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Agatha Christie

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Title: Agatha Christie  
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Subject: List of works with different titles in the United Kingdom and United States, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, And Then There Were None, List of fictional Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom
Collection: 1890 Births, 1976 Deaths, 20Th-Century British Novelists, 20Th-Century English Novelists, 20Th-Century English Writers, 20Th-Century Women Writers, Agatha Christie, Anthony Award Winners, Booker Authors' Division, British Detective Writers, British Dramatists and Playwrights, British Women in World War I, British Women Short Story Writers, Burials in Oxfordshire, Dames Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Edgar Award Winners, English Crime Fiction Writers, English Dramatists and Playwrights, English Mystery Writers, English Short Story Writers, English Women Dramatists and Playwrights, English Women Novelists, Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature, Female Wartime Nurses, Members of the Detection Club, People from Cholsey, People from Sunningdale, People from Torquay, Temporary Disappearances, Women Mystery Writers, World War I Nurses, Writers of Historical Mysteries
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Agatha Christie

Dame Agatha Christie
Born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller
(1890-09-15)15 September 1890
Torquay, Devon, England
Died 12 January 1976(1976-01-12) (aged 85)
Wallingford, Oxfordshire, England
Resting place Church of St Mary, Cholsey, Oxfordshire, England
Pen name Mary Westmacott
Agatha Christie
Occupation Novelist, short story writer, playwright, poet
Genre Murder mystery, thriller, crime fiction, detective, romance
Literary movement Golden Age of Detective Fiction
Notable works Creation of characters Hercule Poirot and Miss (Jane) Marple, Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Death on the Nile, The Murder at the Vicarage, Partners In Crime, The ABC Murders, And Then There Were None, The Mousetrap
Spouse Archibald Christie
(m. 1914; div. 1928)
Sir Max Mallowan
(m. 1930–76; her death)
Children Rosalind Hicks (1919–2004)


Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, DBE (née Miller; 15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976) was an English crime novelist, short story writer and playwright. She also wrote six romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but she is best known for the 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections that she wrote under her own name, most of which revolve around the investigative work of such characters as Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple, Parker Pyne, Harley Quin/Mr Satterthwaite and Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. She wrote the world's longest-running play, a murder mystery, The Mousetrap.[1] In 1971 she was made a Dame for her contribution to literature.[2]

Christie was born into a wealthy upper-middle-class family in Torquay, Devon. She served in a hospital during the First World War before marrying and starting a family in London. She was initially unsuccessful at getting her work published, but in 1920 The Bodley Head press published her novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring the character of Hercule Poirot. This launched her literary career.

The Guinness Book of World Records lists Christie as the best-selling novelist of all time. Her novels have sold roughly 2 billion copies, and her estate claims that her works come third in the rankings of the world's most-widely published books,[3] behind only Shakespeare's works and the Bible. According to Index Translationum, she remains the most-translated individual author – having been translated into at least 103 languages.[4] And Then There Were None is Christie's best-selling novel, with 100 million sales to date, making it the world's best-selling mystery ever, and one of the best-selling books of all time.[5]

Christie's stage play The Mousetrap holds the record for the longest initial run: it opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End on 25 November 1952 and as of 2015 is still running after more than 25,000 performances.[6][7] In 1955 Christie was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's highest honour, the Grand Master Award, and in the same year Witness for the Prosecution received an Edgar Award by the MWA for Best Play. In 2013, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was voted the best crime novel ever by 600 fellow writers of the Crime Writers' Association.[8] On 15 September 2015, coinciding with Agatha Christie's 125th birthday, And Then There Were None was voted as the "World's Favorite Christie", followed closely by Murder on the Orient Express and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.[9] Most of her books and short stories have been adapted for television, radio, video games and comics, and more than thirty feature films have been based on her work.


  • Life and career 1
    • Childhood: 1890–1910 1.1
    • Early literary attempts and the First World War: 1910–19 1.2
    • First novels: 1919–23 1.3
    • Disappearance 1.4
    • Second marriage and later life 1.5
  • Death 2
    • Agatha Christie's estate and subsequent ownership of works 2.1
  • Writings 3
    • Works of fiction 3.1
      • Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple 3.1.1
      • Formula and plot devices 3.1.2
      • Character stereotypes 3.1.3
    • Non-fiction writings 3.2
    • Critical reception 3.3
  • Interests and influences 4
    • Archaeology 4.1
    • Spirituality 4.2
    • Use of archaeology and spirituality in her writing 4.3
  • Portrayals of Christie 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • Sources 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Life and career

Childhood: 1890–1910

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on 15 September 1890 into a wealthy [10]:2–4

Christie's father Frederick was a member of the small and wealthy American upper class, and had been sent to Switzerland for his education. He was considered personable and friendly by those who knew him. He soon developed a romantic relationship with Clara, and they were married in April 1878.[10]:4–5 Their first child, Margaret Frary Miller (1879–1950), was born in Torquay, where the couple were renting lodgings, while their second, Louis "Monty" Montant (1880–1929), was born in the U.S. state of [10]:6–7

Agatha Christie as a girl, date unknown

Christie described her childhood as "very happy".[11]:3 She was surrounded by a series of strong and independent women from an early age.[10]:14 Her time was spent alternating between her home in [10]:20–21

Christie was a voracious reader from an early age. Among her earliest memories were those of reading the children's books written by [10]:18–19

Much of her childhood was spent largely alone and separate from other children, although she spent much time with her pets, whom she adored. She eventually made friends with a group of other girls in Torquay, and she noted that "one of the highlights of my existence" was her appearance with them in a youth production of [10]:23–27 This was her last operatic role for, as she later wrote, "an experience that you really enjoyed should never be repeated."[12]:125

Her father was often ill, suffering from a series of [10]:22–23, 37

Early literary attempts and the First World War: 1910–19

Agatha returned to England in 1910 and found that her mother Clara was ill. They decided to spend time together in the warmer climate of [10]:40–41

Returning to Britain, she continued her social activities, writing and performing in amateur theatrics. She also helped put on a play called The Blue Beard of Unhappiness with female friends. Her writing extended to both poetry and music. Some early works saw publication, but she decided against focusing on either of these as future professions.[10]:45–46

Christie wrote her first short story, The House of Beauty (an early version of her later-published story [10]:48–49

Other shorts followed, most of them illustrating her interest in spiritualism and the paranormal. These included "[10]:49–50

Christie then set her first novel, Snow Upon the Desert, in Cairo, and drew from her recent experiences in that city, written under the pseudonym Monosyllaba. She was perturbed when various publishers all declined.[10]:50–51 Clara suggested that her daughter ask for advice from a family friend and neighbour, writer [10]:51–52

Christie continued searching for a husband, and entered into short-lived relationships with four separate men and an engagement with another. She then met [10]:54–63

With the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Archie was sent to France to fight the German forces. They married on the afternoon of Christmas Eve 1914 at Emmanuel Church, Clifton, Bristol, which was close to the home of his parents, while Archie was on home leave.[15] Rising through the ranks, he was eventually stationed back to Britain in September 1918 as a colonel in the Air Ministry.

Agatha involved herself in the war effort, joining the [10]:64–74

First novels: 1919–23

Christie had long been a fan of detective novels, having enjoyed [10]:75–79

The Styles manuscript was not accepted by such publishing companies as [10]:80–81

Christie's second novel, [10]:86–103 [17] They learned to surf prone in South Africa; then, in Waikiki, they were among the first Britons to surf standing up.[18]


In late 1926, Archie asked Agatha for a divorce. He was in love with Nancy Neele, who had been a friend of Major Belcher, director of the British Empire Mission, on the promotional tour a few years earlier. On 3 December 1926, the Christies quarrelled, and Archie left their house, Styles, in Sunningdale, Berkshire, to spend the weekend with his mistress at Godalming, Surrey. That same evening, around 9:45 pm, Christie disappeared from her home, leaving behind a letter for her secretary saying that she was going to Yorkshire. Her car, a Morris Cowley, was later found at Newlands Corner, perched above a chalk quarry, with an expired driving licence and clothes.[19]

Her disappearance caused an outcry from the public. Home Secretary William Joynson-Hicks pressured police, and a newspaper offered a £100 reward. Over a thousand police officers, 15,000 volunteers, and several aeroplanes scoured the rural landscape. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle even gave a spirit medium one of Christie's gloves to find the missing woman. Dorothy L. Sayers visited the house in Surrey, later using the scenario in her book Unnatural Death.[20]

Christie's disappearance was featured on the front page of The New York Times. Despite the extensive manhunt, she was not found for 10 days.[20][21][22][23] On 14 December 1926, she was found at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel (now the Old Swan Hotel[1]) in Harrogate, Yorkshire, registered as Mrs Teresa Neele (the surname of her husband's lover) from Cape Town.

Christie's autobiography makes no reference to her disappearance.[12][20] Two doctors diagnosed her as suffering from amnesia, yet opinion remains divided as to why she disappeared. She was known to be in a depressed state from literary overwork, her mother's death earlier that year, and her husband's infidelity. Public reaction at the time was largely negative, supposing a publicity stunt or attempt to frame her husband for murder.[24][2]

The 1979 Michael Apted film Agatha features a disclaimer in the opening credits stating that what follows is an imaginary solution to an authentic mystery. The film starred Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Dalton as Agatha and Archie, and depicts Christie planning suicide in such a way as to frame her husband's mistress for her "murder". An American reporter, played by Dustin Hoffman, follows her closely and stops the plan. The film outraged Christie's heirs who fought two unsuccessful lawsuits in the United States to try to prevent it from being distributed.

Author Jared Cade interviewed numerous witnesses and relatives for his sympathetic biography Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days, revised 2011.[25] He provided substantial evidence to suggest that she planned the event to embarrass her husband, never anticipating the resulting escalated melodrama.[26]

The Christies divorced in 1928, and Archie married Nancy Neele. Agatha retained custody of daughter Rosalind and the Christie name for her writing. During their marriage, she published six novels, a collection of short stories, and a number of short stories in magazines.

Second marriage and later life

Agatha Christie's room at the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, where she wrote Murder on the Orient Express
Blue plaque, 58 Sheffield Terrace, Holland Park, London

In 1930, Christie married archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan, having met him during an archaeological dig. Their marriage was happy and lasted until Christie's death in 1976.[27] Mallowan introduced her to wine, which she never enjoyed – preferring to drink water in restaurants. She tried unsuccessfully to make herself like cigarettes by smoking one after lunch and one after dinner every day for six months.[28]

Christie frequently used settings that were familiar to her for her stories. Her travels with Mallowan contributed background to several of her novels set in the Middle East. Other novels (such as And Then There Were None) were set in and around Torquay, where she was raised. Christie's 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express was written in the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, the southern terminus of the railway. The hotel maintains Christie's room as a memorial to the author.[29] The Greenway Estate in Devon, acquired by the couple as a summer residence in 1938, is now in the care of the National Trust. Christie often stayed at Abney Hall, Cheshire, owned by her brother-in-law, James Watts, basing at least two stories there: a short story "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding", in the story collection of the same name, and the novel After the Funeral. "Abney became Agatha's greatest inspiration for country-house life, with all its servants and grandeur being woven into her plots. The descriptions of the fictional Chimneys, Stoneygates, and other houses in her stories are mostly Abney in various forms."[30]

During the Second World War, Christie worked in the pharmacy at University College Hospital, London, where she acquired a knowledge of poisons that she put to good use in her post-war crime novels. For example, the use of thallium as a poison was suggested to her by UCH Chief Pharmacist Harold Davis (later appointed Chief Pharmacist at the UK Ministry of Health), and in The Pale Horse, published in 1961, she employed it to dispatch a series of victims, the first clue to the murder method coming from the victims' loss of hair. So accurate was her description of thallium poisoning that on at least one occasion it helped solve a case that was baffling doctors.[31][32]

Christie lived in Chelsea, first in Cresswell Place and later in Sheffield Terrace. Both properties are now marked by blue plaques. In 1934, she and Max Mallowan purchased Winterbrook House in Winterbrook, a hamlet in the ancient parish of Cholsey but adjoining Wallingford, then in Berkshire (Oxfordshire from 1974).[33] This was their main residence for the rest of their lives and the place where Christie did most of her writing. This house, too, bears a blue plaque. Christie led a very low-profile life despite being known in the town of Wallingford, where she was for many years President of the local amateur dramatic society.

Around 1941–42, the British intelligence agency MI5 investigated Christie after a character called Major Bletchley appeared in her 1941 thriller N or M?, which was about a hunt for a pair of deadly fifth columnists in wartime England.[34] MI5 was afraid that Christie had a spy in Britain's top-secret codebreaking centre, Bletchley Park. The agency's fears were allayed when Christie commented to codebreaker Dilly Knox that Bletchley was simply the name of "one of my least lovable characters."[34]

To honour her many literary works, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1956 New Year Honours.[35] The next year, she became the President of the Detection Club.[36] In the 1971 New Year Honours, she was promoted Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE),[37] three years after her husband had been knighted for his archaeological work in 1968.[38] They were one of the few married couples where both partners were honoured in their own right. From 1968, owing to her husband's knighthood, Christie could also be styled Lady Mallowan.

Agatha Christie's gravestone at St. Mary's church, Cholsey

From 1971 to 1974, Christie's health began to fail, although she continued to write. Recently, using experimental tools of textual analysis, Canadian researchers have suggested that Christie may have begun to suffer from Alzheimer's disease or other dementia.[39][40][41][42]


Dame Agatha Christie died on 12 January 1976 at age 85 from natural causes at her Winterbrook House in the north of Cholsey parish, adjoining Wallingford in Oxfordshire (formerly part of Berkshire). She is buried in the nearby churchyard of St Mary's, Cholsey. She was survived by her only child, Rosalind Margaret Hicks.

Agatha Christie's estate and subsequent ownership of works

During Agatha Christie's life, she had set up a private company, Agatha Christie Limited, to hold the rights to her works, and around 1959 she had also transferred her 278-acre home, Greenway Estate, to her daughter Rosalind.[43] In 1968, when Christie was almost 80 years old, she sold a 51% stake in Agatha Christie Limited (and therefore the works it owned) to Booker Books (better known as Booker Author's Division), a subsidiary of the British food and transport conglomerate Booker-McConnell (now Booker Group), the founder of the Booker Prize for literature, which later increased its stake to 64%. Agatha Christie Limited remains the owner of the worldwide rights for over 80 of Christie's novels and short stories, 19 plays, and nearly 40 TV films.[44]

After Christie's death in 1976, her remaining 36% share of the company was inherited by her daughter, Rosalind Hicks, who passionately preserved her mother's works, image, and legacy until her own death 28 years later.[43] The family's share of the company allowed them to appoint 50% of the board and the chairman, and thereby to retain a veto over new treatments, updated versions, and republications of her works.[43][45]

In 1993, Hicks founded the Agatha Christie Society and became its first president.[43] In 2004 her obituary in The Telegraph commented that Hicks had been "determined to remain true to her mother's vision and to protect the integrity of her creations" and disapproved of "merchandising" activities.[43] Upon Hicks' death, also at age 85 like her mother, on 28 October 2004, both this and the Greenway Estate passed to Christie's grandson, Mathew Prichard. After his parents' deaths, Prichard donated Greenway - both the house and its contents - to the National Trust.[43][46]

Christie's family and family trusts, including Prichard, continue to own the remaining 36% stake in Agatha Christie Limited,[44] and remain associated with the company. Prichard remains as the company's chairman,[44] and also in his own right holds the copyright to some of his grandmother's later literary works (including The Mousetrap).[47]

In 1998, Booker sold a number of its non-food assets to focus on its core business.[45] As part of that, its shares in Agatha Christie Limited (at the time earning £2.1m annual revenue[45]) were sold for £10m to Chorion,[45] a major international media company whose portfolio of well known authors' works also included the literary estates of Enid Blyton and Dennis Wheatley. However, in February 2012, Chorion found itself in financial difficulties some years after a Management buyout, and began to sell off their literary assets on the market,[44] selling their stake in Christie’s estate (specifically, their 64% stake in Agatha Christie Limited) to the current owner Acorn Media UK (part of RLJ Entertainment, Inc. and the RLJ Companies, owned by American entrepreneur Robert L. Johnson) during that same month.[48]

As of 2014, media reports state that the BBC had acquired the exclusive television rights to Christie's works in the UK (previously associated with ITV) and plans with Acorn's co-operation to air new productions for the 125th anniversary of Christie's birth in 2015.[49]


Works of fiction

Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple

Christie's first book The Mysterious Affair at Styles was published in 1920 and introduced the detective Hercule Poirot, who became a long-running character in many of Christie's works, appearing in 33 novels and 54 short stories.

Miss (Jane) Marple was introduced in the short stories The Thirteen Problems in 1927 and was based on Christie's grandmother and her "Ealing cronies".[50] Both Jane and Gran "always expected the worst of everyone and everything, and were, with almost frightening accuracy, usually proved right."[11]:422 Marple appeared in 12 of Christie's novels. During the Second World War, Christie wrote two novels, Curtain and Sleeping Murder, intended as the last cases of these two great detectives, Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple. Both books were sealed in a bank vault for over thirty years and were released for publication by Christie only at the end of her life, when she realised that she could not write any more novels. These publications came on the heels of the success of the film version of Murder on the Orient Express in 1974.

Christie became increasingly tired of her detective Poirot, just as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did with his character Sherlock Holmes. By the end of the 1930s, Christie wrote in her diary that she was finding Poirot "insufferable", and by the 1960s she felt that he was "an egocentric creep". However, unlike Conan Doyle, Christie resisted the temptation to kill her detective off while he was still popular. She saw herself as an entertainer whose job was to produce what the public liked, and the public liked Poirot.[51] She did marry off Poirot's companion Colonel Hastings in an attempt to trim her cast commitments.[11]:268 In contrast, Christie was fond of Miss Marple. However, the Belgian detective's titles outnumber the Marple titles more than two to one. This is largely because Christie wrote numerous Poirot novels early in her career, while The Murder at the Vicarage remained the sole Marple novel until the 1940s. Christie never wrote a novel or short story featuring both Poirot and Miss Marple. In a recording discovered and released in 2008, Christie revealed the reason for this: "Hercule Poirot, a complete egoist, would not like being taught his business or having suggestions made to him by an elderly spinster lady".[50]

Poirot is the only fictional character to date to be given an obituary in The New York Times, following the publication of Curtain. It appeared on the front page of the paper on 6 August 1975.[52]

Following the great success of Curtain, Christie gave permission for the release of Sleeping Murder sometime in 1976 but died in January 1976 before the book could be released. This may explain some of the inconsistencies compared to the rest of the Marple series — for example, Colonel Arthur Bantry, husband of Miss Marple's friend Dolly, is still alive and well in Sleeping Murder despite the fact that he is noted as having died in books published earlier. It may be that Christie simply did not have time to revise the manuscript before she died.[53]

In 2013, the Christie family gave their "full backing" to the release of a new Poirot story, The Monogram Murders, which was written by British author Sophie Hannah.[54]

Formula and plot devices

Christie's reputation as "The Queen of Crime" was built upon the large number of classic motifs that she introduced, or for which she provided the most famous example. Christie built these tropes into what is now considered classic mystery structure: a murder is committed, there are multiple suspects who are all concealing secrets, and the detective gradually uncovers these secrets over the course of the story, discovering the most shocking twists towards the end. Culprits in Christie's mysteries have included children, policemen, narrators, already deceased individuals, and sometimes comprise no known suspects (And Then There Were None) or all of the suspects (Murder on the Orient Express).

At the end, in a Christie hallmark, the detective usually gathers the surviving suspects into one room, explains the course of his deductive reasoning, and reveals the guilty party, although there are exceptions in which it is left to the guilty party to explain all (such as And Then There Were None and Endless Night, both rather nihilistic in nature).[55][56]

Christie allows some culprits to escape earthly justice for a variety of reasons, such as the passage of time (retrospective cases), in which the most important characters have already died, or by active prescription. Such cases include The Witness for the Prosecution, Murder on the Orient Express, The Man in the Brown Suit, Elephants Can Remember, and The Unexpected Guest. There are instances in which a killer is not brought to justice in the legal sense but does die as a direct result of his plot, sometimes by his own hand at the direction or with the collusion of the detective (usually Hercule Poirot). This occurs in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Death on the Nile, Dumb Witness, Crooked House, The Hollow, The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side, Cat Among the Pigeons, Peril at End House, Nemesis, Appointment with Death, The Secret Adversary, and Curtain. In the last of these (Curtain), no fewer than three culprits die during the course of the story.

In The A.B.C. Murders, the murderer has killed four innocent people and attempted to frame an unstable man for the crimes. Hercule Poirot, however, prevents this easy way out, ensuring a trial and hanging. In And Then There Were None, the killer's own death is intrinsic to the plot; the red herring is when and how the killer actually died. However, stage, film, and television productions of some of these mysteries were traditionally sanitized with the culprits not evading some form of justice, for a variety of reasons – e.g., censors, plot clarity, and Christie's own changing tastes. (When Christie adapted Witness for the Prosecution into a stage play, she lengthened the ending so that the murderer was also killed; this format was followed in film and television productions, most famously the Charles Laughton/Marlene Dietrich film.) In Death Comes as the End, set in ancient Egypt, the culprit is killed in the act before he can claim another victim by one of the few surviving characters.

In some stories, the question remains unresolved of whether formal justice will ever be delivered, such as Five Little Pigs, Endless Night, and Ordeal by Innocence. According to P. D. James, Christie often, but not always, made the unlikeliest character the guilty party. Savvy readers could sometimes identify the culprit by simply identifying the least likely suspect.[57]

Seven stories are built around words from well known children's nursery rhymes: And Then There Were None (by Ten Little Indians), One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (by One, Two, Buckle My Shoe), Five Little Pigs (by This Little Piggy), Crooked House (by There Was a Crooked Man), A Pocket Full of Rye (by Sing a Song of Sixpence), Hickory Dickory Dock (by Hickory Dickory Dock), and Three Blind Mice (by Three Blind Mice).

On an edition of Desert Island Discs in 2007, Brian Aldiss claimed that Christie had told him that she wrote her books up to the last chapter, then decided who the most unlikely suspect was, after which she would go back and make the necessary changes to "frame" that person.[58] However, John Curran's Agatha Christie: The Secret Notebooks describes different working methods for every book in Christie's bibliography, contradicting the claim by Aldiss.

Character stereotypes

Christie occasionally inserted stereotyped descriptions of characters into her work, particularly before the end of the Second World War (when such attitudes were more commonly expressed publicly), and particularly in regard to Italians, Jews, non-Europeans, and sometimes Americans, the last usually as impossibly naïve or uninformed. For example, she described "Hebraic men with hook-noses wearing rather flamboyant jewellery" in the first editions of the collection The Mysterious Mr Quin (1930), in the short story "The Soul of the Croupier"; in later editions, the passage was edited to describe "sallow men" wearing same. In The Hollow, published as late as 1946, one of the more unsympathetic characters is "a Whitechapel Jewess with dyed hair and a voice like a corncrake ... a small woman with a thick nose, henna red and a disagreeable voice". To contrast with the more stereotyped descriptions, Christie sometimes showed "foreigners" as victims or potential victims at the hands of English malefactors, such as, respectively, Olga Seminoff (Hallowe'en Party) and Katrina Reiger (in the short story "How Does Your Garden Grow?"). Jewish characters are often seen as un-English (such as Oliver Manders in Three Act Tragedy), but they are rarely the culprits.[59]

Often, she is affectionate or teasing with her prejudices. After four years of war-torn London, Christie hoped to return some day to Syria, which she described as "gentle fertile country and its simple people, who know how to laugh and how to enjoy life; who are idle and gay, and who have dignity, good manners, and a great sense of humour, and to whom death is not terrible."[11]:187

She had trouble with an incompetent Swiss French nursery helper (Marcelle) for toddler Rosalind, and as a result she decided, "Scottish preferred... good with the young. The French were hopeless disciplinarians ... Germans good and methodical, but it was not German that I really wanted Rosalind to learn. The Irish were gay but made trouble in the house; the English were of all kinds".[11]:327

Non-fiction writings

Christie published relatively few nonfiction works:

  • Come, Tell Me How You Live, about working on an archaeological dig, drawn from her life with second husband Max Mallowan.
  • The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery, a collection of correspondence from her 1922 Grand Tour of the British empire, including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
  • Agatha Christie: An Autobiography was published posthumously in 1977.

Critical reception

Agatha Christie is the world's best-selling mystery writer, often referred to as the "Queen of Crime", and considered a master of suspense, plotting, and characterisation.[60][61][62] Some critics, however, regarded Christie's plotting abilities as considerably greater than her literary ones. Novelist Raymond Chandler criticised her in his essay "The Simple Art of Murder", and American literary critic Edmund Wilson was dismissive of Christie and the detective fiction genre generally in his New Yorker essay, "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?"[63]

Interests and influences


The lure of the past came up to grab me. To see a dagger slowly appearing, with its gold glint, through the sand was romantic. The carefulness of lifting pots and objects from the soil filled me with a longing to be an archaeologist myself.


Many years ago, when I was once saying sadly to Max it was a pity I couldn't have taken up archaeology when I was a girl, so as to be more knowledgeable on the subject, he said, "Don't you realize that at this moment you know more about prehistoric pottery than any woman in England?"


Christie had a lifelong interest in archaeology. She met her second husband, Sir Max Mallowan, a distinguished archaeologist, on a trip to the excavation site at Ur in 1930. But her fame as an author far surpassed his fame in archaeology.[64] Prior to meeting Mallowan, Christie had not had any extensive brushes with archaeology, but once the two married, they made sure to only go to sites where they could work together. Christie accompanied Mallowan on countless archaeological trips, spending 3–4 months at a time in Syria and Iraq at excavation sites at Ur, Nineveh, Tell Arpachiyah, Chagar Bazar, Tell Brak, and Nimrud. She wrote novels and short stories, but also contributed work to the archaeological sites, more specifically to the archaeological restoration and labelling of ancient exhibits, including tasks such as cleaning and conserving delicate ivory pieces, reconstructing pottery, developing photos from early excavations which later led to taking photographs of the site and its findings, and taking field notes.[65]

Christie would always pay for her own board and lodging and her travel expenses so as to not influence the funding of the archaeological excavations, and she also supported excavations as an anonymous sponsor.[65]

During their time in the Middle East, there was also a large amount of time spent travelling to and from Mallowan's sites. Their extensive travelling had a strong influence on her writing, as some type of transportation often plays a part in her murderer's schemes. The large amount of travel was reused in novels such as The Murder on the Orient Express, as well as suggesting the idea of archaeology as an adventure itself.[66]

After the Second World War, she chronicled her time in Syria with fondness in "Come Tell Me How You Live". Anecdotes, memories, funny episodes are strung in a rough timeline, with more emphasis on eccentric characters and lovely scenery than on factual accuracy.[11]:1985

From 8 November 2001 to 24 March 2002, The British Museum had an exhibit named Agatha Christie and Archaeology: Mystery in Mesopotamia, which presented the life of Agatha Christie and the influences of archaeology in her life and works.[65]


Christie's life within the archaeological world shaped the settings and characters for her books, as well as the issues that she highlights. One of the stronger influences is her love of the mystical and mysterious. Many of Christie's books and short stories, set both in the Middle East and back in England, have a decidedly otherworldly influence in which religious sects, sacrifices, ceremony, and seances play a part. Such stories include "The Hound of Death" and "The Idol House of Astarte". This theme was greatly strengthened by those times which Christie spent in the Middle East, where she was consistently surrounded by the religious temples and spiritual history of the towns and cities that they were excavating during Mallowan's archaeological work.

Use of archaeology and spirituality in her writing

Many of the settings for Christie's books were directly inspired by the many archaeological field seasons spent in the Middle East on the sites managed by her husband Max. The extent of her time spent at the many locations featured in her books is apparent from the extreme detail in which she describes them. One such site featured in her work is the temple site of Abu Simbel, depicted in Death on the Nile. Also there is the great detail in which she describes life at the dig site in Murder in Mesopotamia. Among the characters in her books, Christie has often given prominence to the archaeologists and experts in Middle Eastern cultures and artifacts. Most notable are the characters of Dr. Eric Leidner in Murder in Mesopotamia and Signor Richetti in Death on the Nile, while many minor characters were archaeologists in They Came to Baghdad.

Some of Christie's best known novels with heavy archaeological influences are:

  • Murder in Mesopotamia (1936) – the most archaeologically influenced of all her novels, as it is set in the Middle East at an archaeological dig site and associated expedition house. The main characters include archaeologist Dr. Eric Leidner, his wife, multiple specialists and assistants, and the men working on the site. The novel is noted most for its careful description of the dig site and house, which showed that the author had spent much of her time in very similar situations. The characters in this book in particular are also based on archaeologists whom Christie knew from her personal experiences on excavation sites.
  • Appointment with Death (1938) – set in Jerusalem and its surrounding area. The death itself occurs at an old cave site in Petra and offers some very descriptive details of sites which Christie herself could have visited in order to write the book.
  • Death on the Nile (1937) – takes place on a tour boat on the Nile. Many archaeological sites are visited along the way and one of the main characters, Signor Richetti, is an archaeologist.
  • They Came to Baghdad (1951) – inspired by Christie's own trips to Baghdad with Mallowan, and involves an archaeologist as the heroine's love interest.

Portrayals of Christie

Christie has been portrayed on a number of occasions in film and television. Several biographical programmes have been made, such as BBC television's Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures (2004), in which she is portrayed by Olivia Williams, Anna Massey, and Bonnie Wright; and Season 3, Episode 1 of ITV Perspectives: "The Mystery of Agatha Christie" (2013), hosted by David Suchet, who plays Hercule Poirot on television.[67][68]

Christie has also been portrayed fictionally. Some of these portrayals have explored and offered accounts of Christie's disappearance in 1926, including the film Agatha (1979) (with Vanessa Redgrave, in which she sneaks away to plan revenge against her husband), and the Doctor Who episode "The Unicorn and the Wasp" (17 May 2008), with Fenella Woolgar, in which her disappearance is the result of her suffering a temporary breakdown owing to a brief psychic link being formed between her and an alien. Others, such as Hungarian film, Kojak Budapesten (1980; not to be confused with the 1986 comedy by the same name) create their own scenarios involving Christie's criminal skill.[69] In the TV play, Murder by the Book (1986), Christie herself (Dame Peggy Ashcroft) murdered one of her fictional-turned-real characters, Poirot. The heroine of Liar-Soft's visual novel Shikkoku no Sharnoth: What a Beautiful Tomorrow (2008), Mary Clarissa Christie, is based on the real-life Christie. Christie features as a character in Gaylord Larsen's Dorothy and Agatha and The London Blitz Murders by Max Allan Collins.[70][71] A fictionalized account of Christie's disappearance is the central theme of the Korean musical Agatha.[72]

See also


  1. ^ The Harrogate Hydropathic Hotel, now known as the Old Swan Hotel, on the site of an earlier Old Swan Hotel (or as the Swan Hydro) for the location on Swan Road.
  2. ^ Christie herself hinted at a nervous breakdown, saying to a woman with similar symptoms, "I think you had better be very careful; it is probably the beginning of a nervous breakdown."[12]:360


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  6. ^ websiteThe Mousetrap,; accessed 2 June 2015.
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  9. ^ "'And Then There Were None' announced as the world's favourite Christie",, 15 September 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab
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  13. ^ : DetailsThe House of Dreams,; accessed 7 August 2015.
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  32. ^ John Emsley, "The poison prescribed by Agatha Christie", The Independent, 20 July 1992
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  38. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 44600. p. 6300. 31 May 1968.
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  43. ^ a b c d e f Obituary: Rosalind Hicks,, 13 November 2004; accessed 25 January 2015.
  44. ^ a b c d Acorn Media buys stake in Agatha Christie estate, The Guardian, 29 December 2012.
  45. ^ a b c d Agatha Christie begins new chapter after £10m selloff - online version at, cited as being from the Birmingham Post & Mail, 4 June 1998.
  46. ^
  47. ^ Thompson, Laura. Agatha Christie, An English Mystery (p. 473). Headline, 2007; ISBN 978-0-7553-1487-4
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  49. ^ David Walliams heralds new era for BBC as the new home of Agatha Christie adaptations,; accessed 25 January 2015.
  50. ^ a b
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  55. ^ Mezei, Kathy. "Spinsters, Surveillance, and Speech: The Case of Miss Marple, Miss Mole, and Miss Jekyll", Journal of Modern Literature 30.2 (2007): 103–120
  56. ^ Beehler, Sharon A. "Close vs. Closed Reading: Interpreting the Clues", The English Journal 77.6 (1998): 39–43
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  64. ^ Dever 2004, p. 162.
  65. ^ a b c
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External links

  • website)Agatha Christie Limited'sOfficial Agatha Christie site (also
  • Agatha Christie at the Internet Movie Database
  • Works by Agatha Christie at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Agatha Christie at Internet Archive
  • Works by Agatha Christie at Open Library
  • Agatha Christie/Sir Max Mallowan's blue plaque at Cholsey
  • Agatha Christie profile and articles at "The Guardian"
  • Agatha Christie profile on PBS.ORG
  • Agatha Christie's style and methods, the plot devices that she uses to trick the reader
  • Agatha Christie's Profile on
  • Imperial War Museum Interview
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