yesterday it was announced that hercule poirot was coming back for the first time in almost 40 years. sophie hannah is the author who is taking up the prestigious (and somewhat daunting) role of writing a new adventure for agatha christie’s belgian detective.
i’m a HUGE agatha christie fan. i don’t use upper case on this blog so for me to write that in all caps tells you just how much of a HUGE fan i really am. when i was volunteering at adelaide city library, i noticed lots of her novels coming in and out on the pick list and decided to give a couple a try (pick lists are usually the reserve lists that librarians go through daily to find and put aside items that patrons have specifically reserved). they are completely addictive. it’s easy for the doubters and the high brow dan brown fans out there to pooh pooh her novels, but when you start to really get in to them, you notice a few things that other, supposedly more refined or revered authors might not consider. here’s a quick field guide to agatha christie (possible spoilers):
- she’s a shakespeare fan. and not just any old shakespeare: she’s got a bit of an obsession with powerful women and betrayal. i.e: she’s a macbeth fan. if you look closely, you’ll find lots of references to women washing the blood out of hands, or apparitions of enemies… or just plain straight out mentions of macbeth. if there’s a shakespeare link, keep an eye on the female characters…
- she’s a bit of a romantic softie. it doesn’t always happen, but in many novels there’s a pretty obvious pairing that may or may not be requited (due to one or both possibly being killers). if it’s possible, she’ll hook them up. hercule poirot is a nosey old matchmaker too. awwwwww……
- she’s a little bit racist. and sexist. there’s nothing like discussing how a person of a certain race is more inclined to be lazy, or dumb; or a slap to a woman’s face to make her wake up to herself that will remind you that we don’t live in agatha’s era anymore. admittedly in some novels it’s hard to concentrate through the stereotypes….
- if you think you know who did it in the first four chapters, you’re probably wrong. she doesn’t give you clues. there is no innuendo. most of her books are written from an observer’s point of view, not that of her main detective characters (i.e. it’s never marple or poirot narrating). when captain hastings is involved, you’re going to get his interpretation of the story and no one else’s. which means you’re NOT going to get any clues that captain hastings hasn’t noticed himself. which means you’re not going to get any clues, because captain hastings is a bit hopeless at noticing the obvious clues….
- there may or may not be a few unreliable narrators. that’s all i’m saying on that matter.
all in all, christie wrote over 90 detective novels in her time. her play ‘the mouse trap’ has the record as being the longest running continuous production in history, playing over 25,000 performances since it’s inception in 1952. she has inspired countless mystery novels, television series, detective characters and fancy moustaches, and she’s third only to the bible and shakespeare (don’t tell me it’s just a coincidence) as the most published works in the world. in short, she is one of the most influencial, and possibly underestimated novelists of all time. next time i’m in the uk, an agatha christie tour of devon is definitely on the cards.
katie’s Agatha Christie Short Facts
favourite AC novel: ‘and then there were none. ‘creepiest by far: i kept the light on the night i finished it. other greats are ‘the murder of roger ackroyd’ ‘a pocket full of rye’, ‘a murder is announced’ and ‘why didn’t they ask evans?’.
best AC website: http://www.agathachristie.com
poirot or marple? I’m a sucker for marple personally, but some of her books outside the two main detectives are actually the most enjoyable!
favourite thing about AC: the novels offer an insight into a particular era, the mannerisms of the people, and the expectations of the times portrayed. i had no idea that once upon a time people ‘called on one another’ with a business card declaring their name and phone number. totally unheard of today! AC loves to compare people of different eras (especially women), from victorian times (marple is an old fashioned lady) right up to the 1970s.