A set of six stamps to be issued on September 15 will commemorate the work of the British author Agatha Christie, who is claimed to be the best-selling novelist of all time.

Christie is most renowned for her 66 murder and detective mysteries, of which 33 featured the fastidious Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot, and 12 featured the intuitive English spinster, Miss Marple. She has been dubbed ‘the Queen of Crime’.

And Then There Were None is the best-selling mystery ever, The Mousetrap has become the world’s longest-running stage play, and more than 30 feature films have been based on her books.

The stamp designs allude to six of Christie’s most absorbing plots. Printed mostly in moody black and white, they make extensive use of microprinting (which will be illegible to the naked eye) to include references to book titles, plots and characters, as well as the six letters which comprise her first name, as if they were hidden clues.

They were designed by Studio Sutherland, from illustrations by Neil Webb, and printed in litho by International Security Printers.

The chosen issue date is curious. Royal Mail says that it marks the centenary of Christie writing her first detective story (although this was not published until 1920), as well as the 40th anniversary of her death (which was in January 1976). In fact it precisely marks the 126th anniversary of her birth!

1st class MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

Published in 1934, this story sees Poirot investigating the killing of an elderly American on the famous train as it passes through Yugoslavia, and finding that everyone travelling in his coach has a motive.

1st class AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

Published in 1939, this novel sees a group of people lured into staying on a remote island under various pretexts, and then being murdered one after another, apparently in retribution for earlier sins.

£1.33 THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES

Published in 1920, Poirot’s first case after arriving in England as a refugee in World War I concerns the poisoning of a wealthy widow following her marriage to a younger man, with various relatives and house guests under suspicion.

£1.33 THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD

Published in 1926, another Poirot mystery concerns a killing for which all suspects appear to have an alibi, until the murderer’s method is revealed in clever plot twist.

£1.52 THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY

Published in 1942, this case follows Miss Marple investigating a complex mystery in which the identity of the victim is far from clear, never mind that of the murderer.

£1.52 A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED

Published in 1950, this imaginative tale concerns a killing which is advertised in advance in a local newspaper, and is followed by more. Solving the case requires all of Miss Marple’s intuition.

OTHER PRODUCTS

Written by Mathew Prichard, grandson of Agatha Christie, the presentation pack documents her personal and literary life, with photographs and insightful quotes from the author herself about the characters she created.

Stamp cards and a first day cover are also available as usual.

 

PRICES

Set of 6 stamps   £6.98

Presentation pack   £7.50

Stamp cards   £2.70

First day cover   £8.80

 

VERDICT

COMMEMORATIVE WORTH   2/5

Although Agatha Christie is a national treasure, the timing of this issue is, well, a mystery

QUALITY OF DESIGN 5/5

Sinister colour schemes, an unusual format and hidden clues help to give this set an extra frisson of tension

WOW FACTOR   2/5

These stamps demand closer inspection, but that will not necessarily be clear to the general public