woodlands lounge
woodlands exterior like agatha christie house

 

What is it about our Woodlands that makes guests say they feel like they are in an Agatha Christie movie?

Professor Plum on the veranda with the lead piping?

Miss Scarlet in the hall with the candlestick?

 

A lot of Agatha Christie novels do take place in large country houses in Devon. Not, of course, with Death on the Nile, a new film of which is soon to be released, but Christie was born in Torquay and owned a beautiful house called Greenway in Torbay so there is a link.

 

But although Agatha Christie was once one of the best selling novelists of all time does anyone still read her anymore? ITV has dramatised all of the Poirot novels and recently also the Marple novels. The BBC did the Miss Marple series in the 1980’s and has a new star studded Agatha adaptation as part of its Christmas season most years, so perhaps there doesn’t seem much point. However, for those who like going back to the original source a good place to start may be the Agatha Christie books that Agatha Christie herself rated most highly. Many of them are not the most well known and she didn’t include Death on the Nile among them.

 

Agatha Christie’s favourite Agatha Christie novels

 

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was the third novel to feature detective Hercule Poirot and in this story Poirot retires (he’s retiring already?) to a small English village called King’s Abbot. (In real life Kingskerswell, Abbotskerswell or Newton Abbot perhaps, all Devonian villages near Torquay that Christie would have visited). Almost as soon as Poirot settles in a wealthy widow named Mrs. Ferrars unexpectedly commits suicide and the next day, her fiancé, Roger Ackroyd is found stabbed to death. Poirot comes out of retirement at the request of Ackroyd’s daughter Flora to solve the case.

 

The Thirteen Problems

This is the only short story collection in Christie’s top 10 list, and the tales all feature Miss Marple in her first appearance in Christie’s fiction. The blurb on the first edition of The Thirteen Problems reads: “Miss Marple, that delightfully clever village spinster who solves the most amazing mysteries quietly and unobtrusively from her chair by the fireside, appears in each of the stories comprising The Thirteen Problems. Each story is a little masterpiece of detection, clever and ingenious, with just that added twist that only Agatha Christie can give.”

 

Murder on the Orient Express 

The tenth book featuring Hercule Poirot, Christie ranked this novel in her favorites because it was “a new idea for a plot.” The story takes place, spoiler alert! on the Orient Express train, which has stopped because of heavy snowfall. Poirot, who happens to be on the train solves the murder of a passenger.

Murder on the Orient Express is touted as “the most widely read mystery of all time,” and has been adapted numerous times—including most recently in a 2017 film by Kenneth Branagh, in his first Christie adaptation.

 

And Then There Were None  

Voted Christie’s best novel by public vote in 2015, Christie also loved the mystery and ranked it among her top ten, because it was “a difficult technique which was a challenge and so I enjoyed it, and I think dealt with it satisfactorily. “The “difficult technique” she refers to is the fact that the plot is structured around a children’s counting rhyme, where the ten victims are killed in a manner which corresponds to a line of the rhyme—and eventually no one is left.

 

The Moving Finger 

This is the fourth Miss Marple mystery but it only features her in a minor role at the end of the book, when the police have failed to solve the crime – what would they do without her? In a small town of Lymstock in Devon, brother and sister Jerry and Joanna Burton set up house. They soon receive anonymous letters accusing them of being lovers, not siblings, and learn that many residents are receiving these “poison pen” letters. When a local lawyer’s wife is found dead, the police begin a search for the letter writer.

 

Towards Zero

This is a Superintendent Battle mystery, a largely forgotten Christie protagonist who features in 5 books. In this 1944 mystery a house party gathers at Gull’s Point, the seaside home of an elderly widow, Lady Tressilian. Soon, Lady Tressilian’s friend dies of natural causes, apparently, but then Lady Tressilian is found murdered and her maid drugged and the natural causes no longer seem so natural! Why does Agatha Christie love this book? “I found it interesting to work on the idea of people from different places coming towards a murder, instead of starting with the murder and working from that.” You will have to read it to see what she means.

 

Crooked House

“Writing Crooked House was pure pleasure and I feel justified in my belief that it is one of my best,” Christie wrote. She also added, “I found the study of a certain family interesting to explore.” The plot follows the Leonides who are one big happy family living in a sprawling, ramshackle mansion. At least that is how it appears until the head of the household, Aristide, is murdered with a fatal barbiturate injection. Suspicion naturally falls on the old man’s young widow, fifty years his junior, but the murderer has reckoned without the tenacity of Charles Hayward, fiancé of the late millionaire’s granddaughter who brings the real murderer to justice.

 

A Murder Is Announced 

The novels begins with an announcement in a local paper that reads “A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, 29 October, at Little Paddocks, at 6.30 pm. Friends accept this, the only invitation.” When villagers arrive at Little Paddocks, the lights go out at 6:30 and a gunman is killed. In 1956, this story became the first Miss Marple to be adapted for television, starring Gracie Fields as Miss Marple and Roger Moore as Patrick Simmons, one of the villagers. It is one of Christie’s favorites because, as she writes, “I thought all the characters interesting to write about and felt I knew them quite well by the time the book was finished.”

 

Ordeal by Innocence

In the novel, Rachel Argyle, a mother of five, is murdered. Her son Jacko is arrested for the crime, tried, and convicted and later dies after six months in prison. Several years after that, a man named Dr. Calgary appears at the Argyle home, claiming Jacko is innocent as he is his alibi. Calgary has just recovered from memory loss caused by a concussion and has come to set the record straight. The Argyle family then has to reckon with the fact that the murderer is still among them.

 

Endless Night

Written in just six weeks when her books normally took her 3 to 4 months, Christie rated Endless Night highly. The plot begins when penniless Michael Rogers discovers a beautiful house at Gypsy’s Acre and then meets the heiress Ellie and it seems that all his dreams have come true at once. But he has ignored an old woman’s warning of an ancient curse, and evil begins to stir in paradise, soon Michael learns that Gypsy’s Acre is the place where fatal ‘accidents’ happen.”

 

If you are a fan of Agatha Christie and her novels whether through film, television, radio adaptation or the books themselves why not visit Greenway her beautiful home in Torbay which she called the loveliest place in the world. Owned by Christie and her family for many years it is now run by the National Trust who look after it and its spectacular gardens which run alongside the River Dart. The house and its gardens and particularly the boat house were the setting for the adaptation of the Dead Man’s Folly episode of Poirot with David Suchet in 2013. Greenway is about a 40 minute drive from Woodlands and you could stop off at Torquay and Paignton on the way and get to know more of the Devon she knew and loved.

Find out about more things to do when you visit Woodlands.

greenway boat house devon

 

About us

Woodlands is a grade II listed Regency house filled with charm and character. The house has an unusual, curved front with many original features still in place including an elegant central staircase, and it is situated in an extensive garden with rolling lawns and ancient trees. We offer extensive secure off-road parking.

We have two large en-suite bedrooms on offer, both of which have stunning views of Teignmouth and the sea. Guests are also welcome to enjoy our lounge, conservatory and spacious veranda which also overlook the garden and the sea.