Agatha Christie perfected the art of writing a murder mystery without relying upon abundance of gory details and gratuitous violence, but rather on ingenious plot twists that usually involved more than one plausible assassin.
As with her books, Christie’s life also offered some drama. In describing life, she states, “I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” Reading this, whetted my desire to want to discover more about the “Queen of Crime”.
Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquay, Devon, England, U.K., as the youngest of three children. As a child, she never attended school; rather a governess and tutors taught her at home. She liked creating games to keep her self occupied and also turned to music as a means of expression. Later in life, Christie began writing and never stopped.
In 1914, at the age of 24, she married Archie Christie, a World War I fighter pilot. While he was off at war, she worked as a hospital nurse. It was there that the thought came to her to write a detective novel. The knowledge she gathered from the job helped her to accurately describe some of the murders in her books, many of which were carried out with poison (notably strychnine).
It was 1926 and, while her writing career was just beginning, her marriage to Archie was over when he admitted to being in love with another woman. Agatha, already upset by the recent death of her mother, disappeared. After a search for the now famous author, the police found Christie three weeks later in a small hotel. The explanation she gave was that she had lost her memory.
In September 1930, and just six months after meeting each other, she happily married Max Mallowan, a young archaeologist thirteen years her junior, who she met on a trip to Mesopotamia. Though they traveled abroad on Max’s archaeological digs to the Middle East, they also purchased a house in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, an area they both loved.
Christie died in 1976 at the age of 86 in Wallingford. In his memoirs, Max states “Agatha died peacefully and gently, leaving me with a feeling of emptiness after 45 years of a wonderful marriage.” Max died two years later, also in Wallingford.
Christie’s accomplishments include writing over 60 crime novels, six straight novels, more than 140 short stories, 22 plays, and a series of romantic novels using the pen name Mary Westmacott. According to Wikipedia, Christie’s books have sold 4 billion copies in 56 languages, making her the best-selling mystery author of all time. Several of her works were also made into successful feature films, including the popular Murder on the Orient Express.
Of her many characters, Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple are the most recognizable. Christie described Poirot, who debuted in the book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, as “meticulous, a tidy little man, always neat and orderly, with a slight flavor of absurdity about him.” Poirot went on to use his “little gray cells” in more than 30 of Christie’s books.
In 1971 Agatha Christie was awarded the high honor of becoming a Dame of the British Empire.