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Halloween in February: The Hound of Death | 1933

(image from here)

"The first night of Witness for the Prosecution was not misery. It was one of my plays that I liked best myself." -Agatha Christie: An Autobiography, p. 532

The Sum of It:
Today marks the end of three sets of short stories in a row for The Year of Agatha. I had never read The Hound of Death before, so it was fun to have 12 new Agatha stories to digest. HOWEVER, I must be honest about the fact that I didn't exactly love this set...

I'll provide a brief pros and cons list to give you some more insight into my feelings:

-This collection is the first time we are introduced to what is considered one of Agatha's most clever stories, The Witness for the Prosecution. I had actually never read this story (which was famously adapted into a successful play and films...see below for more deets), so this was easily my favorite from the book.
-Wireless, The Mystery of the Blue Jar, and SOS are three of my other favorites from this collection. I found the criminals (and their comeuppances!) very clever. I shall not give any other sort of spoilers, but be sure to check these ones out. 
- Agatha writes these stories without a central Poirot or Miss Marple-esque character throughout, but does a good job of writing new, mostly interesting "sleuths," who are often psychiatrists, but sometimes just everyday dudes in the right place at the right time.

-This book is primarily focused on stories dealing with supernatural events. As a result, most of them read like very average ghost-ish stories to me. I appreciate Agatha doing something different, but I would not say it is her strong point. (#wewantPoirot)
-Since some of the stories do have a logical ending ("Oh we thought it was a ghost haunting the place, but it might have actually been a person tricking us!", etc. [This is me trying to not spoil anything]), the ones that end more ambiguously feel like a bit of a let down, because I was often waiting for a clever twist at the end.

The YOA Treatment:
Sidenote for some interesting tidbits on The Hound of Death collection: 
1.) This book was the first Agatha book to be available in the UK, but not the US.
2.) It was at first not even available to purchase with cash monies in stores, but instead had to be bought with coupons from a magazine called The Passing Show
3.) As with many of her short story collections, many of these stories were first published in magazines prior to the book collection. 
4.) It is believed that one of the stories, The Call of Wings, is one of Agatha's earliest writings - maybe even from 1910.

(image from the 1957 film adaptation of Witness for the Prosecution found here)
Let us turn our attention to the most successful story from this book: The Witness for the Prosecution. Living in a day and age where legal dramas are very popular (The Good Wife, Suits, Law & Order, Serial, Making a Murderer, I'm looking at you), Agatha shows a fairly mature understanding of the value of star witnesses in this short story-turned-play. The short story is a pretty condensed look at the case proceedings of Leonard Vole, a handsome, charismatic young man who has recently become romantic-ish besties with a much older lady who has died under mysterious circumstances...and left him quite a bit of cash in her will. With the case not looking good for old Leonard, his lawyer Mr. Mayherne needs an alibi witness real bad. But Mayherne gets more than he bargained for when he puts Leonard's "wife" Romaine on the stand...

Agatha gives some insight into the court-scene-writing process in her Autobiography. She admits that she was initially terrified of adapting the story into a play because of her limited knowledge of court proceedings. In the end, she did a lot of research, got a barrister to come in and check her facts, and was pleased with the result: "I was happy, radiantly happy, and made even more so by the applause of the audience." Witness for the Prosecution checks all the boxes in what people love in legal dramas: shady love affairs, emotional cross-examination, legal loopholes, and surprising jury manipulation. Even her pre-barrister-approved, magazine short story version from 1925 shows that Agatha was the queen of crime -- and the law -- all along.

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