I used to think of my early teenage addiction to the works of Agatha Christie as the literary equivalent of pool-hall prowess, the sign of a mis-spent youth. Looking back on it now, it seems clear that Enid Blyton was the gateway drug: the Famous Five and the Secret Seven gave me a craving that soon only Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple could satisfy.
Apart from the most famous plots, the details have long since faded, save the odd motive for murder (passing on German measles!); weird clues (Lo – Hen – Grin); and peculiar words (mountebanks and anti-macassars); but what still linger in the memory are the paranoid parsing of every paragraph for that tell-tale clue; the late nights when lights out had to be disobeyed as a denouement loomed; and the satisying frustration of being outwitted time and again by a master plotter. Part of