Agatha Christie is arguably one of the best authors of all time. But the question many ask is, why? What sets her works apart from any other zealous writer?
When I read Murder on the Orient Express, I was intrigued for most of the book, but it was my first Christie read. While making my way through the book I wondered what it was that was so fascinating to Christie’s fans. Sure, Poirot was charming, but I wasn’t that impressed. Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, it hit me. My jaw dropped to my chest, eyes bulging out of my head, trying to read faster than humanly possible. The reveal was a masterpiece. I’d never have seen it coming. All I could do was gawk and gasp at the last twenty pages, wanting only to shovel each page into me, like a delicious bratwurst.
That was only the beginning. After a regretted six months stall without reading any Agatha Christie, my friend reintroduced me to her. I had asked for recommendations for “good detective novels”. I returned home with a huge stack of books falling out of my arms, trying desperately not to drop them while crossing the street. I dumped them into the backseat of the car. Upon returning home I poured my new finds onto my bed, excited to dig in. I found the cover and title of “The Man in the Brown Suit” to be interesting, and so began my rediscovery of Christie fiction.
One of the best qualities of Agatha Christie’s work is its unpredictability. Christie’s characters are never what they seem. One can never assume that the maniacal Irish lady with a revolutionist past is the antagonist. Or that the innocent old lawyer is as kind as he seems. The entire scope of human emotion is displayed in each character that is brought into the plot. But, they show these qualities to different degrees in a way that makes each person unique.
For example, Poirot is a more serious type. His manner is undoubtedly charming and merits a few chuckles throughout the book. Hercule Poirot is a mystery himself, which makes his stories ever the more fascinating. He is clever beyond words. Throughout his appearances in Christie novels, we find moments where he is in utter despair. Moments when he loves and laughs. Times when he is neither sorrowful nor ecstatic, when he ponders over the case.
And then there is Tommy and Tuppence. The husband and wife crime-fighting team. With the Beresfords, there is never a dull moment. When espionage gets involved, the adventure is kicked up a notch. Plain and simple, Tommy and Tuppence are lots of fun. There’s Tommy. who’s reasonable, calm, and reliable. But, he definitely has a few tricks up his sleeve. Then there’s Tuppence, who’s a little more on the wild side. She never ceases to be on the hunt for a game of wits. Best of all, is their relationship. There’s no doubt about it, they’re best friends.
Anyway, before I get too caught up on my love for Christie’s characters, here’s why they’re so amazing:
- Multi-faceted personalities
- Each character is unique
- They’re believable!
Another thing that made Agatha Christie’s success was the quantity of work that she put out. My brother always says that in order to be funny you need to always be saying funny stuff. 3 out of 4 jokes fail. So, the more jokes you tell, more will be funny. (Check out his blog article on this at https://earthspacenstuff.com/2019/01/14/how-to-be-funny/) The point is, Christie never quit. She wrote book after book after book. Practice makes perfect. With each book, she learned from previous mistakes and new books got better and better and better. If one book failed, there was plenty of other material that audiences loved. Not to mention, that her novels span through decades, and give us a time capsule of life in Christie’s generation.
As I talked about in my previous article, Christie’s works are timeless because she wrote about what she knew. Many of her stories are based in and around Torquay and London, both were places where she lived for a long while. She also has quite a few stories set in South Africa, as she accompanied her second husband, Max Mallowan, on his archaeological expeditions. Something that I found fascinating from “The Man in the Brown Suit” was the scene where Anne learned to surf. I later learned that Agatha and her husband where among the first Britons to surf standing up. Tuppence, from the Tommy and Tuppence series, was a nurse during WWI and so was Agatha Christie. Poirot, who escaped to England from the German invasion of Belgium, was also based off of Belgian refugees that Christie attended to while nursing. During WWII she worked in a pharmacy at University College Hospital where she acquired a lot of knowledge about poisons, which she later used in many of her novels. Agatha Christie drew inspiration from her own life, and in that way, her stories come to life.
Why Agatha Christie is a genius:
- Plots are fresh and unexpected
- Characters are layered
- Quality and quantity
- She wrote what she knew
P.S. I was feeling rather uninspired. But last night, I was feeling sick and miserable. I couldn’t sleep. So at 2:30 in the morning, I snatched my tablet and skimmed through Netflix, and stumbled upon Ratatouille. I hadn’t seen Ratatouille for years. After watching it, my mind just seemed to pour out with ideas. Gusteau’s voice in my head saying “Anyone can cook.” Art inspires art. So, if you’re sitting hoping for some ideas to pop in your head, for whatever it is that you need inspiration, go looking for it. Stop sulking and do something fun. That’s what I learned today, anyway. (So, if you like this article, you can thank Pixar).
Let me know…
- What do you think makes Christie’s writing spectacular?
- Which Agatha Christie book is your favorite?