Today, I’m introducing a new feature to this website – #ReadersSpeak. I’m inviting readers to share their views on books, genres, authors, etc. This will be a bi-monthly feature – every second and fourth Monday of the month. This time, Priyanka Nateri shares why she thinks Agatha Christie is still popular.
What Makes Agatha Christie Still Popular?
The characters in St Mary Mead and Chipping Cleghorn live in thatched cottages, gossiping over scones with tea in the background of church bells, postman’s bicycle bell, birds chirping in gardens and the suspicious footsteps on the gravel.
Quintessentially English with Downton Abbey like settings, Agatha Christie’s reputation goes beyond UK. The queen of crime with a career spanning 55 years, had written 66 detective novels, 14 short story collections, world’s longest running play The Mousetrap. She is outsold only by The Bible and Shakespeare. Christie still reigns over the publishing industry, even decades after her death, where she not only continues to confound readers but is also a popular choice for screen adaptations. (The recent one being ‘Murder on the Orient Express” with a stellar cast including Johnny Depp, Judy Dench, Penelope Cruz and Kenneth Branagh).
While her renowned character a Belgian detective Hercule Poirot known for his ‘little grey cells’, travels the world solving crime mysteries, Jane Marple, sweet old spinster observes life at close quarters in the village where ordinary people live but “ordinary people can sometimes do the most astonishing things”.
As a passionate Christie fan, I could read her novels all day. Every Christmas promised me a Christie novel and over the last decade, I have collected most of the titles.
What is it that makes her plots have a timeless appeal? Here is a snappy peep at some factors that make her an enduring writer who raises the curiosity and makes you want to read more.
This is an important part of Christie’s popularity. Though some view it as stereotypical, many characters are drawn from her own personal life. The prominent characters, two of her popular detectives Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple are inspired by a Belgian refugee in England and grandmas and aunts Christie saw as a child. With his handlebar moustaches, egg-shaped head Poirot is a perfectionist. He solves a crime after gathering all the suspects, connecting the evidences and systematically zeroing in on the culprit. Whereas Jane Marple, known as Miss Marple, is an ageing sleuth seen with her knitting needles and yarn, is skilled in problem solving. She is gentle yet authoritative. Apart from Poirot and Marple, there is an amateur detective couple Tommy and Tuppence who look for adventure as they solve crimes. Besides these protagonists there is a kind vicar, stern lawyer, pitiful housekeeper and lazy gardener among other interesting and recurring characters.
Picture postcard settings
As you read the description of village cottages and moors, one might dream of exchanging the stressful urban existence with the peaceful idyllic countryside in Christie novels, but behind the quaint life, there is a lot of creepy happenings. The backgrounds for interesting plots include islands, mansions, golf clubs, trains and planes. For example, And then there were none on a sinister island throws strange twists, Evil under the sun in a resort combines mystery and thrill, Death on clouds in an aeroplane makes it scary, while keeping the curiosity intact.
The pace of every novel is often engaging with unexpected twists at regular intervals. Agatha Christie had volunteered as a nurse during the war. Her extensive knowledge about poisons and medicines came in handy in most of her stories. The element of unpredictability makes her plots very distinct and loveable. Towards the end, the solving of the case is explained step by step in a beautiful order and convincing manner, keeping the logic intact. The finale part is always a delight to read with an interesting mix of mind games and intuitions leaving the reader curious and often the ending comes as a shocker.
If you were to begin reading Agatha Christie’s work, the best books to try are:
The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Christie’s debut novel where Hercule Poirot solves his first case.
The Murder at the Vicarage (Marks the debut of the much-loved detective Jane Marple who investigates the death of the vicar in a peaceful country village).
A Murder is announced (A mysterious advert in the paper leads to twists and turns in the plot).
Nemesis (Apparently the last Miss Marple novel written. A letter from a dead man instructs Jane Marple to conduct an intriguing crime investigation).
Do you enjoy reading an Agatha Christie mystery? Which is the best novel you’ve ever read?
A post graduate in communications with over a decade of experience in the print media and web content development, Priyanka is also a freelance writer and a food blogger.