NEW BOOK REVIEW: The Folio Society's edition of Agatha Christie's Crooked House.
In 2020, Collecting Christie reviewed the complete catalogue of Agatha Christie novels and short stories published by The Folio Society over the last 30 years. We also published an in-depth review of Five Little Pigs, published in the summer of 2020. Our monthly eBay auction reviews have consistently seen a robust market for the back catalogue of The Folio Society books, so the issuance of a new Christie by The Folio Society for the summer of 2021 has been eagerly awaited. Over the years, several factors have added to the appeal of The Folio Society books, including the overall quality of the paper stock, typeface, artwork and bindings. In recent years they were illustrated by Andrew Davidson whose crisp style really resonated with readers and collectors as period correct, authentic to the story and of strong visual appeal.
For the summer 2021 collection, the Folio Society has chosen Agatha Christie’s Crooked House, one of Christie’s better novels from her later years and one of her own favourites. A new artist was commissioned for this book – Sally Dunne – and publishing was moved to Germany from China.
The Illustrator and Illustrations:
Sally Dunne, who currently lives in Ireland, graduated from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge with an MA in Children’s Book Illustration. She won the Student of the Year V&A Illustration Awards 2020 where one of the judges was Folio Art Director Sheri Gee, who then commissioned her to illustrate Crooked House. For this edition, Dunne designed the cover and seven full colour illustrations. While the blocked cover is vibrant and crisp, the interior illustrations have a dark, somber, and generally grey monochromatic design. This is in distinct contrast to the wider colour palette used by Davidson. Christie’s stories are certainly filled with dark narrative despite her mastery at burying the darkness behind the glamour of society, country houses and romance. Dunne’s aesthetic certainly connects more with these dark undertones but still provides a period correct feel of the late 1940s.
There have been significant changes in the design and construction of this book when compared to Five Little Pigs – the last Folio Society book. While the dimensions are the same, the spine now has Agatha Christie debossed into the cloth in two colours, and the multi-coloured cover is a significant enhancement. Collectively, it has a much higher quality shelf appeal than the prior titles. In addition, the paper, printing and binding are now all German, while prior titles used Chinese paper and printing. The internal typeset and font are unchanged and so the reading experience is similar. The book also continues to come in a slipcase though it lacks any adornments. Overall, it is a beautiful book to hold, read and own and certainly makes a wonderful edition to the growing Christie catalogue at The Folio Society.
Supply & Value:
The Folio Society does not disclose the complete print run, but they do say it is ‘several thousand’. Compared to a typical hardback release from a best-selling author, this is quite limited. Scale and quality are the two main factors influencing price, and the asking price of £39.95 UK or $59.95 US per copy certainly aligns with this. Prior readers have inquired about world-wide shipping, which we've been told they will facilitate.
In addition to Crooked House, The Folio Society still appears to have remaining inventory of Five Little Pigs and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Some books remain widely available on the resale market, such as early version of The Complete Miss Marple Short Stories, which was likely well over printed and not of the quality of today's book. Books published after that are much harder to find, such as Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express both of which commonly sell now for well in excess of £200 each. It is possible that print runs were smaller for these, and today, it is likely they are slightly larger again given the remaining stock.
When one considers the overall quality of the book, there is no doubt that any fan of Christie will enjoy the ownership of this book and enjoy reading these printings. Demand for used Folio Society books is strong, but that depends to some degree on two factors – continued high quality publishing and appealing art that enhances the reading experience, and limited production runs that create some level of scarcity by limiting the print runs and avoiding the equivalent of remainder stock – the death knell for any perception of value. Let us hope The Folio Society continues to deliver in all of these areas.