The Guessing Game

Christie's grandson recalls a memory of Agatha Christie reading the family A Pocket Full of Rye and everyone guessing who the murderer was.

"I remember the year when Nima read us a chapter or two of A Pocket Full of Rye after dinner each night. It must have been 1953 and I can remember the game as if it were yesterday. All the family sitting round the drawing-room at Greenway, coffee cups empty on the tray, a little cigar smoke rising from my grandfather's cigar, mauve chintzy covers set on the chairs and a piano in the corner of the room. Nima sat in a deep chair with a light directly above her and spectacles, a strange butterfly shape, were pushed slightly forward. After every session, except the first two or three, we were all invited to guess the identity of the murderer. Was it Adele or Elaine? (poisoning is a woman's weapon perhaps?). Or, maybe not, because Percival or Lancelot might have done it. Or what about the sinister Miss Armsbottom or someone of her ilk?

Two reactions I remember clearly: my grandfather Max usually finished his cigar and went to sleep during the reading, waking up with a start when we were all guessing. He then consistently and obstinately plumped for the most unlikely and impossible suspect and went to sleep again. My mother, on the other hand, maintained the solution was, of course, crystal clear to anyone with a grain of intelligence and that the plot was so transparent that it was hardly worth inflicting it on the public. However, she was not prepared to be more explicit. There was, of course, a serious purpose behind these highly enjoyable occasions. Nima was anxious to try out her book on a live audience which enabled her to test its plausibility and its plot. Needless to say Max and my mother in their wholly different ways guessed correctly and infuriated the rest of us!" - Mathew Prichard

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