that this is one of the Christies I’ve owned since my early teens, so that got me all nostalgic!

“Triangle…” is set, obviously, in Rhodes, where Poirot is attempting to take a low-key, out of season holiday. However, he doesn’t seem to be able to get away from crime… Whilst keeping company with young Pamela Lyall and Sarah Blake, they observe two couples also visiting the island. Dougland and Marjorie Gold are an odd pair; he’s younger than her (scandal!!), and seems to be very attracted by the wealthy Valentine Chantry, who has her glowering husband Tony with her. Tensions soon develop, and Pamela is convinced she is a brilliant judge of human character. However, does Poirot agree with her interpretation of events? And will murder taken place?

The other two stories feature in the collection “Problem at Pollensa Bay” and helpfully the title page gives copyright dates for each tale, so I’m going to stick with that! 😀 The works from 1936 in the collection are the title story itself, and “The Regatta Mystery”; and intriguingly, both are stated to have originally been published in 1936 in the Strand magazine as Poirot mysteries (so keeping them in line with the publication of “Triangle…”). Here, the stories have been changed to ones featuring Mr. Parker Pyne, ‘specialist in unhappiness”, and that may be because the subject matter of both is less murder mystery and more problem solving!

On to the actually stories. “Problem at Pollensa Bay” finds Parker Pyne in Majorca where he becomes embroiled in a doting mother’s fears for her son, who seems to be entering into an unsuitable relationship. And in “The Regatta Mystery”, we are faced with the burglaring equivalent of a locked-room mystery, when a prank at a dinner goes horribly wrong and a valuable jewel is stolen. In the former story, the happiness of two young people is at stake; in the second, the reputation of a young man suspected of the theft. It takes all of Pyne’s ingenuity to solve the problems!

All of these stories show Agatha Christie at the top of her game, which isn’t surprising really when you consider the full length works she published that year. Her writing and plotting is assured, she captures characters, motivations and settings brilliantly, and each short story is a delight to read. “Triangle…” is probably the most famous as it shares elements with one of her novels; and the two other stories are definitely better as Pyne stories instead of Poirot. But they’re all proof, if it was needed, that Christie was just as good at short works as she was with longer ones!

Back in 2019, when we featured the 1930 Club, I chose to spend time with Christie’s ‘Harley Quin‘ short stories, and they were a real joy; the 1936 ones were just as wonderful, and I’m reminded that I have the collection “Parker Pyne Investigates”, a 1934 collection, on the shelves, which might need a revisit soon. Anyway – I’m extremely happy that I chose to start the week with Agatha Christie – the stories were the perfect read for the moment, and she really never disappoints!