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Sep 16

Agatha Christie's 126th Birthday!

Posted on September 16, 2016 at 1:47 PM by Lindsey Kult

Agatha Christie 
              Yesterday, September 15th, was Agatha Christie’s birthday! She was born 126 years ago and to this day is known as one of the most influential murder mystery authors - case in point, she’s known as the Queen of Mystery. From 1920 until 1976, Christie wrote 66 murder mystery novels, but preferred her mysteries to be bloodless and gore free.

The victims in her novels were often poisoned and those that were more violently murdered always were found dead – the act was rarely described. Not everyone enjoyed her characters; in 1990 the crime writer Ruth Rendell stated that calling Christie’s characters “card-board cut outs [would be] an insult to cardboard.” Her characters tended to be less vicious than modern day murder mystery characters. She did not create characters that were driven to kill their victims because of a childhood trauma. Rather, the murderers killed based on a classic motive – be it love, revenge, money, or protecting themselves from someone who knew too much. Her wit shone through her characters, such as the bluntness of Hercule Poirot. In addition to the dry wit of her characters, her works are considered classics for another very important reason: she stayed away from political and social issues. It allows the reader to be engulfed in the story without needing to understand the controversies of time. Her books are appropriate for a range of ages: the journalist Priscilla Frank read her first Christie novel in 4th grade for her class. Frank describes Christie’s novels as a “G-rated indulgence that will deliver spine tingles and goosebumps but no stomach-churning nausea.” They remain a treat for anyone who enjoys a laid back mystery book that keeps you guessing!

At the Howard Miller Public Library we carry more than 50 of her works.

For a list of Christie’s novels see this link:
http://agatha-christie-cms-production.s3.amazonaws.com/archive/pdfs/christie-reading-list.pdf

For more information on Agatha Christie’s writing here is Frank’s article:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/agatha-christie-women-murder-mystery_us_57d97e9ae4b0aa4b722dc702

Here is a list of her top ten books with a description: (Written by John Curran for the Guardian on September 16, 2009) 

1. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)

Hercule Poirot has retired to the village of King's Abbot to cultivate marrows. But when wealthy Roger Ackroyd is found stabbed in his study, he agrees to investigate. A typical village murder mystery; or so it seems until the last chapter with its stunning revelation. This title would still be discussed today even if Christie had never written another book. An unmissable, and still controversial, milestone of detective fiction.

2. Peril at End House (1932)

The impoverished owner of End House hosts a party where fireworks camouflage the shot that kills her cousin. Which of the other guests is a murderer? Perfectly paced, with subtle and ingenious clueing, and an unexpected but totally logical solution. Of its type, perfection; this is how the classic detective story should be written.

3. Murder on the Orient Express (1934)

The glamorous Orient Express stops during the night, blocked by snowdrifts. Next morning the mysterious Mr. Ratchett is found stabbed in his compartment and untrodden snow shows that the killer is still on board. This glamorous era of train travel provides Poirot with an international cast of suspects and one of his biggest challenges. Predicated on an inspired gimmick, this is one of the great surprise endings in the genre.

4. The ABC Murders (1935)

Despite advance warnings, Poirot is unable to prevent the murders of Alice Ascher, Betty Barnard and Carmichael Clarke. Can he stop the ABC Killer before he reaches D? One of the earliest examples of the "serial killer" novel this classic Christie is based on a beautifully simple premise. But how many readers are as clever as Poirot?

5. And Then There Were None (1939)

Ten people are invited to an island for the weekend. Although they all harbour a secret, they remain unsuspecting until they begin to die, one by one, until eventually … there are none. Panic ensues when the diminishing group realises that one of their own number is the killer. A perfect combination of thriller and detective story, this much-copied plot is Christie's greatest technical achievement.

6. Five Little Pigs (1943)

Sixteen years ago, Caroline Crale died in prison while serving a life sentence for poisoning her husband. Her daughter asks Poirot to investigate a possible miscarriage of justice and he approaches the other five suspects. This sublime novel is a subtle and ingenious detective story, an elegiac love story and a masterful example of storytelling technique, with five separate accounts of one devastating event. Christie's greatest achievement.

7. Crooked House (1949)

The Leonides family all live together in a not-so-little crooked house. But which of them poisoned the patriarch, Aristides? Murder in the extended family always provided fertile ground for Christie, and this was one of her own favourites. Another example of a sinister reinterpretation of a nursery rhyme with an ending that her publishers initially considered too shocking, even for Agatha Christie.

8. A Murder is Announced (1950)

In the village of Chipping Cleghorn, a murder is announced in the local paper's small ads. As Miss Blacklock's friends gather for what they fondly imagine will be a parlour game, an elaborate murder plot is set in motion. This was Christie's 50th title and remains Miss Marple's finest hour. Notable also for its setting in post-war Britain (a factor vital to the plot) this is arguably the last of the ingeniously clued and perfectly paced Christies.

9. Endless Night (1967)

Working-class Michael Rogers tells the story of his meeting and marrying Ellie, a fantastically rich American heiress. As they settle in their dream house in the country, it becomes clear that not everyone is happy for them. A very atypical Christie, this tale of menacing suspense builds to a horrific climax and shows that even after 45 years she had not lost the power to confound her readers. The best novel from her last 20 years.

10. Curtain: Poirot's Last Case (1975, but written during the second world war)

An old and frail Poirot returns to the scene of his first case, the country house Styles, now a guest-house. He summons his friend Hastings to help identify the killer he suspects is a fellow-guest. Christie uses every trick in the book to produce a unforgettable, yet poignant, swan song for the little Belgian. This novel was written during the Blitz and stored in a safe to be published after Christie's own death. It was actually published in October 1975 (Christie died in January 1976) and Poirot received a front-page obituary in the New York Times. In a lifetime of literary tours-de-force, this is the biggest shock of all.

Here is a link to the article mentioned above: 
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/sep/15/top-10-agatha-christie-novels