Thursday, August 20, 2015

TBT: Agatha Christie

There were two authors I binge-read in middle school: Anne McCaffrey and Agatha Christie.  McCaffery wrote the Dragonriders of Pern series.  It's sci fi with dragons.  There's not a whole lot else to say about it.  It was right up 11-13 year old Wendy's alley, but I've never gone back and re-read any of it, and I barely remember any of it, so I'm not exactly comfortable recommending the series.  Agatha Christie, however--she's something else.

The "Queen of Crime," Christie remains the best-selling modern author (outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare) and wrote the longest-running play in history, "The Mousetrap."  She was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in honor of her work, and so is officially Dame Agatha Christie.  I haven't read any of her books in years, but she wrote so many that it took me well into high school to get through her work, and I suspect I re-read, as I remember stories and characters fairly well even after all that time.  (So. Much. Time.)

Her most famous character is Hercules Poirot, a retired Belgian detective.  Poirot solves dozens of mysteries in novels, plays, and short stories.  The books were written and set in the 1920s to 1950s, for the most part, and Poirot's foreignness in a complacent, empire-ruling England  is a big part of his character.  He is very much "other" and would be even if his intelligence didn't set him apart from most people he meets.   His enduring fame owes much to the actor that portrayed him for 25 years of BBC adaptations, David Suchet.

Christie's other frequently appearing detective is different than Poirot in just about every way except age.  Miss Marple is an elderly spinster living in a small town.  One of her detecting strengths is that she is such a sweet little old lady that the bad guys never watch out for her.  However, decades of small town living have shown Miss Marple every variation of human behavior, and she is never as naive as people think.

There are many other books that don't include either of these two detectives, but whoever solves the mystery, the formula is pretty consistent.  Overall, the story goes something like this: person is found dead in mysterious circumstances.  Police are baffled, or police arrest the wrong person.  Main character starts investigating.  Lots of red herrings and misleading clues.  Main character figures it all out, and romantic subplot ends happily.  There are a few notable exceptions to this pattern--I still remember how shocked I was at both Endless Night and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd--but for the most part, you can trust Christie to wrap everything up neatly at the end.  They are great fun, and like potato chips, you can't try just one.                                             


  1. I love Agatha and am at present re-reading all the Miss Marples! And my daughter is reading Ann McCaffrey although I never cared for her.

  2. That's a great idea; maybe I should do some re-reading also.


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