Agatha Christie (15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976)
Best known for mysterious detective novels
Agatha Christie, one of the most famous names in detective fiction, was a landmark figure in producing the classic whodunnit stories. The Guinness Book of World Records have cited her as the bestselling author of all time. Her books have sold over 2 billion copies in 44 languages. Not only is she the bestselling novelist of all time, second only to William Shakespeare and the Bible, she also created the longest running play of modern theatre: The Mousetrap. Her work is has been made into popular films and TV series, including the many adaptations of Hercule Poirot. The most recent film adaption is Murder on the Orient Express, featuring the beloved detected played by Kenneth Branagh.
Christie taught herself to read and had next to no formal education. She began her writing career at the age of eleven when, after a bout of influenza, her mother encouraged her to write down her stories. If was from here that she started writing down the world she knew; lords and ladies, the military, widows and doctors. And her detective stories full of double-entendres and twist endings were born.
A Christie Mystery – Whodunnit?
‘Very few of us are what we seem.’ Or at least that’s what Christie thought. This is clear in the characters featured in her novels. Many of her stories end with a surprise where a character is revealed to have had a double identity, often unveiling a disguise they’ve been portraying to distract the other characters. Christie was a fan of disguise and imposters.
Her stories are plot and dialogue driven, with a sharp and chameleon style detective at the heart of many of her books. Her leading detectives are often able to deceive the reader into a false answer to the question ‘whodunnit?’
Christie’s starring detectives:
- Hercule Poirot – A meticulously, neat, retired police detective turned Private Investigator. Poirot stars in 33 novels and 51 short stories.
- Miss Jane Marple – A soft-hearted ‘old spinster’ with a deceptively sharp mind. Nothing could ever surprise Miss Marple. She appeared in 12 novels and 20 short stories.
- Tommy and Tuppence Beresford – A husband and wife partner in crime team, who appeared in Christie’s more espionage style novels. Four novels and one short story collection.
Things to watch out for when you read an Agatha Christie story:
- You are never sure of who is telling the truth and who is not! Don’t take a character’s word at face value.
- Keep an eye out for the clues. Her stories are littered with snickers and eye winks towards the reader.
- Suspect everyone.
Read Agatha Christie
Here are a few of her most popular mystery stories for you to investigate.
- Murder on the Orient Express (1934) – A novel
- Death on the Nile (1937) – A novel
- The Mousetrap (1952) – A play
- Murder at the Vicarage (1930) – The first novel to feature Miss Marple
- Murder is easy (1939) – A novel
- Then there were none (1939) – A novel
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) – A novel
Agatha Christie today
Christie’s mysterious stories, twist-endings and double identities have inspired many storytellers and writers to date. And, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple remain among golden age sleuths, continuing to encourage a genre full of lonely divorces and gothic hackers. Perhaps it’s the puzzle play and the feeling of being outsmarted that keeps us coming back to Christie’s storytelling. Maybe we want to try our hand at outsmarting the detective and figuring out the twists before the characters do, to feel like we’re in step with the authors plotting. Or perhaps they so well written, entertaining and enticing that many of us can’t stop from turning on to the next page.