Three and a half years ago, John Curran made a discovery in a house in Devon which sounds like fiction. He'd been invited to inspect the papers in the house, but he certainly wasn't expecting what he found.

In an unassuming cardboard box, he discovered not only notes and details for some of Agatha Christie's greatest novels, including some plot variations, but also a complete yet unpublished Poirot, apparently written 70 years ago.

The house was Greenway, Christie's holiday retreat. But still, Poirot himself would have found the discovery suspiciously convenient. Why had it not been published? Why had no one else found it during the 30 years since Christie's death in 1976?

In fact, only the finest little grey cells could have pieced together The Capture of Cerberus from the pile of papers in unclear handwriting spread over different notebooks in a box with shopping lists. The title had later been used for an unrelated story (in 1947), perhaps suggesting Christie had abandoned it completely.

As for the delay in publishing? Trying to publish a book where one of the characters is a Nazi dictator, as they are here, probably concerned the publishers in 1939 when she tried to have it published.

In a sense, the work was the last item to complete a Christie collector's paradise in Greenway.  The house contains various signed correspondences, not to mention the small matter of a complete set of signed first editions.

Many people collect books. The value of a work is generally determined by rarity and condition, with first editions of popular writers greatly coveted. As Christie is the most published novelist worldwide with 4 billion book sales to her name her work is desired by a vast number of people. 


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