No Way to Treat a Dame

Dame Agatha Christie (Photo: Christie Archive Trust)
Dame Agatha Christie (Photo: Christie Archive Trust)

It’s a puzzle almost worthy of the Queen of Mystery.

Why is someone sabotaging the works of Agatha Christie?

Christie is the mostly widely published writer in the world, selling more than 2 billion books worldwide, second only to the Bible and Shakespeare, according to her publisher William Morrow.

But for a writer so lucrative, why is William Morrow doing such a criminally poor job showcasing Christie’s work?

Consider the 1944 novel “Death Comes as the End.”

Forget Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. In this departure from her famous sleuths, Christie transports readers to Egypt 2000 BC as a high-ranking official brings a concubine into his household. Mayhem follows, and the bodies drop at a rate second only to Christie’s classic “And Then There Were None.”

But what should be an engrossing read is marred by atrocious and inexplicable typos in the text. Take a look.

Consider this excerpt from page 8 (I have bolded the offending portions):

“You couldn’t be grateful to Henet – she drewattention to herown merits so persistently …”

(You can click on any thumbnail for a full-sized version of the picture.)

Then there’s this on page 14:

“I mean there is always change. Eightyears is eight years.”

Not too much of a biggie, granted, but annoying.

Check out this beauty from page 15:

” … my father will spoil Ipy who is sixteenjust as he usedto spoil him whenhe was eight, and nothing will be different at all!”

Here’s my favorite on page 35:

“But sometimes I have to tell him things two or three timesbefore he takes them in.I haveto thinkof everything – be everywhere! …”

There’s no excuse for this shoddy work. All these errors take you right out of the story. And here’s the kicker: This edition is actually part of a curated collection of Christie’s personal favorites. “Death Comes as the End” was one of her most beloved works, along with “Murder on the Orient Express” and “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd,” among others.

William Morrow has a cash cow like Christie, and the company can’t spare a proofreader for four hours to make sure it isn’t sending trash out the door?

I picked up this copy at the Harvard Coop. But if you survey Amazon, “Death” is not the only edition to be obliterated by errors – and customers there provide some damning pictures as well.

Several readers note that “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” came with all the text centered.

That might drive me to murder.

One reader found her copy of “And Then There Were None” came with a misprint of four pages in the middle of the book.

Agatha Christie’s estate should get involved – and perhaps consider revoking the contracts and finding a publisher who will care more for her work.

It’s the least Christie – and her legions of devoted fans – deserve.

 

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