The Enduring Appeal of Agatha Christie
(And one author’s obsession)
Agatha Christie once said, “People should be interested in books, not their authors.” But interest in both Agatha Christie and her books has now endured for a century.
Christie published her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920. What followed were 65 additional mystery novels, 14 collections of short stories, and one hundred years of the world’s fascination with the author.
Christie has sold more than 2 billion books worldwide, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. There are Facebook groups, blogs, even an iPhone app dedicated to the author and her books.
I read my first Agatha Christie novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, decades ago and was instantly hooked. After all these years, I’m still reading (and re-reading) her books. Every summer I read one I haven’t read before and re-read one of my favorites. This summer I re-read Death on the Nile in anticipation of the new film adaptation scheduled to be released in December.
Christie and her works have influence many of the best contemporary mystery writers. Authors such as Ruth Ware and Lucy Foley readily acknowledge Christie’s influence in their own writing. And with an endless number of mystery novels written since Christie’s career, her novels firmly remain classics of the genre.
When I decided to write my own mystery story, I picked out several of my favorite Christie novels, re-read and studied them. Her stories always include twists, turns and jaw-dropping conclusions. But they also delve into common human behaviors—fear, jealousy, revenge and greed.
Fast-paced and deceptively easy to read, her novels are sometime dismissed by critics as simple, her prose criticized as flat. But I agree with Nathaniel Hawthorne who famously quipped, “Easy reading is damned hard writing.”
How can anyone read and not thoroughly enjoy an Agatha Christie novel? It’s a mystery to me.