It is September 15 in my part of the world, at least for two more hours, and this year that means Agatha Christie would have turned 120 today! I thought this was the best excuse to bore you with endless details about my love for her mysteries that I would get anytime soon! 😉 So how have I been celebrating? I’ve been exceptionally lazy today and watched The Moving Finger and Murder at the Vicarage, all to honour the queen of crime of course. For me, Agatha Christie remains the one and only Queen of Crime. I do not mean to diminish the works of Sayers, Allingham and Marsh, in fact, I’m trying to discover their works now. But when I was ten or eleven, I “discovered” Christie’s mysteries on my mother’s bookshelf. Until then my reading had mainly consisted of Enid Blyton and Astrid Lindgren books, and when I ran out, I thought why not look at what my mother has on her shelves. Now, some German editions had a rather exciting cover:
Cheap and melodramatic, isn’t it? Though I’m still someone who judges books by their covers, my tastes run more to vintage nowadays. But when I was ten or eleven, these promised grown-up excitement, and there were so many of them! The content wasn’t quite as dramatic and brutal as I imagined, but I was nonetheless fascinated and for many years there was always the next Christie on the shelf or in the bookstore. I remember usually buying two new mysteries when I went to the bookstore, and my mother took one and hid it, so that I wouldn’t finish both of them the same day (and get incredibly cranky). I never thought that one day I might run out of them (gasp!), but my mother clearly knew better. Christie’s mysteries and whodunits in general are obviously mainly plot-driven and once I started one book, it was better not to disturb me until I had finished. I considered everything from dinner to school as disturbing, and once even tried to convince my friends that sitting in a room each quietly reading her own book would be fun (yeah that didn’t work). Then there was the time I found out that the staff in chain bookstores is not necessarily competent. I asked for a Christie crime, and was met with a blank stare, and after some descriptions was led to the crime section where I found about five books that I had already read. Where was the rest? Oh well, she didn’t think Christie was much read anymore. I kind of told her off, didn’t she realize that this was the queen of crime!? The author who was only outsold by the bible and Shakespeare!?
I think most people when asked to name a literary sleuth name Sherlock Holmes first, and probably Poirot and Miss Marple next. Or who is the first sleuth who comes to your mind? Honestly, there is no wrong answer! 🙂 I’ve always loved both Poirot’s and Miss Marple’s cases, they are simply great in different ways. But there are much more books that feature Poirot, so I’m happy I don’t favour Miss Marple. I love pretending to watch birds, but really study the villagers’ behaviour with Miss Marple, who looks so timid and sweet but expects the worst from people. But I also love following Poirot being arrogant and pretending to be a preening foreign idiot and then solving a case without even leaving his armchair, all thanks to his little grey cells. Which is really why I could never get into Holmes’ cases, all this stumbling about, picking up clues from the ground and sniffing at cigarette stumps. Which one is your favourite sleuth, and why?
As most of you know, I don’t much enjoy hardboiled crime fiction but love cosy mysteries, especially the ones from the Golden Age. In Christie’s mysteries, people murder for reasons that are well, understandable is perhaps not the best word, what I’m trying to say is that they have motives like hate or money. It’s not because they want your skin for a coat, or something completely psychotic. And although the murder is always caught and order is restored, the murder is still a person with feelings, someone whose actions can be related to, even if they cannot be pardoned. I think I never really figured out whodunit, this queen broke all the rules, and although she left clues, I couldn’t work it out. What I love about these mysteries is that once you know you can still reread them, and I’ve done that countless times (I don’t even count them in my reading list anymore). They don’t become less enjoyable, but perhaps even more cosy. Whenever it’s cold and rainy outside or I feel homesick or I’m ill, I make some tea, get some biscuits and settle down with a Christie mystery. I always feel better after spending some time in her world. I hope you’ll all try her once, to see if it works for you too!
I think I really do love each and every one of her mysteries, but of course there are some that I reread more often than others. One of my favorite Poirot books is Cards on the Table, because it has such a wonderful premise: Four murderers who haven’t been caught and four sleuth are invited to a dinner party at Mr. Shaitana’s. The host watches the criminals play bridge in one room, while the others play in another room. As the party draws close, Mr. Shaitana is found dead, murdered, and one of the four players in the room must have done it. Only four suspects, but it’ll keep you guessing! This is also the first mystery that features Mrs. Oliver, one of my favorite secondary characters. She is basically Christie’s parody of herself, and if you want to know what she thought of being a crime writer, and of her detective Poirot, read a book that has Mrs. Oliver, it’s informative and great fun.
With Miss Marple, Christie has written the best village mysteries, and created one of the best-loved sleuths. I think the first Miss Marple mystery I read was Murder at the Vicarage, which has remained a favorite. The mystery is difficult, and you’ll never look at village life quite the same way. I also love the adaptation with Geraldine McEwan, yup, the one I watched again today! Give Miss Marple a try, you can enter the period of the 30s till 50s (I think) and crime has never been cosier.
Christie also wrote mysteries with other amateur sleuths, and the best of these is perhaps Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?. Isn’t the title intriguing already? The amateur sleuths are a vicar’s son and his upper-class childhood friend Frankie, who is one of my favorite heroines. It’s really a mystery with a strong dose of adventure, and both ingenious as well as fun. I doubt you’ll resolve this mystery! If you enjoy adventure and spy stories, make sure to try Christie’s Tuppence and Tommy books, start off with The Secret Adversary. There are so many mysteries, Christie wrote over sixty, there is probably one for everyone!
I convinced myself, what about you? If you haven’t read any Christie yet, are you thinking of giving her a try? And if you’re a fan like me (yay!), what is your Christie story?
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