I was rifling through my messy bookcase earlier today when a paperback tumbled onto the floor. I picked up Agatha Christie’s “Death On The Nile” – the one in which vacationing Hercule Poirot solves a murder aboard a streamer on the Nile.
Intending to quickly scan the story, I ended up reading the whole thing. With a few books of my own now I could appreciate Christie’s skill in a whole new way.
In her 55 year career Dame Agatha Christie wrote 72 novels (66 are mysteries) plus 15 short story collections—a stunning achievement for a woman who claimed to have no interest in making money. Many, including the Guinness Book of World Records, call her the best-selling novelist of all time.
Christie’s characters make her novels stand out. Think of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. You can just picture them, can’t you? (When Poirot died in 1975, The New York Times gave him a front-page obituary, the only fictional character ever honored in this way).
Her plots are also exceptional—period subjects with precise story development, creative plot structure, and psychology. Films and TV shows based on her works feature terrific actors playing cantankerous, snooty, and often desperate characters who we can relate to. That’s extraordinarily difficult to pull off.
Here’s a Christie tidbit: during World War I she worked in dispensary at the Red Cross Hospital. That inspired her use of poison as a murder instrument in her stories.
Imitating her own stories, Christie vanished for two weeks one December evening when she discovered that her husband was having an affair. Thousands of people were reported to have unsuccessfully searched for her. Nine days after her disappearance Christie was found in a Yorkshire spa where she’d registered as Mrs. Tressa Neele, her husband’s lover.