They Came to Baghdad is an adventure novel by Agatha Christie, first published in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club on 5 March 1951 and in the United States by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. The UK edition retailed at eight shillings and sixpence (8/6) and the US edition at $2.50.
The book was inspired by Christie’s own trips to Baghdad with her second husband, archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan, and is also one of few Christie novels belonging to the action and spy fiction genres, rather than to mysteries and whodunnits.
A secret summit of superpowers is to be held in Baghdad, but it is no longer secret. A shadowy group (which is both anti-Communist and anti-Capitalist) is plotting to sabotage the event. Things get complicated when enthusiastic young “adventurer” Victoria Jones discovers a dying secret British agent – Henry “Fakir” Carmichael – in her hotel room. His last words – “Lucifer…Basrah…Lefarge” – propel her into investigation. “Lucifer” refers to the mastermind, Victoria’s crush, Edward, who is behind the plot. “Basrah” is the city where Carmichael saw Edward and recognised him as an enemy. “Lefarge” turns out to actually be “Defarge” and is a reference to a Charles Dickens character; it is an allusion to the fact that the name of a vital witness has been stitched into a scarf.
While Victoria is the central character, the real heroine is Anna Scheele, secretary/executive assistant to an American banker, who has discovered a great deal about finances of the shadowy group. She appears rather sparingly, with a few brief appearances in the early part of the story, then seems to vanish, to the chagrin of the evil organization who fear her financial knowledge and who want to liquidate her, and of her allies who wish to protect her. She reappears unexpectedly at the last moment.
- 1951, Collins Crime Club (London), 5 March 1951, hardback, 256 pp
- 1951, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1951, hardback, 218 pp
- 1952, Pocket Books (New York), paperback (Pocket number 897), 215 pp
- 1957, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), paperback, 192 pp
- 1965, Dell Books, paperback, 221 pp
In the UK the novel was first serialised in the weekly magazine John Bull in eight abridged instalments from 13 January (Volume 89, Number 2324) to 3 March 1951 (Volume 89, Number 2331) with illustrations by “Showell”. An abridged version of the novel was published in the 1 September 1951 issue of the Star Weekly Complete Novel, a Toronto newspaper supplement, with an uncredited cover illustration.
They Came to Baghdad – 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|
|1951||They Came to Baghdad||William Collins & Sons, London, ||First edition. "1950" on single line stated on the copyright page. No statement of later printings. Red or orange cloth lettered in black. Price 8/6.|
|1951||They Came to Baghdad||Dodd, Mead & Co, NY, ||First American edition. Copyright 1951 stated on the copyright page. No statement of later printings. Green boards lettered in red. Price $2.50.|
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.
They Came to Baghdad – First Edition Dust Jacket Identification Guide
First edition bindings and various dust jacket printings identification.