Tom Adams

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Pocket Books wraparounds 2

Tom Adams is one of the most familiar Agatha Christie artists in the world. He designed nearly all of the UK and European paperback covers for Fontana from 1963 (his first being A Murder is Announced) to 1979 (finishing with Miss Marple’s Final Cases), as well a couple of later special editions commissioned by HarperCollins to produce new covers for Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly in 2014, and a matching set of The Mysterious Affair at Styles and Curtain (Poirot’s Last Case) in 2016. Tom was also contracted by Pocket Books to design 26 covers for the US market which were released between 1971 and 1974. These covers are quite different to the European designs, being mostly wraparound designs, which allow for more narrative movement across the image, and a more naturalistic style…..

For many of the Christie books Tom designed two, or even three different covers over the course of his work on her mysteries, and his mastery of different techniques and habit of hiding clever clues in the cover designs, combined with the familiarity of his work across different continents creates interest in collecting his paperback designs. Many of his UK designs also feature on the 1970s French ‘Librairie Des Champs Elysées’ editions, as well as the Spanish 1980s ‘Selecciones de Biblioteca Oro’ series published by Editorio Molino.

tom adams raymond chandler montage sm

Tom’s cover art is also well known in works by other writers, including an iconic series of Raymond Chandler novels, as well as jacket art for John Fowles (The Collector, The Magus and The French Lieutenant’s Woman), Patrick White (The Vivisector) and Peter Straub (Ghost Story), not to mention creating special effects for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 – A Space Odyssey and Mike Hodges’ Flash Gordon. He has also been commissioned to create numerous portraits, including paintings of Benjamin Britten, Federico Fellini, and Enid Blyton. His work is featured in The Museum of Modern Art and a number of galleries, and his paintings can also be found in many private collections.

He has also been commissioned to create numerous portraits, including paintings of Benjamin Britten, Federico Fellini, and Enid Blyton. His work is featured in The Museum of Modern Art and a number of galleries, and his paintings can also be found in many private collections.

tom adams Enid Blyton
Tom Adams portrait of Enid Blyton

Christie covers

Tom has said he read each Christie novel he illustrated three times, first very quickly for the story and mood, second to make notes of characters or incidents, and third to choose ideas for the illustration. Early on he rejected the idea of showing Miss Marple or Poirot, rationalising that ‘the characters were so firmly fixed in the reader’s imagination that they could never be satisfactorily shown’.

In the collection of covers provided below, Tom Adams’ Pocket Book covers are listed first, followed by his covers for Fontana (several of which were later republished in the US and Canada under the Bantam imprint), and finally other publishers. There were also a number of covers released during the same time period when Tom was unavailable and another artist, Ian Robinson, was employed to create covers in the same style, and these are frequently mis-attributed as the artist is not listed on the cover – these are included separately as well for information.

There were a few Christie mysteries that were not initially illustrated by Tom because the rights for these books were not held by Fontana at the time he was employed to do the covers. These include the early books The Mysterious Affair at Styles*^, The Secret Adversary^, The Murder on the Links, The Man in the Brown Suit, Poirot Investigates^, and The Secret of Chimneys and the later publications Curtain (Poirot’s Last Case)*, Problem at Pollensa Bay and While the Light Lasts, nor the play texts (Mousetrap^) or Charles Osborne adaptations Black Coffee, The Unexpected Guest, and Spider’s Web

* However, as noted above, Tom was later commissioned to produce covers for Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly in 2014, as well as a matching set of The Mysterious Affair at Styles and Curtain (Poirot’s Last Case) in 2016.

^ Several of the novels were reprinted under the Bantam imprint in the early ’80s using Tom Adams’ cover art. Where it did not exist, well, they simply took art from other covers without regard to how the illustrations related to the story – what a shocker!

How to find Tom Adams covers

tom adams christie covers montage

One of the cheapest ways to find Tom Adams covers is probably simply by haunting charity shops, second hand bookstores or Ebay.

You can also find individual volumes online fairly easily via Abebooks, but it usually pays to check that the listing specifically identifies Tom as the cover artist, or else has a photo of the actual item in order to ensure you get the edition you want, rather than one of the many reprints by the same publisher with different covers. Because of this, I’ve included first printing dates where possible, and added general links to Abes below rather than links to specific books, as you really need to check each time and it’s frequently not possible to identify via ISBN.

Books about the Artist

Tom Adams Uncovered: The Art of Agatha Christie and Beyond

The story of one of the world’s greatest cover artists told through his iconic 1960s and 1970s Agatha Christie paperback designs, as well as a variety of other art and illustration from his 50 year career.

Buy Tom Adams Uncovered from Book Depository…
Buy Tom Adams Uncovered from Amazon.com…

Tom Adams Uncovered John Curran

Agatha Christie: The Art of Her Crimes (also published as The Agatha Christie Cover Story)

A collection of over 90 book Christie cover paintings by Adams, including comments by Adams & Julian Symons.

→ Check availability of vintage The Art of Her Crimes (UK) at Abes…

→ Check availability of vintage The Agatha Christie Cover Story (US) at Abes…

Tom Adams Agatha Christie Art of Her Crimes

Tom Adams' Wraparound Pocket Book Covers (US)

A Murder is Announced

Pocket Books #77611

The cover features an early scene from the book, where the lights go out at a dinner party and a door swings open, revealing a man with a blinding torch who demands the guests “Stick ’em up!” The woman in pink has erroneously been identified as Miss Marple, but in fact she does not join the story until later.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams A Murder is Announced Pocket Books

And Then There Were None

Pocket Books #77444

The twisty texture from the rope and the seaweed helps to create the atmosphere for this creepy island mystery.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams And then there were none Pocket Books sm

By The Pricking Of My Thumbs

Pocket Books #77582

The central grave in this scene is from a small churchyard in Hampstead, with the tombstones are based on a real cemetery near Wimbledon Common. The red-splashed rose in the foreground is a ‘Commandant Beaurepaire,’ the Perry’s York and Lancaster rose mentioned in the book.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams BY the pricking of my thumbs 2 Pocket Books sm

Crooked House

Pocket Books #77613

The woman’s head in front of the multi-gabled house on this cover is based on Mary Dunning, Tom’s wife at the time, while the girl reading comes from an Arthur Rackham painting called “Marjorie and Margaret”.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Crooked House Pocket Books sm

Dead Man’s Folly

Pocket Books #77618

More accurate than the UK cover, this US version features the body of girl guide Marlene Tucker, found dead in the boathouse.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Dead Mans Folly Pocket Books

Death Comes As The End

Pocket Books #77415

The cover image for this book closely resembles the UK artwork, featuring a young girl’s profile against an Egyptian mural surrounded by dishevelled mummy wrappings.

Scarce.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Death Comes as the End Pocket Books 3

Easy To Kill

Pocket Books #77447

The rooster in the forefront here, which appears in both the English and American covers, is suggestive of the black magic mentioned in the book, and is one of several red herrings Tom occasionally intentionally includes in his cover designs.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Easy to Kill Pocket fixed sm

Endless Night

Pocket Books #77583

This cover features the house at Gypsy’s Acre, and a sinister woman who warns of an ancient curse, along with several elements from William Blake’s poem “Auguries of Innocence” from which the book takes its title, especially ‘the bat that flits at close of eve’, and ‘the owl that calls upon the night’.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Endless Night Pocket sm

Evil Under The Sun

Pocket Books #77667

This cover is quite a personal one for the artist, with the driftwood being a gift from his second wife, Georgie Adams, who also posed for the face in the corner.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Evil Under the Sun Pocket Books sm

Funerals Are Fatal

Pocket Books #77609

UK title: After the Funeral

The harbour vista in this cover includes a Victorian painting of a nun, along with clues such as a painting of Polflexan Harbour and wax flowers under a glass shade.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Funerals Are Fatal Pocket Books sm

Hickory Dickory Death

Pocket Books #77655

UK title: Hickory Dickory Dock

A beautifully poetic mood for this cover is established by the gentle glow of the lights from the pub and the street lamps along the road for which the novel is named.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Hickory Dickory Dock Pocket sm

Mrs McGinty’s Dead

Pocket Books #77614

Both the US and the UK covers for Mrs McGinty’s Dead feature similar cameo settings of the charwoman’s parlour, including the remains of McGinty’s supper of kipper, bread and margarine as described in the book.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Mrs McGIntys Dead Pocket sm
Murder In The Calais Coach Pocket Books #77445 UK title: Murder on the Orient Express The US title was changed for this famous mystery to avoid confusion with the 1932 Graham Green novel Stamboul Train which had been published in the United States as Orient Express. Tom extensively researched the actual interiors of the Orient Express during the period for this cover. Relatively scarce.
Agatha Christie Tom Adams Murder in the Calais Coach Pocket sm

Nemesis

Pocket Books #77608

The design for Nemesis is quite different to the others in this series, as Pocket Books wanted a primarily text-based cover as you see here. The collapsing greenhouse and the camellias are based on the camellia house at Chiswick House in London, similar to the UK cover.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Nemesis Pocket Books sm

Ordeal By Innocence

Pocket Books 77554

The corridor in this cover was inspired by strange BBC version of Alice in Wonderland by Jonathan Miller.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Ordeal by Innocence Pocket full

Passenger To Frankfurt

Pocket Books #77434

The statue is the Wagnerian hero, Siegfried, and the background castle is based on the Bavarian Neuschwanstein Castle.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Passenger to Frankfurt Pocket sm

Peril At End House

Pocket Books #77451

The cover depicts the Cornish coastal setting of this novel, with the rocks in the sea looking much like the Bedruthan Steps in Newquay.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Peril at End House Pocket Books fixed sm

Remembered Death

Pocket Books #77446

UK title: Sparkling Cyanide

The obscuring branches in the foreground of this more stylised cover are actually sprigs of a rosemary bush, Rosemary Barton being the name of the murder victim in this story.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Remembered Death Pocket sm

The ABC Murders

Pocket Books #77452

This moody cover depicts the English South Coast, featuring Betty Barnard who was killed on the beach at Bexhill. 

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The ABC Murders Pocket Books sm

The Body in the Library

Pocket Books #77444

The image for this cover presents the archetypal image of the very conventional Colonel Bantry sitting primly in his library, interrupted by flashy heels and the dead girl’s feet intruding on the shaggy rug in the foreground.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Body in the Library Pocket Books

The Clocks

Pocket Books #77617

The clocks on this cover are of course all stopped at 4:13, as are the clocks surrounding the body found in Wilbraham Crescent in the opening scenes of this novel. Red herrings, all.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Clocks Pocket sm

The Mirror Crack’d

Pocket Books #89360

A more literal interpretation for the US version than the UK edition, this is one of the few Pocket Book covers I have seen with the cover artist credited on the back.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Mirror Crackd Pocket edit

The Mystery of the Blue Train

Pocket Books #77449

Interestingly, this is the only Christie cover in which Adams portrays one of the detectives – the dark figure on the back cover next to the blue train is intended to be Hercule Poirot. The front of course has a boardwalk in the French Riviera along with a handful of rubies.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Mystery of the Blue Train Pocket

The Pale Horse

Pocket Books #77615

This cover includes several black magic elements, including the pale horse of the title, which is taken from Revelation 6:8, where it is ridden by Death as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Pale Horse Pocket Books sm

Third Girl

Pocket Books #77612

Here we have the three young women who share a London flat. Many of the background images feature characters in masks, as disguise plays a prominent role in this story.

Relatively scarce.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Third Girl Pocket Books sm

Towards Zero

Pocket Books #77453

The body in this cover is not immediately apparent as it is cleverly covered by the distorting effect of the rippling water.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Towards Zero Pocket sm

Tom Adams' Agatha Christie Fontana Covers (UK/Europe)

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Murder of Roger Ackroyd 2 Fontana 1969

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
First published in 1926. Tom Adams cover published c1964.

The dagger in this image is a real Tunisian dagger, as described by Christie in the novel, which Tom stabbed through his own tweed coat to create the model for this image.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Fontana

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
First published in 1926. Tom Adams cover published c1974.

A later cover for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, one that plays with perspective as we look through the study window.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Big Four Fontana

The Big Four
First published in 1927. Tom Adams cover published c1972.

The chess piece in this cover is one of the bishops from the famous Lewis Chess set, a group of distinctive 12th-century chessmen carved from walrus ivory. The Chinese dragon in the background symbolises some of the many Chinese elements in the tale.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Mystery of the Blue Train v2 Fontana

The Mystery of the Blue Train
First published in 1928. Tom Adams cover c1965.

The earlier cover for The Mystery of the Blue Train includes the story’s elements of disguise, strangulation, a jewel beyond price and the colour blue.

See also Ian Robinson covers.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Mystery of the Blue Train Fontana

The Mystery of the Blue Train
First published in 1928. Tom Adams cover c1979.

This deep red cover provides different elements of the story, including the same blue train used for the US cover, broken up and reflected through the facets of a ruby.

See also Ian Robinson covers.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Seven Dials Mystery Fontana

The Seven Dials Mystery
First published 1929. Tom Adams cover c1967.

Tom used his own glove and hand to model this image, and if you count them, of course there are seven clock dials in the background.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Partners in Crime Fontana

Partners in Crime
First published 1929. Tom Adams cover c1971.

This card-based cover is for a collection of short stories featuring the light-hearted sleuthing pair Tommy and Tuppence. It is drawn from the story Finessing the King / The Gentleman Dressed in Newspaper.

See also Ian Robinson covers.

The Mysterious Mr. Quin
First published 1930. Tom Adams cover c

The background is from a seventeenth century drawing showing Harlequin and Columbine. Tom’s intent with this cover was to convey the contrast between the hard cold brutality of the dark gun metal with the velvety softness of the Death’s Head Hawk moth. The revolver was borrowed from a friend and featured in several of his cover paintings. 

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Mysterious Mr Quin Fontana sm

The Murder at the Vicarage
First printed 1930. Tom Adams cover 1963.

The first early still life for The Murder At The Vicarage was painted in 1962, and includes an authentic 1930s tube of paint from the artist’s grandfather, and a Collin’s Crime Club novel in the bookshelf. 

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Murder at the Vicarage Fontana

The Murder at the Vicarage
First printed 1930. Tom Adams cover c1968.

This later Murder at the Vicarage cover was painted only a few years later in 1968, but is a very different Magritte-type image. Tom borrowed an early racket from the Dunlop archives to ensure it had the right silhouette to reflect the time this first Miss Marple mystery was published in the 1930s.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Murder at the Vicarage Fontana 1977

The Sittaford Mystery (US title: Murder at Hazelmoor)
First published 1930. Tom Adams cover c1971.

Both of the covers for this murder mystery set in a tiny Dartmoor village feature a swirling combination of many characters and elements from the story – giving you a lot of information, but not giving anything away.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Sittaford Mystery 2 Fontana

The Sittaford Mystery (US title: Murder at Hazelmoor)
First published 1930. Tom Adams cover c1975.

Both of the covers for this murder mystery set in a tiny Dartmoor village feature a swirling combination of many characters and elements from the story – giving you a lot of information, but not giving anything away.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Sittaford Mystery Fontana

Peril at End House
First published 1932. Tom Adams cover c1973.

The pilot and his damaged plane on the UK cover of Peril at End House, along with one of the Buckley girls and the WW1 gun that shot one of them, are here intended to hint at the lament for the long lost hero-lover that prompt the action that leads to the mystery of this novel. The book was written in the wake of Amy Johnson’s solo flight to Australia in 1930.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Peril at End House Fontana

The Thirteen Problems
First published 1932. Tom Adams cover c1971.

The cover for this story collection contains images primarily inspired by two of the stories, ‘Ingots of Gold’ and ‘The Blue Geranium’.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Thirteen Problems Fontana

Lord Edgware Dies
First published 1933. Tom Adams cover c1965.

This UK cover for Lord Edgware Dies is an unusual Christie cover for Adams, as it includes a close-up image of the actual violent dagger attack, rather than his usual one-step-removed focus on the preparation or aftermath of murder.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Lord Edgware Dies Fontana

The Hound of Death
First published 1933. Tom Adams Fontana cover c1978.

This was Tom’s second Christie cover. He borrowed the skull from a friend, and added in the crystal ball and all-seeing eye as a nod to the other-worldly aspects of the tales in this collection.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Hound of Death Fontana

Murder on the Orient Express (US title: Murder on the Calais Coach)
First published 1934. Tom Adams Fontana cover c1972.

Resisting the desire to include a clichéd train on this cover, we instead see a map of Macedonia overlaid with other elements of the story, such as the pocket watch set at 1.15, burnt matches, charred paper and a pipe cleaner. The orange line shows the route of the Orient Express through the towns of Vinkovci and Brod.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Murder on the Orient Express Fontana

The Listerdale Mystery
First published 1934. Tom Adams cover c1975.

This short story collection was published only in the UK, although the stories therein appeared in other collections in the States. This montage cover includes elements from several stories, including a banana skin and revolver from The Golden Ball, car from The Manhood of Edward Robinson, and a representation of royalty from Swan Song.

See also Ian Robinson covers.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Listerdale Mystery Fontana

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?

First published 1934. Tom Adams cover c

Text

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Why Didnt They Ask Evans 2 Fontana

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?

First published 1934. Tom Adams cover c1972.

Text

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Why Didnt They Ask Evans Fontana

Parker Pyne Investigates (US title: Parker Pyne, Detective)
First published 1934. Tom Adams cover c1965.

Another beautiful trompe l’oeil painting with a beautiful two-dimensional botanical drawing the background offset with the gorgeous three-dimensional cut glass decanter and medal of the ‘Order of St Stanislaus’, tenth class with laurels, which ends up draped around the neck of the City Clerk.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Parker Pyne Investigates Fontana

Three Act Tragedy
First published 1935. Tom Adams Fontana cover c1972.

The cover of Three Act Tragedy features Bartholomew Strange’s port glass, and a rose which is related to the method of extraction of the poison in the story (although the artist has noted that the port glass should have been cut glass in accordance with the story).

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Three Act Tragedy Fontana

Death in the Clouds
First printed 1935. Tom Adams cover c1969.

The UK cover of Death in the Clouds makes use of an interesting perspective, with the wasp in the foreground and a period plane in the background. In this cover, the plane is named Henquist, however this was corrected to Prometheus as per the story when it was later reproduced on a Collins cover.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Death in the Clouds Fontana

The A.B.C. Murders
First published 1936. Tom Adams cover c1973.

This cover features an actual ABC or alphabetical railway guide, a monthly railway timetable guide to the UK, originally published during the expansion of the British railway network. Victim B is shown within the frame, on the beach at Bexhill. Christie’s grandson, Mathew Prichard, claimed in an interview that the story was inspired by a copy of the ABC guide that Agatha always kept by her telephone.

See also Ian Robinson covers.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The ABC Murders Fontana

Murder in Mesopotamia
First printed 1936. Tom Adams cover 1964.

For this cover of one of Christie’s most archaeological murder mysteries, Tom has painted here a plasticine death mask he created, along with other elements from the story, including a threatening letter, fake goblet, and that very hairy rope.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Murder in Mesopotamia Fontana

Cards on the Table
First published 1936. Tom Adams cover c1978

The cover for Cards on the Table is an interesting representation of the bridge game that forms the setting for the murders in this book. The image includes elements Tom has extracted from a John Collier painting called The Cheat, which shows four people playing bridge at the moment they discover one of them is cheating.

Uncommon. See also Ian Robinson covers.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Cards on the Tables Fontana UK 1976

Death on the Nile
First published 1937. Tom Adams Fontana cover 1975.

The Egyptian head based on the mask of King Tut in the background is obscured by the pearl-handled revolver used in the shooting of Simon Doyle.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Death on the Nile Fontana 1969

Murder in the Mews (US title: Dead Man’s Mirror)
First published 1937. Tom Adams cover c1964.

The cover for this collection of short stories includes elements from two of the stories – a mirror, one of Christie’s favourite devices, which is reflecting Anubis, the Egyptian God of Death

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Murder in the Mews Fontana 1964

Appointment with Death
First published 1938. Tom Adams cover c1975.

The sinister spider used on the cover for Appointment with Death is based on a trap door spider, while the face is intentionally ambiguous regarding whether she is a perpetrator or a victim.

Uncommon.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Appointment with Death Fontana

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (US: Murder for Christmas, A Holiday for Murder)
First published 1938. Tom Adams Fontana c1963.

Christie’s dedication for this book notes that she wrote it in response to her brother-in-law’s request for “a good violent murder with lots of blood”, and the various covers Tom painted for this one reflect that sentiment, with blood dripping from holly leaves simultaneously conveying both murder and Christmas.

Uncommon.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Hercule Poirots Christmas Fontana

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas
First published 1938. Tom Adams cover c1972.

Christie’s dedication for this book notes that she wrote it in response to her brother-in-law’s request for “a good violent murder with lots of blood”, and the various covers Tom painted for this one reflect that sentiment, with blood dripping from holly leaves simultaneously conveying both murder and Christmas.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Hercule Poirots Christmas 3 Fontana

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas
First published 1938. Tom Adams cover c1978.

Christie’s dedication for this book notes that she wrote it in response to her brother-in-law’s request for “a good violent murder with lots of blood”, and the various covers Tom painted for this one reflect that sentiment, with blood dripping from holly leaves simultaneously conveying both murder and Christmas.

Uncommon. The same image republished as ‘A Holiday for Murder’ under Bantam imprint.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Hercule Poirots Christmas Fontana 1978

Murder is Easy (US title: Easy to Kill)
First published 1939. Tom Adams cover c1966.

A still life for this early cover, featuring ‘the mixture’, and a dead canary, augmented with the spider, which is presumably representative of poison.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Murder is Easy 2 Fontana

Murder is Easy (US title: Easy to Kill)
First published 1939. Tom Adams cover c1980.

The UK cover features similar elements to the US version which is titled Easy to Kill, with the deliciously creepy forest background and the rooster and dagger in the foreground, but this one includes additional tormented faces, which I think makes it more gruesome.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Murder Is Easy Fontana 1980

And Then There Were None (also published as Ten Little Niggers and Ten Little Indians)
First published in 1939. Tom Adams cover published c1971.

This novel was renamed several times as the earlier titles made use of ethnic slurs, using lines from a then-popular nursery rhyme. Tom’s cover makes use of a golliwog doll, a toy also considered controversial today.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Ten Little Niggers Fontana
Agatha Christie Tom Adams Sad Cypress Fontana

Sad Cypress
First published 1940. Tom Adams cover c?

The photo used for this cover is based on one of his father, taken during the First World War, a scratch from a rose is one of the clues in the case, and the will is suggestive of the location of the story, which unusually for Christie is a courtroom drama. Overall, the gentle nature of this image reflects the love story elements of the novel.

Uncommon. See also Ian Robinson covers.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams One Two Buckle My Shoe Fontana

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (US title: Patriotic Murders)
First published 1940. Tom Adams Fontana cover c1967.

This is one of Tom’s early covers, and the first to use a nursery rhyme illustration in the background, with an innocent image, brutally torn through with that menacing gun barrel pointing directly at the reader’s face.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Evil Under the Sun Fontana

Evil Under the Sun
First published 1941. Tom Adams cover c1967.

The UK cover for Evil Under the Sun features a creepy wax model juxtaposed with the dreamily painted sand – referring to Linda’s childish attempt at witchcraft against her stepmother.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams N Or M 2 Fontana

N or M?
First published 1941. Tom Adams cover c1964.

This early cover has a detailed background of golden sand, with the transmitter and the ring, but the eye is drawn to the bloody hammer in the foreground. Hard to believe it’s a painting not a photograph.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams N or M Fontana

N or M?
First published 1941. Tom Adams cover c1972.

The later cover makes use of another nursery rhyme theme with varying elements of the story cleverly included on the prominent jigsaw pieces.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Body in the Library Fontana

The Body in the Library
First published 1942. Tom Adams cover c1967.

Tom’s cover for The Body in the Library is unusual in that it doesn’t feature the library at all, focusing instead on the foot of the corpse, with white beads to represent the white spangled satin of the dress, and a couple of flies to symbolise death and decay.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Five Little Pigs Fontana

Five Little Pigs (US title: Murder in Retrospect)
First published 1943. Tom Adams cover c1971.

A lovely composition including several elements from the story, including the nursery rhyme from which the title is drawn.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Moving Finger Fontana

The Moving Finger
First published 1943. Tom Adams cover c1969.

Another seemingly innocent cover for The Moving Finger in fact features dark elements of the novel, which features poison pen letters made of words cut from old documents, a victim found with a glass of potassium cyanide, and a pestle used to attack. The torn document in the background is from a volume of Record Office facsimiles in Tom’s collection – and Miss Marple uses a torn piece of paper to determine the culprit.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Towards Zero Fontana

Towards Zero
First published 1944. Tom Adams cover c1966.

The rotting fish and the twisted rope feature in an epic swim that occurs in the novel. If you look carefully, the rope is coiled into the shape of a zero, and so the fish head is curved ‘towards zero’.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Death Comes as the End Fontana

Death Comes as the End
First published 1945. Tom Adams cover c1968.

The mural in the background reflects Christie’s inspiration for this novel, which came from a couple of letters from the eleventh dynasty of ancient Egypt. The body represents the embalmed Nofret, and the toy lion that Hori repaired for Renisenb is placed inside the disheveled mummy wrappings.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Sparkling Cyanide Fontana

Sparkling Cyanide (US title: Remembered Death)
First published 1945. Tom Adams cover c1974?

This deceptively simple cover has a packet of cyanide and glass of champagne in the foreground, with a beautifully textured evening bag behind.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Hollow Fontana

The Hollow
First published 1946. Tom Adams cover c1963.

I love the simplicity of Tom’s cover design for The Hollow, with the distortion of the water creating a barrier between the viewer and the revolver beneath it.

See also Ian Robinson covers.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Labours of Hercules Fontana 1980

The Labours of Hercules
First published 1947. Tom Adams cover c1976.

The cover for The Labours of Hercules plays with Christie’s description of several characters as having “long curved noses, like birds… over their shoulders they wore loose cloaks that flapped in the wind like the wings of two big birds”, with another decaying apple adding to the creepy atmosphere of the scene.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Taken at the FLood Fontana 1979

Taken at the Flood (US title: There is a Tide)
First published 1948. Tom Adams Fontana cover c1970.

This cover portrays a pivotal scene early in the book, a death during the London blitz, along with other clues from the novel, such as tongs and a the lipstick bullet.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Crooked House Fontana 1981

Crooked House
First published 1949. Tom Adams Fontana cover c1967.

Another Christie title based on a nursery rhyme, on this cover you can see a delicate vintage illustration of the rhyme in the background, behind the ballet slipper and the spilled pill bottle.

A Murder is Announced 
First published 1950. Tom Adams cover c1963.

A Murder is Announced was Tom’s first Christie cover, painted for Fontana in 1962. It introduces his still life style, with simple items made menacing, such as the wilting violets and blood splatter on the news cutting, as well as his trompe l’oeil style with the bullet holes in the wallpaper providing a three dimensional sense to the image.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams A Murder is Announced Fontana 1963

A Murder is Announced 
First published 1950. Tom Adams cover c1974.

This later cover makes use of the violets and timepiece again, but introduces a menacing figure in the doorway.

See also Ian Robinson covers.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams A Murder Is Announced Fontana 1974

They Came to Baghdad
First published 1951. Tom Adams cover c1968.

This cover is based on a sketch in one of Agatha’s notebooks, with the added insect and blood drops, as well as the spider’s web entangling the name of one of the main characters. 

 

Agatha Christie Tom Adams They Came to Baghdad Fontana

Mrs. McGinty’s Dead
First published 1952. Tom Adams cover c1964.

This early cover for Mrs McGinty’s Dead is another that creates a sense of menace through a fairly simple composition – a photo, a pill bottle, a scarf, and a splash of blood – focusing on the second murder rather than the first.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Mrs McGintys Dead 1964 v2

Mrs. McGinty’s Dead
First published 1952. Tom Adams cover c1974.

This later cover for Mrs McGinty’s Dead is very similar to the US Pocket book cover, with another similar cameo setting of the charwoman’s parlour, including the remains of McGinty’s supper of kipper, bread and margarine as described in the book.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Mrs McGintys Dead Fontana 1974

They Do It With Mirrors (US title: Murder With Mirrors)
First published 1952. Tom Adams cover c1967.

The iconic cover of They Do It With Mirrors features a lovely mirror trick itself, with a gun sitting on sheet music for Chopin’s Prélude in E♭ major, reflected in several mirrors that cleverly cut the garden background in half.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams They Do It With Mirrors Fontana 1981

After the Funeral (US: Funerals are Fatal)
First published in 1953. Tom Adams cover c1971.

The European cover for After the Funeral is quite similar to the US cover, including also Polflexan Harbour in the background and the portrait of a nun, with an axe under a glass shade.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams After the Funeral Fontana 1975

A Pocket Full of Rye
First published 1953. Tom Adams cover c1973.

This cover focuses on the nursery rhyme ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’ which contains the line ‘A Pocket Full of Rye’ from which the book title is taken – you can see the music from the rhyme in the background showing the line ‘down came a blackbird and picked off her nose’ (reflecting the maid who was found strangled with a clothes peg on her nose), along with the rotting skeleton of a blackbird. The yew berries are used to create taxine, the poison used to kill ‘the king’.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams A Pocket Full of Rye Fontana

Destination Unknown

First published 1954. Tom Adams cover c1969.

These gorgeous surrealistic covers for Destination Unknown owe much to Dali according to the artist. The first version is quite different to the still life covers that came before it, including as it does such bright psychedelic images, along with the faked plane crash, leper and a broken necklace from the story.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Destination Unknown Fontana 1973

Destination Unknown
First published 1954. Tom Adams cover c1975.

This later cover has some fabulous dark rocks transforming into sinister toads, along with the dark hooded leper in the foreground. The metamorphosis of the rock is a reference to the character of Mr Aristides, who is described as a ‘small yellow toad’.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Destination Unknown 2 Fontana

Hickory Dickory Dock (US title: Hickory Dickory Death)
First published 1955. Tom Adams Fontana cover 1965.

Another early cover, featuring the nursery rhyme text and music in the background with a scattering of gems, made menacing with the sinister syringe and blood spatter. 

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Hickory Dickory Dock Fontana

Hickory Dickory Dock (US title: Hickory Dickory Death)
First published 1955. Tom Adams Fontana cover 1972.

This later cover keeps the same colouring, but the story elements included in this cover are a disturbingly green frightened girl, a diamond ring that ties various elements of the story together, and an adorable mouse which ‘ran up the clock’ in the nursery rhyme from which the title is drawn.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Hickory Dickory Dock 2 Fontana 1972

Dead Man’s Folly 
First published 1956. Tom Adams cover c1973.

A beautifully romantic pre-Raphaelite sunset in the background of this beautiful field of flowers is shockingly marred by the body of the girl guide that is found in the boathouse in the story. The girl is similar to the body in the American cover, but the rest of the scene is strikingly different.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Dead Mans Folly Fontana 1976

4:50 From Paddington (US title: What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw)
First published 1957. Tom Adams cover c1967.

The Fontana 4:50 from Paddington cover contains various clues from the story, including a compact, a piece of fur and a flower sprig that were dropped from the body as it was dragged to the sarcophagus. (Tom – always a perfectionist – later noted his frustration that he painted a hawthorn blossom, not remembering at the time the story was set in winter.) The background image is based on a real Roman sarcophagus.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams 4 50 from Paddington Fontana

Ordeal By Innocence
First published 1958. Tom Adams Fontana cover c1963.

This is one of the titles for which Tom painted multiple covers – 4 including the American version. This earliest makes use of a broken cup and dagger still-life, which references the two clues that unravel the second murder – the coffee cup and the feathers of the dove from the poem. 

, followed by that truly terrifying snake, and the last was the fighting dove and raven.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Ordeal by Innocence Fontana 1967

Ordeal By Innocence
First published 1958. Tom Adams Fontana cover c1975.

This later cover for Ordeal by Innocence presents the truly terrifying snake contrasting against the pretty flowers, clouds and innocence of the girl’s face.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Ordeal By Innocence Fontana 1975

Ordeal By Innocence
First published 1958. Tom Adams Fontana cover c1980.

The latest cover for Ordeal by Innocence featured a fighting dove and raven – all covers showing such different interpretations of the title.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Ordeal by Innocence Fontana 1980

Cat Among the Pigeons
First published 1959. Tom Adams cover c1969.

One of Tom’s earlier covers, a simple composition for this story about tennis-playing schoolgirls and smuggled jewels.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Cat Among the Pigeons Fontana
Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Adventures of the Christmas Pudding 2 Fontana

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding
First published 1960. Tom Adams Fontana cover c1963.

For this collection of shorter stories, the earlier cover shows a collection of Christmas trinkets and tinsel juxtaposed against a blood-stained dagger.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding 2

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding
First published 1960. Tom Adams Fontana cover c1976.

This later cover simultaneously portrays a happy Christmas scene overlaid with several more sinister elements including blood-stains, a scarlet ruby and a robin redbreast.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Pale Horse Fontana 1964

The Pale Horse
First published 1960. Tom Adams cover c1964.

A darkly chilling cover, the illustration bringing to mind black magic and the sinister goings on in Much Deeping.

See also Ian Robinson covers.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Mirror Crackd Fontana 1968

The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side
First published 1962. Tom Adams cover c1965.

The line “The mirror crack’d from side to side” comes from one of my favourite Tennyson poems, The Lady of Shalott, and this Fontana cover is one of my favourites. It actually features a delicate figure based on from a painting of the Lady of Shalott by the Victorian painter John William Waterhouse, juxtaposed against that wide bloodshot eye looking through the crack. A stunning interpretation.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams A Caribbean Mystery Fontana 1975

A Caribbean Mystery
First published 1963.  Tom Adams Fontana cover c1967

This first cover shows the head of Major Palgrave, “purple of face, with a glass eye, and the general appearance of a stuffed frog”.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams A Caribbean Mystery 2 Fontana

A Caribbean Mystery
First published 1963.  Tom Adams Fontana cover c1978

This later cover is much more romantic, with the body of the girl and her wavy locks blending beautifully into the water, under Palgrove’s watchful eye.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams The Clocks alt Fontana

The Clocks
First published 1963. Tom Adams Fontana cover 1978.

A simple cover for this Poirot mystery in which he is challenged to prove his claim that a crime can be solved by the exercise of the intellect alone.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams At Bertrams Hotel Fontana 1968

At Bertram’s Hotel
First published 1965. Tom Adams cover c1968.

The cover for At Bertram’s Hotel features the façade of the famous hotel (probably based on Brown’s of London), with elements from the story reflected in the woman’s hand in the foreground holding a poisoned chocolate and a bullet.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Third Girl Fontana

Third Girl (Also published as The Third Girl)
First published 1966. Tom Adams Fontana cover 1979.

One of the victims in this novel, David, is referred to as a ‘peacock’, hence the feathery background, and the dagger cuts through the number 67, the flat where the protagonist Norma lives, the titular ‘third girl’ of the novel.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Endless Night Fontana 1970

Endless Night
First published 1967. Tom Adams Fontana cover published c1970.

To create this stunning cover, Tom rang up the RSPCA in London on the off-chance they might have a dead bird available, and as luck would have it, they had just been given this Tawny owl that had ‘died in mysterious circumstances’.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams By the Pricking of My Thumbs alt Fontana

By the Pricking of My Thumbs
First published 1968. Tom Adams cover c1971.

The macabre doll’s head found in the chimmney is described as having lost one of its eyes, and the sinister cracks in its china head add to the general feeling of menace. The original illustration that you can see here had more elements, but there was a stipulation by the publishers that there be only one central element on the cover for the first time they appeared in paperback, so a simpler version was used instead. Later editions often flipped the image to face the other direction.

 

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Halloween Party Fontana

Hallowe’en Party
First published 1969. Tom Adams Fontana cover published 1971.

Bobbing for apples is part of the fun at the Hallowe’en party in this story, and this fabulous collision between a juicy apple turning into a dripping skull (the same one used in the Hound of Death), surrounded by swirling water revealing a menacing pumpkin, an evil witch, and a beautiful girl.

Passenger to Frankfurt
First published 1970. Tom Adams Fontana cover 1972.

In the early cover for this book, the female villain is represented by the black widow spider at the centre of her web. Similar to the US edition it also features the statue of Siegfried and Neuschwanstein castle in the background.  

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Passenger to Frankfurt Fontana

Passenger to Frankfurt
First published 1970. Tom Adams Fontana cover c1977.

This later cover also makes use of Neuschwanstein castle in the background, now incorporating several character’s faces separated by a grinning skull.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Passenger to Frankfurt 2 Fontana

Nemesis
First published 1971. Tom Adams cover c1974.

Similar to the US cover, this UK cover for Nemesis features the camellia house at Chiswick House in London, even the shape of the tree is quite recognisable.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Nemesis Fontana 1974

Elephants Can Remember
First published 1972. Tom Adams Fontana cover 1975.

A very 1970s style cover, with many elements competing for attention here.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Elephants Can Remember Fontana 1975

Elephants Can Remember
First published 1972. Tom Adams Fontana cover 1978.

This is another cover featuring many different elements from the plot, put together to create a charming composition through which the ghostly ‘remembering’ elephant is wandering. Tom has noted his inspiration for the dog from Landseer’s terrier, and the background landscape from The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Elephants Can Remember 2 Fontana 1978

Postern of Fate
First published 1973. Tom Adams Fontana cover 1974.

The dramatic rocking horse in the foreground of this cover is Mathilde, described in the book as “a rather splendid-looking horse even in decay”. The decaying greenhouse in the background was based on the greenhouse from his own garden.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Postern of Fate Alt Fontana

Poirot’s Early Cases
First published 1974. Tom Adams cover c1979.

The rather gruesome cover of Poirot’s Early Cases is a compendium image that includes elements from several of the short stories in the collection, including a bee-sting, the head of a ventriloquist’s dummy, and a collection of jewels used on the bee’s legs instead of pollen. (Unfortunately, much was lost from the original artwork when this piece was adapted for the truncated ‘new in paperback format’.)

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Poirots Early Cases Fontana

Sleeping Murder
First published 1974. Tom Adams cover c1976.

Sleeping Murder was the last published Miss Marple, written many years before publication but intended to appear after the author’s death. The needle and ball of wool framing the dead young girl are clearly symbolic of Miss Marple, and part of a loving memorial in this special paperback release.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Sleeping Murder Fontana

Miss Marple’s Final Cases
First published 1979. Tom Adams cover c1980.

The disparate collection of different elements on the cover for Miss Marple’s Final Cases reflects the collection of different mysteries in this short story collection, and this was in fact the last cover Tom painted for Fontana. It’s available only in the smaller size for the ‘new in paperback’ edition, as later editions used different cover art.

Agatha Christie Tom Adams Miss Marples Final Cases Fontana continental edn 1980

Tom Adams Christie Covers with other publishers

The Mousetrap and Other Plays by Agatha Christie

First published 1981 Bantam Doubleday Bell.

A collection of eight plays, reusing the cover art from the Fontana edition of They Do It With Mirrors.

The Mysterious Affair At Styles 

1981 Bantam edition.

This cover art has been repurposed from Three Act Tragedy.

Poirot Investigates 

1981 Bantam edition.

This cover art has been repurposed from Murder in the Mews.

The Secret Adversary

1981 Bantam edition.

This cover art has been repurposed from Mrs McGinty’s Dead.

Agatha Christie Whos Who Randall Toye Tom Adams

The Agatha Christie’s Who’s Who by Randall Toye

First published 1980 Holt Rinehart & Winston with Tom Adams portrait on cover

A fictional almanac of characters in Christie’s novels.

Life and crimes of agatha christie cover full

The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie by Charles Osborne.

First published 1982 by Collins with Tom Adams wraparound cover

Osborne’s biography of Christie’s life.

agatha christie greenshaw folly tom adams
agatha christie greenshaw folly tom adams cover

Hercule Poirot and The Greenshaw Folly by Agatha Christie

First published 2014 by Harper Collins with Tom Adams wraparound cover

In 1954, Agatha Christie wrote this novella with the intention of donating the proceeds to a fund set up to buy stained glass windows for her local church at Churston Ferrers, and she filled the story with references to local places, including her own home of Greenway. But having completed it, she decided instead to expand the story into a full-length novel, Dead Man’s Folly, which was published two years later, and donated a Miss Marple short story (‘Greenshaw’s Folly’, included in The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding) to the church fund instead.

The book includes a jacket painting, illustrations and exclusive introduction by Tom Adams.

syles curtain box agatha christie tom adams
syles curtain covers agatha christie tom adams

2016 (Harper Collins)

Styles: The Mysterious Affair at Styles and Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case [Centenary Boxed Set]

A special 100th anniversary edition that brings together the first Poirot novel with her last.

In addition to newly commissioned cover paintings by Tom Adams, it also includes special introductions; a unique pull-out letter by Christie in which Hercule Poirot introduces himself to his editor; an article by Christie (‘Drugs and Detective Stories’), written for University College Hospital Magazine in 1941, about the inspiration for her first book; and Christie’s original unpublished courtroom ending to The Mysterious Affair at Styles, introduced by Christie expert Dr John Curran.

'Mimic' Fontana Covers by Ian Robinson

A Murder Is Announced

Ian Robinson cover c1969

A cover featuring the violets, murder announcement and weapon.

Agatha Christie Ian Robinson A Murder is Announced 2 Fontana 1

Cards on the Table

Ian Robinson cover c1969

The playing cards presumably represent the players (two women and two men). I rather like the weasel, but am not sure its intent – perhaps the character of Shaitana?

Agatha Christie Ian Robinson Cards on the Table 2 Fontana

Dumb Witness

Ian Robinson cover c1967.

The matches on the cover are presumably a reference to phosphorus poisoning. The maze perhaps a maze of clues?

Agatha Christie Ian Robinson Dumb Witness 2 Fontana fixed

Five Little Pigs

Ian Robinson cover c1969.

This cover refers to the scene of the crime – the battery at Avonbury – and includes the pipette used to introduce the fatal poison.

Agatha Christie Ian Robinson Five Little Pigs 2 Fontana fixed

Partners in Crime

Ian Robinson cover c1968.

Agatha Christie Ian Robinson Partners in Crime 2 Fontana

Sad Cypress

Ian Robinson cover c1968.

This cover features several clues from the story: a thornless rose, a hypodermic and a tea-strainer. 

Agatha Christie Ian Robinson Sad Cypress 2 Fontana

The ABC Murders

Ian Robinson cover c1967.

Agatha Christie Ian Robinson The ABC Murders 2 Fontana

The Big Four

Ian Robinson Fontana cover 1964.

Agatha Christie Ian Robinson The Big Four 2 Fontana

The Hollow

Ian Robinson cover c1969.

Agatha Christie Ian Robinson The Hollow 2 Fontana 1980

The Labours of Hercules

Ian Robinson cover c1969.

The background features a stylised ancient Greek warrior, a la Hercules.

Agatha Christie Ian Robinson The Labours of Hercules 2 Fontana 1967

The Listerdale Mystery

Ian Robinson cover c1966.

Agatha Christie Ian Robinson The Listerdale Mystery

The Mystery of the Blue Train

Ian Robinson cover c1969.

Agatha Christie Ian Robinson The Mystery of the Blue Train 2 Fontana edited

The Pale Horse

Ian Robinson cover c1974.

This cover features elements of the dark arts, along with a copy of the Malleus Maleficorum from Thyrza Grey’s library.

Agatha Christie Ian Robinson The Pale Horse 2 Fontana 1974

Further reading

There are lots of excellent sites about Agatha Christie and Tom Adams on the internet. These three are my favourites:

Tom Adams Uncovered: The artist’s own website, where you can buy prints of some of his artwork.

Tom Adams and Agatha Christie: A Facebook Group devoted to the Tom Adams covers, to whom I am indebted for their original research research into which Fontana covers are Tom’s or Ian’s.

The Home of Agatha Christie: The Official Agatha Christie Website

Agatha Christie & the Cover Art of Tom Adams

A complete list of the covers Tom Adams designed for Agatha Christie mysteries, including the wraparound Pocket covers, Fontana paperbacks and HarperCollins anniversary editions.

Editor's Rating:
5
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