Agatha Christie: Spotlight On A Mystery Genius
Agatha Christie is the second best-selling fiction author of all time, right behind Shakespeare (who has a few hundred year head start). But what is it about this woman’s novels that have captured the attention of generations? Agatha Christie is a genius when it comes to crafting mystery novels, and she has truly inspired the genre.
Agatha Christie was born in Devon, England in 1890. As a child from an affluent family, she was schooled at home and traveled throughout England and Europe. Agatha’s mother claimed to be a psychic with second sight, and Agatha grew up accepting these beliefs. When her father died in 1901, Agatha was sent to boarding school to begin her formal education. Though she struggled with the requirements for discipline in these schools, she eventually studied at a finishing school in Paris to complete her schooling before the war.
Upon returning from school, Agatha spent time with her ill mother and traveled in Egypt, and she also began writing short stories and poems for publication. These were not mysteries, but stories about the paranormal. Unfortunately, they received many rejections. Agatha met and married her first husband, Archie, in 1914 before he shipped out to fight; she joined the war efforts on the home front. It was when Archie returned at the end of the war that her writing really took off. She sold her first three detective novels, starting with The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which introduced the world to detective Hercule Poirot.
In 1926, after a her husband admitted to an affair and Agatha mysteriously disappeared due to her emotional stress, Agatha and Archie Christie divorced. Agatha kept Christie as her writing name, but married Max Mallowan four years later. She continued to pen novels, and many of her life experiences show up in her novels’ plots and locations. She enjoyed much success with her work in her lifetime. In 1976, Christie died at age 85.
Christie is known for her mystery novels and her creativity in crafting plot twists. Her twists were revolutionary and shocking, breaking through the rigid molds of the cozy mystery and defining the genre. Out of 66 mystery novels, many of these books featured detective Hercule Poirot (39) and Miss Jane Marple (12). Both of these characters also appear in more than 70 short stories in 14 short story collections. Hercule Poirot first appears in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and his final appearance is in Curtain. Miss Marple’s first appearance is in Murder at the Vicarage and her final is in Sleeping Murder. Christie actually penned the final Poirot and Miss Marple books in the 1940s, arranging for their release upon her death. Curtain was released six months before her death, and Sleeping Murder in 1976.
Perhaps the most famous of Christie’s novels is The Murder on the Orient Express. Christie’s genius plot twist in this novel helped make it a successful 1974 film. Christie was known for playing with the genre and breaking the rules of detective fiction, and The Murder on the Orient Express features one of the most memorable endings in all of Christie’s books. Other notable plot twists can be found in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None.
Other notable novels for those looking to dabble in the world of Agatha Christie include Death on the Nile, The ABC Murders, and The 4:50 from Paddington. Christie also wrote nineteen plays, including the widely successful play The Mousetrap.
The Agatha Christie Legacy
Besides being the second best-selling author of all time, Agatha Christie is an influential figure in the creation of the modern detective novel. She built her work on that of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes novels, but the sheer number of Christie novels keeps her at the top of the list. Her plays, short stories, and novels are still found on bookshelves today and enjoyed around the world. For more information about the woman, the novels, and her legacy, check out the official Agatha Christie website at agathachristie.com,
Are you a fan of Agatha Christie? Have a favorite Christie novel? Share your thoughts in the comments!