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  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

INSIGHTS: "Murder in the Mews" by Agatha Christie

The scare original first edition dust wrapper of the Collins Crime Club's Murder in the Mews

In the mid to late 1930s, Agatha Christie’s friend & archaeologist, Robin "Mac" Macartney, designed the artwork for the dust wrappers / jackets for four of her books. Three of the jackets were logical given his involvement in the various digs he went on with Christie and her husband, Max Mallowan. These were Murder in Mesopotamia (1936), Death on the Nile (1937) and Appointment with Death (1938). However, the fourth was an outlier - Murder in the Mews (1937) as it had no exotic locale to portray on the cover. One can only speculate that the project just appealed to him to continue his artistic passion or perhaps his home in London had a mews behind! Regardless, he was a talented artist and his jackets will continue to be loved by fans. They certainly marked one of the high points in Christie's publishing years for the collaboration between an artist and an author.

It should be noted that the original Collins Crime Club first edition - first & only ever published in March 1937 - is a very rare book. It was done in the common orange cloth of the period. The dedication on first page is to Sybil Heeley who was the daughter of an American Actor, Wilfred Lucas Heeley. Sybil Heeley lived in Torquay, as did Agatha, which no doubt is how they met and became friends, Sybil too was an author who divided her time between America and England and was great friends with author.

The Odhams reprint is much more commonly found and often mistaken as the first edition. Collins was generally not as enamoured with publishing short stories, though they referred to those in Murder in the Mews as “long-short stories”, so the print runs were often much smaller. After its initial run, Collins did not run a second printing. Instead Collins assigned all reprinting rights to Odhams for this book in exchange for regaining the publishing rights to The Hound of Death, which was controlled by Odhams.

Just prior to Christmas 1937, Odhams published three books together and shipped them in a cardboard box to their subscribers. These books were Spies in Spain by J.M. Walsh, Keep on Dancing by F.E. Bailey and Murder in the Mews by Agatha Christie. Each could also be bought individually. These first printings by Odhams have “C1137” (copyright November 1937) on the flyleaf. They also did a second printing in March 1938 (“C338”).

The dust wrappers for both Odhams printings are identical - resulting in them often being married to the C1137 printing.

The art is almost identical to the original Collins first edition. However, the true first edition from Collins has an illustrated spine showing a car in its mews garage. For the collector of Christie's books the Odhams version often fills the space on the shelf for this title, but for the purist collector, a Collins edition is desired.

Values: The Collins first edition is tremendously scarce, especially in very good condition. Without the jacket, prices will generally be £500+ ($650+ US). If you are fortunate enough to already own a complete jacketed copy look after it! Expect a very good complete jacketed copy to sell for at least £12,000 - 15,000 ($15,600 - 18,000 US). At the other end of the spectrum the Odhams books were published voluminously. A very good jacketed copy can generally be obtained by a patient buyer for £30 ($40 US), although online sellers often think they are worth more.

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