Postern of Fate is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie that was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in October 1973 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. The UK edition retailed at £2.00 and the US edition at $6.95.
The title comes from the poem “Gates of Damascus” by James Elroy Flecker. The poem is also referenced in the short story “The Gate of Baghdad” in the 1934 collection Parker Pyne Investigates.
The book features her detectives Tommy and Tuppence Beresford and is the detectives’ last appearance. It is the last novel Christie wrote, but not the last to be published as it was followed by two previously unpublished novels from the 1940s.
The Beresfords are depicted as a retired couple, but they start investigating a cold case dating to World War I. The case involves the poisoning of a female spy.
Tommy and Tuppence have decided to retire. They have purchased a new residence for themselves, called the Laurels. The residence is located in Hollowquay, a resort town. The couple have inherited the library of the Laurels’ previous owners, and Tuppence decides to sort through its collection of children’s books. She examines a copy of The Black Arrow (1888), as she recalls reading this novel in her youth. Inside the book, Tuppence finds a hidden message: “Mary Jordan did not die naturally. It was one of us. I think I know which one.
Tuppence searches for the grave of Mary Jordan, but is unable to locate it. She instead finds the grave of Alexander Parkinson, who was the book’s original owner and the message’s writer. Alexander had died at age 14. Investigating the past of the Parkinson household, Tuppence finds out that Mary Jordan was an au pair who worked for the Parkinsons. Mary reportedly died accidentally, poisoned by eating lethal foxglove leaves. The leaves had been mixed into a salad that she ate. The death supposedly occurred 60 years before the present.
Tommy and Tuppence gather information about Mary from aging villagers. They learn that she was involved in “secret government affairs”, involving the plans for the development of a new submarine. Tommy contacts his former associates in British intelligence, who confirm this information. The Beresfords learn that Mary was herself a British secret agent.
The Beresfords are initially content to investigate this cold case. But their gardener Isaac Bodlicott is murdered, and left on their doorstep. The couple are apparently close to uncovering a “long-buried secret”, and there are mysterious enemies willing to stop them
- 1973, Collins Crime Club (London), October 1973, Hardcover, 254 pp
- 1973, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), Hardcover, 310 pp
- 1974 Bantam Books, Paperback, 276 pp
Postern of Fate – First Edition Book Identification Guide
The books are listed in the order of publication. While the majority of Agatha Christie’s books were first published in the UK. There are many titles that were first published in the US. The title of the book may differs from the UK edition in some cases.
|Year||Title||Publisher||First edition/printing identification points|
|1973||Postern of Fate||William Collins & Sons, London, ||First edition. "First Published 1973" stated on the copyright page. Green cloth lettered in silver. Price £2.00.|
|1973||Postern of Fate||Dodd, Mead & Co, NY, ||First American edition. "© Agatha Christie, Ltd., 1973" stated on the copyright page. Patterned red boards, red cloth spine lettered in silver. Price $ 6.95.|
Note about Book Club Editions (BCE) and reprints:
UK: You can see statements of later reprint dates or of book club on the copyright page.
US: The US reprint publishers usually use the same sheets as the first edition and are harder to identify by looking at the title page or the copyright page. One may identify a BCE by looking at the DJ, which doesn’t have a price on top of the front flap and a “Book Club Edition” imprint at the bottom. If the dust jacked is clipped at both the top/bottom of the front flap. You can safely assume it’s a BCE . If the book is missing the dust jacket. Later BCE editions can be identified by its plain boards, while first printings are issued in quarter cloth.
Please refer to the gallery for detailed images of true first edition bindings and dust jackets.
Postern of Fate – First Edition Dust Jacket Identification Guide
First edition bindings and various dust jacket printings identification.