“The whole point of a good detective story was that it must be somebody obvious but at the same time, for some reason, you would then find that it was not obvious, that he could not possibly have done it. Though really, of course, he had done it.”
- Agatha’s Autobiography
Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976) is the best-selling novelist of all time, creating memorable characters, such as Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. A childhood illness left her bed-bound and sparked her interest in writing. By her mid-teens, Christie had a few pieces published in local papers and The Poetry Review. Her success spiralled and her work became a cornerstone of what we now understand as detective fiction.
“Plots come to me at such odd moments, when I am walking along the street, or examining a hat shop… suddenly a splendid idea comes into my head.”
With a constant supply of notebooks to hand, Christie would jot down, in meticulously detail, every clue, character, and plot. As the quote above evidences, there’s an impulsive aspect to plot formation, in that they can occur in the most ‘odd’ places. Most of us, nowadays, have the option to stop where we are and to jot that idea into the ‘Notes’ section on our phones.
It wasn’t just the Christie's mysterious narratives that intrigued her audiences, though. In 1926, Christie disappeared for 11 days, an event that her autobiography makes no reference too. After an argument with her husband of the time, Christie disappeared from her home. The following day, her car was found with her clothes and driving license inside. The media and public alike worked hard to spread the word of her disappearance and many volunteers gave their time to help in the search for their beloved mystery writer. Conan Doyle, who will feature in the next blog, also gave a spiritual medium one of Christie’s gloves to help find her. Then Christie was located at a hotel in Yorkshire, registered under the name Mrs. Tressa Neele (the surname of her husband’s mistress), supposedly from South Africa. Christie left the following day where she stayed with her sister at Abney Hall, Cheadle. Doctor’s claimed that Christie has suffered "an unquestionable genuine loss of memory.” More recently, there have been further examinations of the incident and many agree that Christie could have been suffering from a dissociative episode.
For her fans, there are still questions around the enigmatic life of Agatha Christie, and if in fact, she brought one of her mystery stories to life.