Why I Love… Agatha Christie

I’ve previously stated that my memory is ridiculously poor. I can barely describe how poor it is. This makes talking about my ‘loves’ very difficult as I can’t remember when I first I saw/read/experienced/loved them. Honestly. And yet, here I try again. I am a huge Agatha Christie fan. This fandom didn’t officially strike until…three years ago? No. I’m gonna go with four. But this is just the fandom. I first read an Agatha Christie novel…ten years ago? Maybe more. (After the Funeral if you were interested.) I didn’t read another novel for two/three years. But I solved it! (I read it pretty much non-stop and had a notebook to write things down so it feels a little like a cheat.) That was Hallowe’en Party. (Which was dedicated to P.G. Wodehouse. Connections everywhere!) I wish I could point out a specific moment that ignited (or reignited) my enjoyment but if I were to guess, it would be due to the ITV adaptations of Poirot and Marple. I have a strong memory (shocking, I know) of discussing the adaptation of The Body in the Library with my history teacher the day after it aired. This was shown in 2004 when I was doing my GCSEs. Our main discussion was about the *spoiler alert* lesbian plotting and questioning its inclusion in Christie’s novel. I checked in the library. It wasn’t there. So, sidestepping this “problem” with accuracy I just wanted to watch the series. I’ve been a fan of a good murder mystery since I can remember. Thank you BBC for daytime Diagnosis Murder, The Father Dowling Mysteries, Murder, She Wrote and even Bergerac. You raised me well. But, getting back to Christie, the shows kept coming and I’d started reading various books and then started collecting them (this would’ve been about three/four years ago). I currently have 135 but still don’t have every novel (I have doubles/different editions, she didn’t write THAT many); I’ve been to see The Mousetrap; I visited her house for my birthday; I have all the Poirot DVDs, some Marples, her autobiography, biographies, two mugs, reference books, audiobooks (see – hoarder/collector)…

Being a collector of Agatha Christie works isn’t really that unusual. (Or maybe a little unusual due to my age/the age I started collecting.) The Mousetrap is the longest running West End show (and a statue is planned – we hope – to be unveiled in November this year to celebrate its 60 year run), she is the biggest selling novelist in the world (book sales are third behind Shakespeare and the Bible) and her work is still being performed/adapted. Neil LaBute is directing an adaptation of Crooked House, scripted by Julian Fellowes and is set to start shooting in London in a few months (although this has been said for months). The book is one of my favourites (and one of Christie’s personal favourites), despite having no ‘known’ characters, and it one of Christie’s best. I’m not JUST saying that because the lead female character is called Sophia. I’m not. I promise. (It doesn’t hurt though.)

As collectors go, I’m pretty low-key. Mostly for monetary reasons. Every September there is the Agatha Christie Festival in Devon to coincide with Christie’s birthday on the 15th September. (9th – 16th this year.) They have performances of one of Christie’s work (this year will be Cards on the Table), dinners (fancy dress encouraged), panel discussions (with Christie’s grandson Mathew Pritchard and Christie expert John Curran among others), tours around Greenway (Christie’s home recently restored by the National Trust), quizes, murder mystery events, pretty much anything you want and one year I NEED to go. I also need people to go with (anyone?) and money for the activities, food, accommodation. So you see, it’s not cheap being a fan. Picking up books from charity shops and second-hand bookshops is one thing, this is another.

Christie, as an author, has received criticism from other authors. Her harshest critic will probably always be herself though. She never understood why people bought her books and never claimed to be a great writer. What Christie is great at is characters and dialogue. To have an absorbing murder mystery plot you need to have interesting and credible characters – and I don’t just mean the detectives. Characters within each book, with a few exceptions, are always involving. And then there are the recurring, detective characters: Hercule Poirot, Miss Jane Marple, Ariadne Oliver (my personal favourite and I want to name my future child Ariadne – seriously), Tommy and Tuppence, Captain Arthur Hastings, Detective Chief Inspector James Japp (both of whom appear less frequently in Christie’s novels than the TV series would have you believe). Christie is the only novelist to have created two equally famous detectives.

I am “wise” enough to know that Christie’s writings will never be described as classic literature and her crimes never make the hard-boiled nature of Raymond Chandler but, I think that’s what I like about them. They are easy reads. You can challenge yourself to find the murderer. You can fall back into a different era with different language and a wealthier lifestyle than (definitely for me) you live. I’m so glad that I can enjoy her work and I am so happy that David Suchet will ahve the opportunity to finish the final five Poirot stories – but more on Poirot at a later date.

This is the bust of Agatha Christie that is in Torquay. I’m saddened that I haven’t seen it yet.

Now, please, if you’ve never seen or read an Agatha Christie book give it a go. Pick one up from a charity shop or the library or your kindle – they are perfect holiday reading. And if not, watch the TV series’. They’re ALWAYS on ITV3 (and stay for Jeeves and Wooster).

S x

[Agatha Christie’s favourite novels in no particular order (according to her website…):

  1. And Then There Were None
  2. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Poirot)
  3. A Murder is Announced (Marple)
  4. Murder on the Orient Express (Poirot)
  5. The Thirteen Problems (Marple)
  6. Towards Zero
  7. Endless Night
  8. Crooked House
  9. Ordeal by Innocence
  10. The Moving Finger (Marple)

John Curran (author of Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks and Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making):

  1. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Poirot)
  2. Peril at End House (Poirot)
  3. Murder on the Orient Express (Poirot)
  4. The ABC Murders (Poirot)
  5. And Then There Were None
  6. Five Little Pigs (Poirot)
  7. Crooked House
  8. A Murder is Announced (Marple)
  9. Endless Night
  10. Curtain (Poirot)

Now, fan as I am, I would need to re-read all of the novels again to be able to list my favourites but I would say that Five Little Pigs, Crooked House, The Moving Finger and A Murder is Announced would definitely be in there, probably with a Poirot/Ariadne Oliver novel as well. Just because I love her. ]


8 thoughts on “Why I Love… Agatha Christie

  1. I bought my first ever Agatha Christie (They Do It with Mirrors) about a week ago. Excited to read my first Miss Marple mystery!

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  4. Oh I love this article! I too, love Agatha! And Then There Were None was my first book from her I read and I adored it. I think she started my love of Murder Mystery.

  5. I love her, too. So glad to have found this, I was getting discouraged by people claiming her to be racist, etc.. It seems nobody understands that different language was acceptable in her time period. But that’s a whole other discussion…..thanks for sharing!

  6. She was in a class of her own. With maybe Wodehouse a close second. Her neat tight plotting aside, her humour sets her apart. She could be beautifully dry. I love the old- world, dreamy atmosphere in her books. Especially in Five Little Pigs and The Twiddling of my Thumbs. For anyone reading this, I hope this makes you want to read her. One of my sorrows (I was going to say greatest sorrows but though it was a but much) is the lack of people to discuss, and quite frankly, rave over Dame Agatha with.

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