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Remembering Agatha Christie through her characters as she turns 126

books Updated: Sep 15, 2016 18:56 IST
Sneha Bengani
Sneha Bengani
Hindustan Times
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Also known as Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller, she was born in Torquay, Devon, South West England.(Facebook/Agatha Christie)

For all her voluminous writing, Agatha Christie never planned her stories or their characters. Much like her life, inspiration for the English litterateur’s plots and people came from sources varied and obscure.

Take for instance her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and her celebrated detective Hercule Poirot.

Published in 1920, the book was inspired by an unsolved murder case at Savoy Hotel in Mussoorie, then a part of the British Empire. It was an English spinster’s body found in mysterious circumstances in India that conceived Poirot, a man now known worldwide for “his little grey cells”.

It is the unpredictability of Christie’s stories that make them distinct — the reason why she is still loved immensely and has stayed with readers after over a century.

One cannot commemorate Christie without talking about Poirot, Miss Marple and Tommy & Tuppence, the detectives who make her stories what they are.

As an infant, she was home schooled, mostly by her father and her mother didn’t want her learn the alphabet until she was much older but Chirstie taught herself to read by the time she turned 5. (Facebook/Agatha Christie)

Born on September 15, 1890, Christie’s detective novels and short-story collections have sold over 2 billion copies worldwide, next only to the Bible and the works of Shakespeare. She died in 1976, aged 85.

On her 126th birth anniversary, we remember the Queen of Crime through her timeless characters.

Hercule Poirot

Though she wrote prolifically all through her life, Christie is best known for her 66 detective novels, 14 short-story collections and the world’s longest-running play – The Mousetrap. (Facebook/Agatha Christie)

A product of World War 1, Poirot is easily one of the most-loved detectives. Had he been set in the present times, he would have been revered almost religiously for his narcissism, shrewd brilliance and obsessive perfectionism. Featuring in 33 novels and 54 short stories by Christie, he makes you believe that he may be, as he likes to say, “the greatest mind in Europe.”

Poirot is Christie’s first detective and also the one that has stayed with her readers the longest. A Chirstie story doesn’t feel quite right without the Belgian detective with his inimitable waxed moustache and a tendency to have the last word.

Miss Marple

Christie’s first detective story was the result of a challenge she was given by her sister. (Facebook/Agatha Christie)

If someone’s looks could ever deceive, it would be Miss Marple’s. A woman from a small village, who could blend with the furniture like she belonged there, she was Christie’s trump card: An unacknowledged “elderly spinster” with a love for the mundane chores exclusive to women, but possessing brilliance unparalleled.

Chistie, who loosely based Marple on her grandmother, never expected her to be as much of a hit among the readers as Poirot but the unassuming amateur detective captured the public’s imagination with her affinity for the truth and natural genius ever since she was first introduced in The Murder at the Vicarage in 1930.

Tommy & Tuppence

Christie was immensely fond of cooking, interior decorating, collecting papier mache furniture and doing flower arrangements. (Facebook/Agatha Christie)

The most fun detectives from the Christie brand that instantly draw you to themselves with their eager willingness to do anything, go anywhere and refuse “no unreasonable offer”.

They are the only detectives in the Christie world whose private lives develop with their professional episodes through the four novels and a collection of short stories in which they feature. A strong contrast to each other (charismatic Tuppence, nondescript Tommy), the two gave Christie much joy, who is said to have loved writing their stories the most. We understand, for it is not easy to not like the ‘Young Adventurers.’

The author tweets @sneha_bengani