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Midwinter Murder: Fireside Tales from the Queen of Mystery    by Agatha Christie order for
Midwinter Murder
by Agatha Christie
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2020 (2020)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Midwinter Murder by Agatha Christie is a collection of her stories, some of which have not previously been available to American readers. A bibliography in the back of the book tells when they were first published, dating from May 1923 to 1977, as well as giving names of the magazines in which they were published. Reading these short works of Christie is a treat in which we find the incomparable Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Mr. Quin, and a multitude of wonderful characters with various problems, most of which are solved in twenty pages or less.

The first story, Three Blind Mice, is the only longer story in this collection. A young couple, Giles and Molly, have opened a guest house called Monkswell Manor in an old house that Molly inherited from her aunt. As Molly says, 'Nobody could be more raw to the business of running a guest house than she and Giles. But it would be great fun. And it did solve the housing problem.' Although this was later published in Cosmopolitan magazine, it was first a radio play broadcast on the BBC in May 1947.

Because of all the bombing damage during World War II there were severe housing shortages, especially in London. Molly and Giles live in Monkswell Manor as well as running it as a guest house. This solves their housing problem, but their initial experiences turn out to be far from fun. We meet the first guests, there is a murder, and we learn about each of the characters and their possible reasons for committing the murder before the surprising conclusion.

There aren't murders happening in each of the stories, but all the characters have serious problems to deal with. In The Coming of Mr. Quin, there is a young woman who has served time in prison for a murder that she did not commit, causing her much grief after she's exonerated and released from prison, since most people considered her guilty. Mr. Quin has learned the truth and assists her as he also does another young woman in The World's End, the other story in which he appears.

The Clergyman's Daughter/The Red House contains a riddle that must be solved by Blunt's Brilliant Detectives, Tommy and Tuppence. In the story A Christmas Tragedy the 'elderly spinster lady, Miss Jane Marple,' at first explaining that nothing very interesting had ever happened to her, tells a story about 'one incident - at least not exactly an incident, something very much more serious - a tragedy' that she 'was, in a way, mixed up in,' and we learn how she is able to solve murders by carefully taking in all the small details at the scene of the crime.

All of these tales are written with the wit that we expect in a story by Christie, and there are a lot of twinkling looks passed between characters. I loved this book, which helpfully has a list of all the volumes in The Agatha Christie Collection. I'm going to look for one of her longer mysteries now, and I wouldn't be surprised if reading Midwinter Murder might also lead others to search for and read more books by this amazing writer.

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