COLLECT: Agatha Christie Puzzle Mysteries
Puzzle Mysteries and Agatha Christie are a perfect match for each other, combining a written story with a puzzle to assemble that helps to solve the mystery. Because the puzzle solution aids with solving the crime there is no image on the box of the finished puzzle to use (and none are included below on purpose). While this makes these puzzles quite challenging, the world of Agatha Christie is well suited to this variation on the traditional puzzle.
Over the years there have been many Christie stories offered in this format. For the collector, they are both enjoyable to hunt for and collect, as well as to solve. This article is believed to be complete and should act as a guide for Christie fans and puzzlers to assemble a comprehensive collection. The best places to hunt are online sites, charity shops and even boot sales (yard sales). However, it is highly likely there are some we’ve missed or have been unable to find so we encourage you to let us know what’s missing and we will update the list.
Initially these puzzles were issued by BePuzzled and Lombard Marketing (USA) in 1998, using stories and characters with permission from Agatha Christie Ltd. Each puzzle came with a copy of the short story to read with a break where you were to stop and assemble the puzzle before continuing to read on. Starting in 2000, Paul Lamond Games (UK) expanded on the puzzle range, also with permission from Agatha Christie Ltd. Their puzzles were mostly based on full length novels so they contained a heavily condensed small pamphlet with a story with clues to solving the puzzle, plus the answers (to be read in reverse in a mirror). The full book on which the puzzle was based was not included. Many of the boxes for the Paul Lamond produced puzzles were updated with new cover art in 2005.
BePuzzled: This firm produced three different sizes of puzzles: 323 pieces, 600 pieces and 1000 pieces. Most of their puzzles were based on short stories from Christie’s earlier years. They are as follows:
BePuzzled's 323 piece Mystery Puzzles: Four puzzles were issued in this format. All of them are in the images below - please slide through them to view by clicking on the arrows or swiping:
(1) The Plymouth Express: First published in The Sketch in April 1923 in the U.K. The story was published in the U.S. in The Blue Book Magazine in January 1924. In 1951, the story appeared as part of the anthology The Under Dog and Other Stories published in the U.S. In the U.K., the story was published as part of Poirot's Early Cases in 1974. The booklet with the puzzle also contains The Tape-Measure Murder (1941) as a bonus read.
(2) How Does Your Garden Grow? First published in the U.S. in Ladies Home Journal in June 1935 and in the U.K. in The Strand Magazine in August 1935. It was published in The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories in 1939 in the U.S. and in Poirot's Early Cases in the U.K. in 1974. The booklet with the puzzle also contains The Love Detectives (1926) as a bonus read.
(3) The Case of the Caretaker: This short story from 1942 was published in the short story collections Three Blind Mice and Other Stories (US, 1950) and Miss Marple's Final Cases (UK, 1978). The booklet with the puzzle also contains Wasp’s Nest (1929) as a bonus read.
(4) The Million Dollar Bond Robbery: First published in The Sketch in May 1923 in the U.K. The story was published in the U.S. in The Blue Book Magazine in April 1924 as The Great Bond Robbery. In 1924 also, the story appeared as part of Poirot Investigates. The booklet with the puzzle also contains The Dream (1937) as a bonus read.
BePuzzled's 600 piece Mystery Puzzles: While one would expect they would have made versions of all four of the 323 piece versions in 600 pieces, it appears only two were done.
Both covers are illustrated below - please slide through to view.
The two titles in the 600 piece size were:
(1) The Plymouth Express: See above for details.
(2) The Million Dollar Bond Robbery: See above for details
BePuzzled's 1000 piece Mystery Puzzles: Five puzzles were issued in this format. Of these The Double Clue appears a newer addition to their offerings. All images can be scrolled through below:
(1) The Under Dog: Written in 1926, it first appeared in The Under Dog and Other Stories in the US in 1951. In the UK it did not appear in book form until the 1960 collection, The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding.
(2) The Theft of the Royal Ruby: This short story is the US title for The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding. It first appeared in Women's Illustrated (US) in 1960 under this US title. It was first published in book form in Double Sin and Other Stories (US:1961) with some slight revisions to the UK version. In the UK it did not appear in book form until the 1960 collection, The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding.
(3) The Incredible Theft: Written in 1925 it expanded on The Submarine Plans, an early short story first published in The Sketch (UK: 1923). First published in installments in the Daily Express in April 1937 before being published in Murder in the Mews and Other Stories (UK: 1937). It was not included in book form in the US until 1987.
(4) Murder in the Mews: First published in Redbook Magazine (US: 1936). The story first appeared in the U.K. in December 1936 under the title Mystery of the Dressing Case published in Woman's Journal. The story was later published as part of Murder in the Mews and Other Stories (UK) and Dead Man's Mirror (USA), both in 1937.
(5) The Double Clue: First published in The Sketch (UK: 1923) and in The Blue Book Magazine (USA: 1925). It was published in book form in Double Sin and Other Stories (US: 1961) and in Poirot's Early Cases (UK: 1974).
Paul Lamond Games: This firm issued puzzles in two sizes – 750 and 1000 pieces. Most of the puzzles were based on full length novels. It appears the 750 piece versions were first released in 2000 while the 1000 piece versions were added in 2005. Since then there have been a few additions to the editions with different cover art. They are as follows:
750 Pieces: Paul Lamond appears to have issued six puzzles in the 750 piece range. The first three are known to come with two significantly different versions of cover art, while the King of Clubs only had minor changes to the text layout. This implies that the first free were part of the initial launch, followed by King of Clubs, and then later the final two. Remember, Remember and Murder on the Links thus appear to be a newer titles and no variant cover art has been seen so far.
Below are images of the first versions of these puzzles (click on images to enlarge to full view):
And the newer versions and latest titles in the 750 piece series can be viewed below (click on images to enlarge to full view):
(1) The Body in the Library: First published in February 1942 and in UK in May 1942.
(2) Death on the Nile: First published in the UK in 1937, and in the following year.
(3) Poirot’s Christmas: Published under the full title Hercule Poirot’s Christmas in 1938. It was published in US in 1939 under the title of Murder for Christmas.
(4) The King of Clubs: First published in The Sketch (UK) and in The Blue Book Magazine (USA), both in 1923. In 1951, the story appeared in The Underdog and Other Stories (US) and in Poirot's Early Cases (UK) in 1974.
(5) Remember, Remember: While the puzzle is based on Murder in the Mews (see above for publishing history), the name was likely changed since BePuzzled had already issued a puzzle with that name.
(6) Murder on the Links: First published in the UK in 1923 and later that same year in the US.
1000 Pieces: Paul Lamond appears to have issued four puzzles in this size. Three were larger versions of prior titles, and one new title was added - The Veiled Lady. It appears this larger format was started in 2005 onwards. Images of these titles are shown below (click on an image to enlarge).
(1) The Body in the Library: See above for details.
(2) Death on the Nile: See above for details.
(3) Poirot’s Christmas: See above for details.
(4) The Veiled Lady: First published in The Sketch (UK: 1923) and in The Blue Book Magazine (US: 1925). In book form, the story was included in the U.S. edition of Poirot Investigates (1925) and it first appeared in the UK in the 1946 Polybook Poirot Lends a Hand.
More recently BePuzzled has created two new 1000 piece mystery puzzles that imply an association with Agatha Christie Ltd. but are in fact not despite their misleading titles: “Murder on the Nile” and “The Orient Express”. The first was in fact a title Christie used for a stage play and may well be copyrighted by ACL leading to some issues for BePuzzled.
Values and Collecting: There does not appear to be a distinctly separate market for mint, unopened puzzles, but they would certainly hold some premium solely because they guarantee all the pieces are there! As with most things a near fine box, complete puzzle and original contents will all add value. Most puzzles can be found for £10-20 UK ($13-26 US). However, some do appear scarcer than others. These are the BePuzzled 600 piece versions and the Lamond 750 original issue versions for Death on the Nile, The Body in the Library and Poirot's Christmas. These should command a slightly higher premium and will challenge the collector to find. However, the real value in the puzzles comes from reading the pamphlet or book, assembling the puzzle and solving the mystery - just as they were intended.