15th of September, 2011 is the 121st birthday of Dame Agatha Christie, DBE. Arguably, one of the most famous and prolific mystery writers of all time, her contribution to the detective/mystery genre is indisputable.
Now, it is no secret that I love Agatha Christie’s works! Although Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories first got me interested in the genre of mystery, it was Agatha Christie and her creations that got me totally enamoured with the genre. So, today I will discuss some of my favourites among her creations, both characters and books, as a tribute to her.
“The worst is so often true.” – Miss Jane Marple
Miss Marple is my favourite Christie detective.
It started with A Murder is Announced (1950), my first Miss Marple mystery. Since then I have read every single Miss Marple novel and short story out there. I love how Miss Marple always assumes the worst about everyone and is always frighteningly right.
The Miss Marple short story collection, The Thirteen Problems (1932) (also known as The Tuesday Club Murders) is my all time favourite Agatha Christie book. My favourite stories from The Thirteen Problems are The Tuesday Night Club, The Idol House of Astarte, The Blood-Stained Pavement, The Blue Geranium, The Companion, The Four Suspects, A Christmas Tragedy and The Herb of Death. The Idol House of Astarte and The Blue Geranium creeps me out. I remember reading The Idol House of Astarte while riding the bus with chattering class mates and I still felt a chill go down my spine. The Blood-Stained Pavement is a predecessor to Evil Under the Sun. The usage of the language of flowers thing in The Four Suspects was very interesting.
A close second is Sleeping Murder (written in the 40’s, published in 1976). The story with its themes of suspicion and jealousy and tacit hints of something even more forbidden feels ahead of its time. The atmosphere of the home where it all takes place is creepy to say the least.
“I do not approve of murder.” – Hercule Poirot
Hercule Poirot is perhaps Christie’s best known detective. I love his little idiosyncrasies and the way he sometimes pretends to be more ‘foreign’ than he actually is.
My first Hercule Poirot was Lord Edgware Dies (1933).
My all time favourite Poirot mystery is Cards on the Table (1936). I love this book because this has Mrs. Oliver joining forces with Poirot for the first time and Colonel Race & Superintendent Battle, two minor Christie detectives, come together with Poirot for the first and the last time. The impossible setting of the murder also is another major reason I love the book.
“You believe in a life after death, do you not? And who are you to say that the same wishes, the same desires, may not operate in that other life? If the desire is strong enough – a messenger may be found.” – Harley Quin
A strange mixture of mystery and supernatural, Mr. Harley Quin, is perhaps the most unusual of Christie’s creations.
Even though in her autobiography Agatha Christie mentioned that Mr. Quin and his friend Mr. Satterthwaite were her favourite creations she wrote only 14 short stories featuring Mr. Quin. 12 of those were collected in the book The Mysterious Mr.Quin. As a collection of short stories, The Mysterious Mr.Quin is exceptional. The plots of the stories are quite nondescript at times but the presence of Mr. Quin makes reading The Mysterious Mr.Quin worth while.
“Are you happy? If not, consult Mr. Parker Pyne.” – Parker Pyne
I believe Parker Pyne has been extremely neglected by every one. I really like his stories because they have a certain warmth to them.
There are a total of 14 Parker Pyne stories of which I loved The House at Shiraz (1933) and Death on the Nile (1933) (a short story, not the Hercule Poirot novel of the same name) from the collection Parker Pyne Investigates (1934) the best. Interestingly, Hercule Poirot’s secretary Miss Lemon started out as Mr. Pyne’s secretary. Poirot’s friend Mrs. Oliver also makes an appearance in one of the Parker Pyne stories. A nice link between the two detective’s worlds.
“Who was whistling Three Blind Mice?” – Sergeant Trotter, The Mousetrap
I love reading plays in general. Among Agatha Christie’s plays my favourites are And Then There Were None (1943), Appointment with Death (1945), The Hollow (1951) and of course the legendary The Mousetrap (1952). Interestingly, all of these plays feature people who are trapped somehow. And Then There Were None, The Hollow and The Mousetrap both have a group of unlikely characters stuck unwittingly in an isolated house while Appointment with Death features a family suffocated by their menacing family matriarch.
Finally, I would like to wish Agatha Christie a very Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday Ms Christie! Thank you for making me happy and comforting me with your wonderful cosy mysteries when I need it the most!