There was a time when I had grown out of Nancy Drew. This happened because I had read most of the books and soon the ‘18 year old sleuth’ as she is called had become predictable. I would know who the culprit is halfway through the book and I would still hope that I’m blown off my feet by the end…but unfortunately that would not happen. Disappointed, I started looking around for other books and someone recommended Agatha Christie so I decided to give it a shot. And yes! One of the many things she has effectively done is blow me off my feet!
‘ A country house in a quiet English village, a little old lady sits knitting while discussing prescription drugs. In the garden shed there is a gap on the shelf where a packet of weed killer used to be. The gardener looks carefully at the plants in the herb garden. Are those sage leaves or something else? In the kitchen, colorless crystals are scattered on a tea tray. They are probably sugar, but maybe not? At the front door a man with an egg-shaped head brushes an invisible speck of dust from his patent leather shoes before ringing the doorbell
The fictional world that Agatha Christie creates is recognizable and familiar. Scenes are quickly set, characters are introduced in a few sentences and then comes the mysterious plot with misleading clues and of course, her favorite way of eliminating characters-POISON! She has used more than 30 different types of poisons in her boo
ks as a weapon for murder. The funny thing is that when you say murder the first thing that comes to your mind is stabbing, knives and bloodshed. But very rarely has Christie used these methods. And I feel that’s where many modern murder mysteries go wrong- they engage in elaborate graphic descriptions of violence, shooting and bloodshed, which becomes too difficult to read. Poison is horrific but much more cleaner than stabbing or slashing the throat.
At first you might feel that Christie’s writing style is simplistic, but a great deal of research goes into it. Her training as a pharmacist gave her knowledge about the different kinds of poisons and chemicals, which has brought a great deal of versatility in her plots. No other crime writer has exploited poison as much and as effectively as Christie has.
When talking about Agatha Christie its unfair to not mention the old and wise Miss. Marple and the egoistic Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. I was so much in love with Poirot that I decided to take up French in college, which ended up not working in my favor by the way because I struggled to scrape through and pass but that’s beside the point. I read somewhere that in the nineteen sixties a lot of fans wrote to Christie saying she should write a novel where Miss.Marple and Poirot came together to solve a murder. She cheekily replied to these requests saying that “ Hercule Poirot is an egoistic maniac who will never ever listen to a wise woman.” And I must say that I couldn’t agree more. In fact it is well known that even though fans loved Poirot, Agatha Christie herself absolutely hated him to the extent that she decided to kill him off.
Another unique element in Christie’s books is that she never shies away from depicting a woman as a murderer. Most mystery writers end up playing to the stereotype of a woman being nurturing and kind and incapable of violence or murder.
And by this I don’t mean to say that murder is some great achievement, all I am saying is that Christie couldn’t be further away from stereotyping.
Agatha Christie still continues to be the most published and famous crime writer. In fact writer Sophie Hannah, a devoted Agatha Christie fan recently wrote a new Hercule Poirot mystery, and I having read it I must say that she knows her Agatha Christie well! Its crazy that Christie is still so popular because her books are not the slightest bit ahead of their time, in fact they are very firmly set in the time they were written.
But, it’s the puzzlers that bring in new readers. Every plot device, murder weapon and twist has been used and reused by the Dame. And after all these stories, after all these years you would think that there is an easier way to figure out ‘who done it’ than jumping out of your skin in the last chapter, but thanks to Agatha Christie’s great power to deceive, there isn’t!