Agatha Christie: The Queen of Crime

A master of suspense, plotting, and characterisation

The inventor of 'modern' murder mysteries, Christie created the fundamental structure of every detective story in the last half-century or so: the hero, with their deductive skill and little grey cells, are those who name the murderer and their motive; the culprit is always the least-suspected of the party and the one we all subconsciously rule out at the beginning; the suspects, one of whom is alway highly-suspect, are gathered and stranded in a remote location. Another recurring theme is that many of the killers have money as their motive.

The genre of ‘detective stories’ was created by Edgar Allen Poe, but was elaborated on by Christie to result in the scenario above – a scenario that has been present in nearly all of her novels.

She is the second-bestselling author of all time (second to Shakespeare), with over 2-4 billion copies sold. A name recognised worldwide, she is not just a ‘successful author’ but a figure synonymous with the genre of crime.

Born in Torquay in 1890, she was the youngest of three in a wealthy upper-middle-class family. Although her sister Madge went to school, Christie herself was homeschooled by her parents. She particularly enjoyed arithmetic and was a voracious reader. She had no companions as a child, with both her sisters nearly a decade older than her.

Despite this, she wrote “I had a very happy childhood.”

She married Archie Christie, a member of the Royal Flying Corps, in December of 1914, having met him at a dance. Archie had already fought in the First World War after being sent to France to fight the German Forces. Christie worked as a nurse in the Town Hall Red Cross Hospital in Torquay. Archie was later reassigned to London where he rented a flat with Christie in St. John’s Wood.

Christie was a fan of detective novels herself, including the Sherlock Holmes stories, and perhaps this was what persuaded her to begin writing in this genre. After all, writing was a popular past-time for people of her class. She wrote her first detective novel, ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’, in 1916 and was published in 1920. It featured Hercule Poirot, a former Belgian police officer with an egg-shaped head.

Poirot, though popular with readers and publishers, was disliked by Christie. She seemed eager to kill off her most precious character, and she finally did so in Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case. Poor Poirot.

With at least around 50 film adaptations, TV episodes, video games and even graphic novels, her books seem to be hugely popular even in the current day. It seems only fitting, then, to have her deemed the Queen of Crime.

Zixin MIV