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Agatha Christie: The curious case of the cosy queen

No enemy can murder Agatha Christie. From India to France, her mysteries sell by the million. As crime buffs gather in Harrogate to investigate her lasting appeal, Andrew Taylor presents his defence

School's out for summer: What better time to relax with a few of these classic reads?

Exams are over. A long, hot holiday stretches ahead. There's nothing to do but read for fun, and no set texts for another six weeks. Oh, you lucky, lucky things...

Rian Johnson: How I went from Brick to Brothers Bloom

Californian writer and film director Rian Johnson achieved critical acclaim in 2005 for a low budget neo-noir murder mystery movie inspired by Dashiell Hammett detective novels called ‘Brick.’ His second film, ‘Brothers Bloom,’ which hits cinemas in the UK tomorrow, is an intense departure from the edginess and careful stylisation of Johnson’s debut. It is instead a light-hearted conman movie, filled with slapstick capers and cons within cons, which might miss the mark for early converts to Johnson’s initial Wes Anderson-alike style, but which possesses a kooky, if self-aware, charm.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, By Alan Bradley

Eleven-year old Flavia de Luce, the heroine of this appealing detective debut (the first in a series), brings a breath of fresh air to the world of period-piece sleuthing.

Suchet may take Poirot to West End

For the past two decades, he has delighted British audiences in living-rooms up and down the country with his televised portrayal of the world's most famous Belgian detective.

The Stone Cutter, By Camilla Läckberg

Ice queen still chilling the blood

Forgotten Authors No 49: Dorothy Bowers

I have the excellent crime writer Martin Edwards to thank for this discovery. Dorothy Bowers was born in Leominster, Herefordshire in 1902. She was the daughter of a bakery owner, and after a short and not especially joyful life, died at 46 from tuberculosis. At least she had the satisfaction of knowing that she had just been inducted into the Detection Club, a society formed in 1930 by a group of Golden Age mystery writers that included Agatha Christie and GK Chesterton, and it seemed she might have gone on to greater things but for the ill health that clearly affected her final novel.

Holly Willoughby given Miss Marple role 'as a birthday present'

This Morning host Holly Willoughby revealed today she had landed her dream role in a Miss Marple drama - as a birthday present.

A Daughter's A Daughter, Trafalgar Studios, London

It's 1945 and Ann Prentice has had rather a good war, all told. Though she would never admit this, it has given her three years of respite from her massively over-controlling daughter, Sarah, who has been out in Egypt. So it's frightfully awkward that Sarah's return coincides with Ann's intended marriage to a well-meaning widower. Making a very striking stage debut, Honeysuckle Weeks (of Foyle's War fame) brings just the right degree of sulky manipulativeness, combative modernity, and poor little not-so-rich- bitch bleakness to the role of Sarah. All the sporty demobbed young men who people her social world are leaving constricted, unstable Blighty to grow oranges in South Africa or farm the Argentine. Nor will her mother ever find a true mate again, if Sarah has her way.

Solved: The mystery of forgotten Christie play

The queen of detective fiction turned her uneasy relationship with her daughter into a ' brutal' drama - and now it's on the West End

Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains, By Catriona McPherson

In the bar of the House of Commons, you'll find MPs from both sides happily quaffing together, with none of the animosity one might expect. But such a collegiate atmosphere isn't present at crime-fiction conventions when two types rub shoulders. The writers of tough urban crime tend to gravitate together, while those who specialise in less sanguinary Home Counties mysteries – the "cosies" – tend to keep to their own. Of course, there are exceptions: Val McDermid may plumb the most gruesome reaches of psychopathology, but she's a passionate Agatha Christie aficionado.

The Priory, Royal Court, London

Your aim is to start the New Year without the usual hangover of regret, shame, and weakness of will and armed with a more lucid and limber approach to your love life. One solution might be to have yourself cryogenically suspended between Boxing Day and 2 January. It would be a less risky strategy than that adopted by Jessica Hynes' nervy, depressive Kate, a loser who is behindhand on the full-length book and the biological clock fronts and who forms the suffering centre of this entertaining, if faintly hollow tragicomedy by Michael Wynne. For an away-from-it-all alternative celebration of the incoming year, she has hired a Gothic pile and invited a bunch of chums. The pile is even called The Priory, the very name which conjures a rich person's media-genic clinic.

Napoleon's Haemorrhoids, By Phil Mason

The history of Europe might have turned out very differently had Napoleon not had an attack of haemorrhoids that intervened with his usual battlefield surveillance. How such seemingly tiny events can have large consequences is the subject matter of Phil Mason's entertaining book. Tiny paragraphs are organised under categories including history, politics, war, science, art, sport, crime and business.

Gamers in the US
go crazy for www

The evenings are drawing in and fear stalks the nights. Well, it does if the number of mystery games coming out on the DSis anything to go by.

Monster success: The Gruffalo is best bedtime story

Didn't you know? ... the nation's favourite bedtime story was yesterday revealed to be The Gruffalo. Although the black tongue, orange eyes and poisonous wart on the end of its nose might be enough to induce nightmares, Radio 2 listeners declared it was the best story for children heading to the Land of Nod.

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Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
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Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam