Agatha Christie’s 125th anniversary

Malcolm Batten, Librarian, writes:

Outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare, Agatha Christie (15.9.1890 – 12.1.1976) is the best-selling novelist of all time. She is best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, as well as the world’s longest-running play – The Mousetrap.

Death on the Nile, by Agatha ChristieDescribed as the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie was born in Torquay, Devon in September 1890. Educated at home, she taught herself to read and was soon writing poems and short stories.

It was during the First World War that Agatha turned to writing detective stories. Her debut novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles took some time to finish and even longer to find a publisher. She started writing partly in response to a bet from her sister Madge that she couldn’t write a good detective story and partly to relieve the monotony of the dispensing work which she was now doing.

It was not until 1919 that a publisher, John Lane of The Bodley Head (the fourth to have received the manuscript) accepted The Mysterious Affair at Styles for publication and contracted Agatha to produce five more books. She chose a Belgian refugee detective, Hercule Poirot as her sleuth – Belgian refugees were a common feature in England during the war.

Subsequent books introduced new characters – Tommy and Tuppence and Miss Marple who were to feature in many further titles.

Witness for the prosecution, by Agatha ChristieRecommended reading from RBKC library staff:


“I choose the play ‘Witness for the prosecution’. I think Sir Wilfred is one of the wittiest characters she has written and I love the ending.”


The mirror crack'd from side to side, by Agatha Christie“I like ‘The mirror crack’d from side to side’ – it was the first Agatha Christie I ever read aged 11 or maybe even younger and I was hooked from the start. I then went on to ‘Sparkling cyanide’. I just love her characters, the ‘bad boy’ who must have done it because he is mad, bad and dangerous to know – talking of which, I think perhaps my all time favourite is ‘Taken at the Flood’ a truly wicked plot.”


AC_brownsuit“I discovered Agatha Christie shortly after my twelfth birthday and read every title available in my local library. Hercules Poirot was my favourite detective – of course! Tommy and Tuppence were fun, and Miss Marple had her moments, but Poirot was, and remains, the quintessential eccentric/ genius detective. An honorary mention must go to the glamorous and fun thriller, ‘The Man in the Brown Suit‘ (with a really great female lead!)”

Christie’s first marriage ended in divorce in 1928. She travelled to the archaeological site of Ur where the following year she met Max Mallowan who was to become her second husband. Several books were influenced by their travels in the Middle East such as Death on the Nile and They came to Baghdad.

From 1928 Agatha also wrote non-crime novels under the pen name of Mary Westmacott. She continued writing through the war and post-war period, although now there was much time-consuming work with theatrical productions which limited the time Agatha could devote to writing.

Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacott

On 3rd December 1926 Agatha Christie’s life featured a real life mystery when she left her home alone. Her car was found abandoned the next morning several miles away. A nationwide search ensued. The press and public enjoyed various speculations as to what might have happened and why but no one knew for sure. It eventually transpired that Agatha had somehow travelled to Kings Cross station where she took the train to Harrogate and checked into the Harrogate Spa Hotel under the name of Theresa Neale, previously of South Africa. She was eventually recognised by the hotel staff on 14th December, who alerted the police. She did not recognise her husband when he came to meet her. Possibly concussed but certainly suffering from amnesia, Agatha had no recollection of who she was. An intensely private person, made even more so by the hue and cry of the press, Agatha never spoke of this time with friends or family.

Agatha Christie died in January 1976 and is buried in the churchyard of St. Mary’s Cholsey, near Wallingford.

Find Agatha Christie books in your library by checking our new reading list.


“A happy and lively place to read or study”

What do you like about your library? Well, we had plenty of responses to this question on National Libraries Day, Saturday 8th February, and they were all inspiring: interesting, heart-warming and fun in equal measures! 

Books featured quite heavily:

This is where our baby got a passion for books! Thank you.

(I love) Having access to such an astonishing number of wonderful books!

A fantastic place to bring my children, great books

A whole new world of interest in places and stories found in the books.

And so did the staff: 

Enjoyable, quiet, and the staff are really helpful

I like this library because the staff are polite

We love the library, libraries have the best books & lovely staff. Keep it going.

Would hate to be without it – and thanks to the splendid librarians!

And some more thought provoking ones:

Basic human rights! To read, to learn, to use your imagination, to be entertained, to save paper…for free!

 A place to learn and feel safe and warm without fear.

Access to knowledge and to life.

Libraries have been a part of my life since childhood

Comments on particular resources:

A huge amount- great selection of all types of books together with a fashion reference library upstairs!

Access to online resources.


Computers & Fantastic resources

And of course everyone loves Baby Rhme Time!

This Library is my daughter’s favourite place. Baby Rhyme Time is so much fun! Many thanks for everything!!

Thank you very much Adrian for all the songs & stories

We love Baby Rhyme Time keep the good work up

Great Baby Rhyme Time here at the library!

And simply:

Joy, joy, joy, joy!

There were far too many to mention all in one blog post but thank you everyone for contributing!

National Libraries Day Wordle
National Libraries Day Wordle

Blog post from Kensington Central Library- November 2012

Kensington Central Library
Kensington Central Library

We were so impressed with the monthly blog post from our colleagues at Brompton Library that the staff at Kensington Central Library decided we just had to join in!

Each month we’ll tell you about the fantastic services on offer at the central library for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, such as any special events we’ll be holding and we’ll also introduce you to the staff. We hope you’ll enjoy finding out more about Kensington Central Library but please do let us know via the comments section if you’d like us to cover anything else.

Kensington Central Library’s New Lending Librarian

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian
Jodie Green

As part of the new Tri-Borough structure Kensington Central Library has a Lending Librarian, Jodie Green.

I look after all lending stock at Kensington Central Library – this means all the items you can borrow from the library such as books, CDs, DVDs, audio books and even eBooks! If we don’t have an item which you think we ought to have in stock, we have stock suggestion books in the adult and children’s libraries- please just speak to a member of staff & they’ll jot it down. Looking for something to read in a hurry? We always have a display of books recommended by our staff, it’s right by the new enquiry desk near the library entrance.

Staff suggestions display at Kensington Central Library in November 2012
Staff suggestions display at Kensington Central Library

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian

Kensington Central Library’s Reading Group

Our group at Kensington Central Library meets in the evening, on the third Monday of each month to discuss their latest read. At the moment, the group benefits from private use of the Local Studies area after it closes, where they can freely enjoy a round table discussion. Attendance averages between 8-11 members, with a good mix of age and gender, which makes for lively debate. It’s sometimes a shame that I have to remind them when the library is closing – whereas I’m sure they’d happily continue into the night! Each month, at the end of the session, the group hand me a list of titles that they wish to read. It’s my job to source as many copies as possible of their preference, in time for the group’s next meeting.

Kensington Central Library’s Reading Group is open to all and welcomes new members. This month (November) the group are reading ‘Cider with Rosie’, by Laurie Lee. It’s not necessary to register – so if you like to talk about books, why not pop along and join in?

Amal Sakr, Senior Customer Services Assistant

Halloween Story and Craft session- Thursday 1st November 2012

Although Halloween was the previous day, the children’s area in Kensington Central Library was home to spider-webs and spooky goings on for the half term story and craft session. A story about a witch’s cat grabbed the attention and imagination of the twenty or so children who attended, inspiring them to decorate a simple cat-shaped mask with spangles, fluff and colours of their choice. A great time was had by all, and with the promise of another story and craft session over the Christmas holidays many will be back again to hear a tale and make something lovely to take home! I was the storyteller and I was helped by 3 other members of library staff and various parents and guardians!

A witch reading a story at Kensington Central Library!
A witch reading a story at Kensington Central Library!

Gemma Baker, Senior Customer Services Assistant

Kensington Central Reference Library: Information Event

I will introduce myself and what I do at Kensington Central Reference Library in the next blog post but I wanted to tell you about a brilliant event that will be happening next week.

On Monday 12th November, 11.00am-6.30pm the Open University will be here. If you haven’t studied with The Open University before, or you have had a few years away from study, this event is for you! Come along for an informal conversation to get answers to your questions about qualifications and modules, study methods and other aspects of learning with The Open University. No appointment necessary- just drop in.

Nina Risoli, Reference Librarian

And a final word from the Customer Services Manager at Kensington Central Library:

I have been involved in the training of the library staff in using the self service kiosks that have recently been installed in the library. This means that staff are able to confidently support customers with the new technology. The new sorter machine which is used to return library items is proving particularly popular with children who are enjoying returning their books, CDs and DVDs this way. We have had lots of positive comments from customers about our new look lending library. The children’s and young people’s library is currently undergoing building works and both our customers and our staff are looking forward to the reopening of it before Christmas. Whilst this space is being made brighter and better, we are still offering a range of children’s stock in our temporary children’s area and continuing with our extremely popular baby rhyme time and storytime sessions.

Amanda Southern, Customer Services Manager
Amanda Southern, Customer Services Manager

Amanda Southern, Customer Services Manager