Agatha Christie and Val McDermid may be 'Queens of Crime', but JK Rowling is the Empress – Susan Dalgety

It’s less a “whodunnit” and more a “what the hell?” Top crime writer Val McDermid has been threatened by Agatha Christie’s estate for using the term “Queen of Crime”.

JK Rowling's detective novels, such as The Ink Black Heart, written under the pen name Robert Galbraith, show she is a great crime writer (Picture: John Phillips/Getty Images)
JK Rowling's detective novels, such as The Ink Black Heart, written under the pen name Robert Galbraith, show she is a great crime writer (Picture: John Phillips/Getty Images)

According to a legal letter sent to McDermid’s publishers, she is in “breach of copyright” by using the slogan, as it has been trademarked by Christie’s estate.

“It’s just astonishingly pitiful,” McDermid said of a personal letter she had received from Christie’s great-grandson criticising her use of the term.

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As a big fan of both women, I find the tussle rather amusing. Agatha Christie was the first “adult” author I read, graduating from Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven series to Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot when I was about nine.

And I was delighted to interview McDermid for this newspaper when she was still relatively unknown. Many years later, and I am still a huge fan of crime fiction.

There is nothing better than cracking open a new crime novel by a much-loved author and getting lost in the process of working out the culprit.

I must admit that, until recently, my favourite crime character was not Christie’s Miss Marple or McDermid’s new protagonist, Allie Burns, but Detective Inspector John Rebus.

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Val McDermid reveals ‘Queen of Crime’ legal threat from Agatha Christie estate

Sir Ian Rankin has created an unforgettable literary character in the dour policeman (now retired), and I can’t wait to read the latest chapter in his troubled career, when A Heart Full of Headstones is published next month.

But my heart has been stolen by another. Agatha Christie’s estate and Val McDermid’s publishers may believe that their novelist is the queen of crime, but they are both wrong.

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Step forward JK Rowling, whose crime novels featuring Cormoran Strike as an ex-solder turned private eye, are proof that she is the monarch of all she surveys. The latest, The Ink Black Heart, is out now and is a tour-de-force.

Strike is a magnificent hero. If it is possible to fall in love with an imaginary character, then I am guilty.

His partner in crime, Robin Ellacott, is a wonderful creation too, but Strike, played beautifully by Tom Burke in the television series, is a one-off.

So, while Christie and McDermid may end up in court squabbling over who is the Queen of Crime, I can exclusively reveal the Empress is Edinburgh’s very own Jo Rowling.