Did you know that celebrated crime novelist Agatha Christie is the best-selling writer of all time, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare? About 80 novels and 14 short story collections to her name, AC is also known as the Queen of Crime. Her play The Mousetrap is the world’s longest running play.
It was 100 years ago, in October, that she created the popular fictional detective Hercule Poirot. To celebrate the centenary of the creation of Poirot, UK’s Royal Mail has even issued stamps choosing six of the 66 detective books. Interestingly, Christie wrote her first, The Mysterious Affair at Styles because her sister dared her to write a story.
Her books are even a part of the syllabi in many universities, including Delhi University, where the English literature undergraduates discuss the finer nuances of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. But that’s not all. Besides students, she has even influenced many crime and detective story writers.
“Agatha Christie is somewhere at the back of any crime writer’s mind when he writes. She is the gold standard when it comes to the construction of a plot and the unravelling of a mystery,” says Abheek Barua, author of City of Death.
Anita Nair, the author of the bestselling Chain of Custody, says, “I devoured Agatha Christie books while at school and there it stayed in some deep recess of my mind until I began writing the Inspector Gowda series. What I remembered of Hercule Poirot was his fondness for hot chocolate and I told myself that Gowda needed a tipple that would be quintessentially identified as his, and thus, his Old Monk Rum.”
“I think another aspect of crime writing that I perhaps did learn from her, is bringing in red herrings. But I don’t write ‘cosy crime’ as her books are described now and so there ended the extent of influence,” adds Nair, whose all-time favourite AC book is Murder on the Orient Express.
Besides the mystery element, there is more that makes Christie timeless. Celebrated writer Ambai, whose latest is A Meeting on the Andheri Overbridge which has a woman detective, observes, “ I like the way Agatha Christie looks at human frailties and complexities of relationships without anyone being a really hardened criminal.”
Author Bhaskar Chattopadhyay, author of the suspense thriller Penumbra, says, “Her writing has inspired me deeply. My favourite AC novel is The ABC Murders. It never got the recognition it deserved because most readers tend to prefer ‘adventures’ over ‘puzzles’, which is why Murder on the Orient Express or Roger Ackroyd came into the limelight. But as a puzzle, as a problem, it is the best, most baffling story I’ve ever read. A marvelous study of the human mind.”
Although, Christie is no more, her legacy is being taken forward by Sophie Hannah, who has been picked up by Agatha Christie estate to write Poirot mysteries. The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket are the books written by Hannah.