They Came to Baghdad

They Came to Baghdad

Infobox Book |
name = They Came to Baghdad
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
author = Agatha Christie
illustrator =
cover_artist = Not known
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series =
genre = Crime novel
publisher = Collins Crime Club
release_date = March 5, 1951
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 256 pp (first edition, hardback)
isbn = NA
preceded_by = A Murder is Announced
followed_by = The Under Dog and Other Stories

"They Came to Baghdad" is a work of detective fiction Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on March 5, 1951 ["The Observer" March 4, 1951 (Page 7)] and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year [John Cooper and B.A. Pyke. "Detective Fiction - the collector's guide": Second Edition (Pages 82 and 87) Scholar Press. 1994. ISBN 0-85967-991-8] [ American Tribute to Agatha Christie] ] . The UK edition retailed at eight shillings and sixpence (8/6)Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. "Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions". Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (Page 15)] and the US edition at $2.50.

The book was inspired by Christie's own trips to Baghdad with her second husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan and is also one of few Christie novels belonging to the action and spy drama genres, rather than to mysteries and whodunnits.

Plot summary

A secret summit of superpowers is to be held in Baghdad, but it is no longer secret, and a shadowy fascist group is plotting to sabotage the event. Things get complicated when enthusiastic young tourist 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 false lover Edward, who is behind the plot. "Basrah" refers to the city where certain documents where handed to certain people. "Lefarge" turns out to actually be "Defarge" and is a reference to a Charles Dickens character; it is a clue to where the aforementioned documents can be found.

An interesting comparison can be made between the romance themes of this novel and "The Man in the Brown Suit", which is also primarily an adventure novel, rather than a straight whodunnit. In that book, the exciting, mysterious young man that falls into the heroine's room ends up as the romantic hero. In Baghdad, an exciting, mysterious young man also falls into the heroine's room, but he is disposed of, as is the other exciting, mysterious young man that the heroine has followed to Baghdad. A more conventional and staid archaeologist ends up as the romantic hero; Christie herself was married to archaeologist Max Mallowan by this date.

Literary significance and reception

Julian MacLaren-Ross enthusiastically reviewed the novel in the April 20, 1951 issue of "The Times Literary Supplement" when he said it was, "more of a thriller than a detective story, though there are plenty of mysteries and two surprises reserved for the closing chapters; one of these is perhaps her best since the unmasking of the criminal in "The Seven Dials Mystery"." He went on to comment on that, "the easy expertise of the writing is once more a matter for admiration" and concluded that Christie's powers of invention "never fail her." ["The Times Literary Supplement" April 20, 1951 (Page 241)]

Maurice Richardson of "The Observer" of March 4, 1951, said, "A bit light and frilly, in parts almost giggly, as Agatha Christie's thrillers are apt to be, but it has the usual creamy readability and a deeply planted fiend." ["The Observer" March 4, 1951 (Page 7)]

Robert Barnard: "Fairly preposterous example of thriller-type Christie, but livelier than some. Engaging heroine and unusually good minor characters – archeologists, hotelkeeper, etc. The plot concerns attempts to prevent The Big Three (Britain was one of them then) from coming together and making peace. Though the villains are not left-wing, they sound like her left-wing idealists of the 'thirties (wanting, as usual, to create a 'New Heaven and Earth' – highly dangerous!)" [Barnard, Robert. "A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie" - Revised edition (Page 206). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0006374743]

Publication history

* 1951, Collins Crime Club (London), March 5, 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
* 1965, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 256 pp
* 1969, Greenway edition of collected works (William Collins), Hardcover, 287 pp ISBN 0-00-231814-8
* 1970, Greenway edition of collected works (Dodd Mead), Hardcover, 287 pp
* 1974, Pan Books, Paperback, 221 pp
* 1978, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 410 pp ISBN 0-70-890189-1

In the UK the novel was first serialised in the weekly magazine "John Bull" in eight abridged instalments from January 13 (Volume 89, Number 2324) to March 3, 1951 (Volume 89, Number 2331) with illustrations by "Showell" [Holdings at the British Library (Newspapers - Colindale). Shelfmark: NPL LON LD116.] .

An abridged version of the novel was published in the September 1, 1951 issue of the "Star Weekly Complete Novel", a Toronto newspaper supplement, with an uncredited cover illustration.


External links

* [ "They Came to Baghdad"] at the official Agatha Christie website

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