Royal Mail releases Agatha Christie stamps with ‘hidden clues’

The set of six stamps were created by Jim Sutherland of Studio Sutherl& and illustrator Neil Webb and include elements that react to UV light and heat

2016 marks the centenary of Agatha Christie writing her first detective story – The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The Royal Mail is marking the occasion with a set of six stamps representing some of her best-known novels – Murder on the Orient Express, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The Body in the Library, And Then There Were None, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and A Murder is Announced.

One of the six Agatha Christie stamps by Royal Mail
And Then There Were None: A poem, key to the plot, is the moon’s reflection, and the mysterious U.N.Owen appears at the lit window.

Each stamp sums up one of Christie’s complex plots in a single frame illustrated by Webb, with clues that point to the murderer hidden in the artwork. These ‘hidden clues’ are revealed with exposure to UV light or heat, and of course, the use of a magnifying glass.

“As ever – there’s so much detail in handcrafting for such small canvasses,” explains Sutherland, “The books themselves are beautifully written with such clever plots and twists – we were keen to reflect that in the scenes chosen from each story.”

Sutherland and Webb worked to create a styling that fits the author’s era, but is also modern. “We worked very closely on the ideas and compositions – swapping sketches and ideas and final details, it was a real collaborative effort. Trying to sum up complex plots in one frame is tricky but very rewarding.”

One of the six Agatha Christie stamps by Royal Mail
Murder on The Orient Express: Don’t be distracted by the red kimono character, she distracts the viewer from the killer hidden behind a heat sensitive ink curtain. The curtain disappears when the stamp is touched, and names of suspects are written along the train track in micro text.

Pictured below is the stamp for ‘A Murder is Announced’ which pictures a scene where the killer bursts in at a pre-announced time to shoot the hostess. The newspaper in her hand hints at his plans…

Agatha Christie stamps by Royal Mail
The Mysterious Affair at Styles: Poirot and Hastings investigate the crime scene – forming the skull, as the murderer used poison. The whole stamp is then reproduced in miniature on the poison bottle.

Each stamp also has a hidden letter, which combine across the set to spell ‘Agatha’. The presentation pack for the stamps is like a bookshelf packed with original objects, photographs, book covers and a timeline of the the author’s life.

Agatha Christie Royal Mail
The full Agatha Christie stamp set from Royal Mail

Royal Mail have also developed an augmented reality feature for the The Mysterious Affair at Styles stamp which triggers a 3D animation

See more of Neil Webb’s work here. The Studio Sutherl& site is here.

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