A case of evil consonants: the World Book Club is uniting readers around the globe


It’s heartening, on a dreary January day, to know that someone in Somaliland is also tuning in to the BBC World Service and turning Agatha Christie’s pages.

“But how do you know that Hercule Poirot was from Brussels?” Anna, a member of the studio audience for World Book Club on BBC World Service (7 January, 2pm), was apologetic, yet insistent, with her question. Eventually, Agatha Christie’s great-grandson James Prichard admitted from the stage that in all of the Belgian sleuth’s many adventures, his creator never actually gives away his birthplace – although “he did live and work in Brussels, that is true”.

Sadly, Anna was denied a second chance with the microphone. She was owed a bit of gloating for her correct deduction, I felt.

This month, the book club – which has been running since 2002 – tackled Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, before assembling at the Bibliotheca Wittockiana in Poirot’s adopted hometown to discuss whodunnit. As well as questions from the audience in Brussels, others were sent in from listeners in places as far apart as London, Michigan and Cape Town. They were put, by presenter Harriett Gilbert, to Prichard and his fellow panellist Sophie Hannah (the latter being the author of two Poirot “continuation” novels, sanctioned by the Christie estate).

The show likes to broadcast from sites of literary significance – an episode on JD Salinger was recorded in the Algonquin Hotel in New York, where (before he retired to New Hampshire to become a recluse) the author liked to have lunch.

The Belgian episode was gloriously geeky: World Book Club listeners really like to explore the minutiae of the month’s text – so of course Tiffany from South Africa wanted to know whether Christie deliberately selected her characters’ names to reveal their moral worth. Should we assume …read more

Source:: New Statesman

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