The Mystery and Talent of Novelist Agatha Christie

by on November 6th, 2014
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The rain may pound through dark gray clouds against your window, but it can’t reach you. Indoors and all wrapped up in a soft, snuggly blanket, you have a cup of blackberry tea and a gripping mystery book in your hands. With billions of her books sold, the chances are pretty good that your “tea cozy” mystery was written by Dame Agatha Christie.

Born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller in 1890’s England, she lived with brother Louis, sister Margaret (Madge), an American father and British mother. Agatha met Archie Christie in 1912 and the pair married, welcoming into their marriage a daughter named Rosalind. Agatha later divorced Archie and married archaeologist Max Mallowan, whom she stayed with until her death in 1976.

This world-renowned novelist learned to sing and play the piano when young. She had the talent to succeed musically, but could not overcome her shyness to perform in front of others. During World War I she joined other young ladies to serve as a volunteer nurse, and then trained as a pharmacy dispenser ( Undoubtedly the variety of training she had as a child and young adult strengthened the ability to write her mysteries in captivating detail. This was especially evident when it came to her medical background, which included her vast in-depth knowledge of poisons. She also incorporated archaeology facts and scenarios, learned as an adult, into many of her novels.

After a challenge from her sister Madge, Agatha began to write. Her first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles was written in 1917 but turned down 6 times before being published in America in 1920. Agatha moved forward in her new profession and went on to pen over 100 literary works in her lifetime. As she continued building her library of published works, she quickly became regarded by her audience and her colleagues as a master of suspense and plot. Her stories involve the reader directly; each step of the way the reader is shown every clue, thus giving them a fair chance to solve the crime before the detective does.

Her supreme characterization captured audiences even more than her plots or suspenseful weavings. Her well-known detectives include Miss Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot. She painted her characters so vividly that the reader knew them as surely as if they lived next door. In fact, when Poirot’s final detective case was written by Mrs. Christie, the New York Times posted an obituary for him. This is the only obituary for a fictional character that the prolific newspaper has ever posted.

The author did have her share of mental difficulties to overcome. In addition to her lifetime of shyness, she was prone to depression. Shortly after her mother died in 1926, Agatha disappeared for 11 days, starting a manhunt filled with drama the world over. She was found safe and well, and began to attend psychological therapy shortly thereafter. Her precarious self-esteem continued into her later years. In 1962 an usher stopped her from going in to her own press conference for her long running play “Mousetrap”. She was unable to speak up and use her clout to get in. She later lamented that sometimes she felt she was just “pretending to be an author” (Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures, Richard Curson Smith/BBC, 2004).

In the collective hearts of the world, however, Agatha remains in high regard. She received the honor of Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1971; the British female equivalent of knighthood. According to, billions of Dame Christie’s books have been published, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. She also holds the Guinness World Record for most translated author. To this day her mysteries are still sought after as a terrific rainy day read.

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