The Unexpected Guest

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Lost in the fog, a stranger seeks refuge in a nearby house, only to find himself stumbling on to the scene of a murder. When the dead man’s wife confesses to the crime, the stranger agrees to provide her with an alibi. But who is he really protecting?

"Her fascination with the ugly side of life and of people is what makes the books and the plays so endlessly appealing."

Joe Harmston, The Agatha Christie Theatre Company



About this story

First released

August 1958 (performed at The Duchess Theatre, UK)

Genre

  • Murder Mystery, 
  • Thriller

Formats

  • Novel, 
  • Play

Murder methods

Setting

  • House

With influences as varied as Hemmingway and Hitchcock, this classic murder mystery play ran for several years in London's West End. Premiering on August 2nd 1958 at the Duchess Theatre, the reviews were sufficiently good that the Queen attended a performance in February the following year on the same night that another unexpected guest appeared. The actor playing Jan Warwick was taken ill and was replaced by his understudy during the interval. For Agatha Christie its reception and run of 604 performances was something of a relief as her last West End outing with Verdict had not been a ...

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With influences as varied as Hemmingway and Hitchcock, this classic murder mystery play ran for several years in London's West End. Premiering on August 2nd 1958 at the Duchess Theatre, the reviews were sufficiently good that the Queen attended a performance in February the following year on the same night that another unexpected guest appeared. The actor playing Jan Warwick was taken ill and was replaced by his understudy during the interval. For Agatha Christie its reception and run of 604 performances was something of a relief as her last West End outing with Verdict had not been a success. Prompted by Peter Saunders, her favourite producer, she had written The Unexpected Guest in just four weeks.

As Joe Harmston wrote in the programme for The Agatha Christie Theatre's 2007 production, Christie's "fascination with the ugly side of life and of people is what makes the books and the plays so endlessly appealing. Christie’s own life was complex in its relationships. Her own unhappy first marriage, the public aftermath and very different, happy second marriage are seldom far beneath the surface as inspiration."

Following on from his success with Black Coffee and Spider's Web, Charles Osborne took the play and novelised it to reach a new audience in 1999. Osborne chose not to add characters, lines or scenes which would alter in any substantial way what had been presented on the stage forty-one years earlier, although minor amendments were made to produce suitable chapter endings.

The succesful Bollywood Hindi film Dhund, produced and directed by B. R. Chopra and released in 1973, is based on this play. An Indian Kannada movie, Tarka (movie) released in 1988 was also inspired by this play. A radio dramatisation adapted and directed by Gordon House was broadcast by the BBC on 30 May 1981.



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