Queen of Crime- Agatha Christie:
Suspense and Comedy are two genres with which any audience can quickly connect with or relate to. Suspense, mysteries and light hearted comedies readily attract readers or viewers from a wider gamut of public, perhaps than any other genre.
It is imperative therefore that stories belonging to such genres are very well written or made and conceived to be widely popular. It is even more imperative that they are exceptionally good so as to fascinate readers/ viewers across generations.
Being regarded the world over as the “Queen of Crime” and the third most sold author next only to “Bible” & “Shakespeare” must mean that Agatha Christie is exceptionally wonderful and is popular across generations.
A major part of this blog intends to cover all her stories. This post is for providing you a glimpse into her main mysteries and the way my love for her stories began, before we take those stories one-by-one.
AGATHA CHRISTIE- THE AUTHOR:
Agatha Christie’s first book was published in 1920 and even after almost a century she remains popular among fans of the mystery genre.
I won’t go into Ms. Christie’s life and journey as a writer or the chronology of her writings in detail right now. There is a lot of information available.
To highlight few of her works, her first novel was “The Mysterious Affair At Styles” published in 1920 in which one of the most famous and loved detectives was created- “The Hercule Poirot”.
Later came the “Secret Adversary” in 1922 introducing the adventurous young couple- Tommy & Tuppence. This was followed by “Murder on the Links” (1923) again featuring Poirot.
Her other famous character was the elderly spinster and amateur sleuth Miss Jane Marple who first appeared in a short story. The first novel featuring Miss Marple was “Murder at the Vicarage” (1930).
Apart from detective/ suspense she has also written few romantic and non-mystery novels and autobiographies. These autobiographical works are “Come, Tell Me How You Live” & “Agatha Christie-An Autobiography”.
“Murder of Roger Ackroyd” (1926) is widely considered as her masterpiece, though I will admit it is not a personal favourite.
Hercule Poirot perhaps is the most famous character in detective fiction after Sherlock Holmes. Though he does not have the looks nor is interested in any action that is expected of a hero, Hercule Poirot was and is vastly popular enough to still inspire adaptations and interpretations by various filmmakers.
The other quite different detective character created by Agatha Christie was that of Miss Jane Marple. An old spinster who keenly observers and takes interest in people around her and has a shrewd judgement of human nature.
There are few other recurring characters like Mr. Satterthwaite, Colonel Race, Superintendent Battle & Ariadne Oliver who have featured in different creations, though they do not play a central role like Poirot.
Then there is another unique character called Parker Pyne, who is more of a problem solver. He is featured mostly in few short stories. These do not exactly fall into crime or mystery genre.
Besides the above there is that adorable adventurous couple of Tommy & Tuppence, aka Thomas & Prudence Beresford. After Poirot they are my favourite. However, there are only 5 or so books featuring them. I wish Agatha Christie had written more stories with Tommy & Tuppence.
Apart from her usual detectives there are few short stories and novels which do not have any recurring or common characters from other books. But these are interesting and enjoyable nevertheless.
HOW IT BEGAN:
The very first of Agatha Christie novels that I read was “Murder on the Orient Express” (1934) and by all means it was the best way to start. However, it was not my first acquaintance with Agatha Christie or Hercule Poirot. That journey began way before with our good old Doordarshan, when a series based on Hercule Poirot used to be telecast at late nights.
If you have seen those series, you will understand why there is absolutely no reason not to fall in love with the dear little Belgian Hercule Poirot and in his turn David Suchet as the eponymous detective.
In fact Mr. Suchet’s portrayal was so strong that it made an ever lasting impression in my mind. Since I started reading Poirot mysteries long after watching him, that impression remained. So in every novel of Poirot being read, I could visualise or imagine Mr. Suchet in each of the character’s mannerisms and gestures.
A little reference here to Sherlock Holmes mysteries and the late Jeremy Brett. As with Hercule Poirot my acquaintance with Sherlock Holmes had been through the Granada series. Those who have seen both the Sherlock Holmes series by Granada & ITV’s series on Hercule Poirot would know why they are permanently etched in memory. I believe that both Jeremy Brett and David Suchet did not just act superbly, they were in fact born to play Holmes & Poirot respectively.
In the series produced by ITV network on Poirot (starring David Suchet), the books featuring Hercule Poirot were completely adapted, though some of these adaptations have changes and differences from the books.
Similarly all the novels featuring the Miss Marple were adapted by BBC for television and starred Joan Hickson as Miss Jane Marple.
Many actors have played these two sleuths over the years, but perhaps the aforementioned adaptations on television became most popular and widely known. Therefore, in case I incorporate the screen adaptations too, while sharing my view of the famed detective stories, unless mentioned in particular the adaptations refer to the these two television series.
A BROAD VIEW:
Coming back to Ms. Christie. Being regarded as the “Queen of Crime” around the world, one always will begin to read the books as crime or suspense novels or murder mysteries. With me that happened too, initially, reading them with only one question in mind. Who did it? But as I read more of her books, that question disappeared and I read them only as stories or novels.
I feel that the murder is but just a reason to weave a story around. A story that describes human psychology, people’s behaviours in general, relations, obsession etc. And all of this is told in an easy and relatable manner. As a matter of fact two of her main characters, Hercule Poirot & Miss Marple rely on and are guided by this human nature and psychology in solving the mysteries around them, which they do mostly by getting people to talk and listening to them.
The other things I enjoy in many instances is the way people or their nature are sometimes described, as also the comparisons of old and new- be it products, people, culture.
Apart from this the books which feature Tommy & Tuppence are more along the lines of an adventure story as are some others which do not feature her regular characters. Amongst her regular characters Tommy & Tuppence appear in the least number of books and age with each of the five written. If only Agatha Christie had written more stories with Tommy & Tuppence, they are such a delightful couple.
Well this was a broad overview of the books and writings of Agatha Christie as I see it.
In the following posts I will take her novels and short stories comparing them with the screen adaptations, wherever possible, and try a hand at discussing the charm that still makes them popular.
Are you a fan of Agatha Christie too? What are your favourite books or stories by the author?