Credited with the creation of detective characters that are extravagantly unique and sharp, Agatha Christie is popularly called The Queen of Crime. Her works collectively have the third highest selling number after the Bible and Shakespeare’s works. They include a long list of novels and short stories that she penned under different names. While she specialised in detective stories as she published 66 novels and 14 short story collections under her own name, she ventured into the romance genre under the pseudonym of Mary Westmacott, and published six such novels.
Agatha Christie is responsible for creating some of the finest, most loved detectives of all time like Miss Marple, Tommy and Tuppence, Parker Pyne, and Hercule Poirot. Hercule Poirot remains Agatha Christie’s most famous creation. The Belgian detective with an egg-shaped head was a public favourite. Christie eventually got tired of him and wanted to bump him, but she kept him alive for the public. Poirot’s death in the 1975 novel, Curtain, resulted in him getting an obituary on the front page of The New York Times. Agatha Christie did have a favourite character, though, with Miss Marple taking the prized position.
Agatha Christie’s first short story was The House of Beauty which later became The House of Dreams. Other short stories soon followed, with Christie taking a short detour into the paranormal. But as writing detective stories was almost second nature to the Queen of Crime, she began her travails and her bibliography includes the 14 short story collections with a total of 153 short stories.
One can read Agatha Christie’s stories with an ease that comes with excellence. With her different characters coming in different murder mysteries, you might think that every story, when compared with the others, will be like chalk and cheese. And they are. The plot of every story is always as different from the others as is possible, aside from the character traits that the detectives bring into the story.
The process of solving the mystery is the only thing that remains constant. People are assembled (in different situations), a murder happens – which is expected – and the detective is called in, he/she/they talk(s) to all the suspects, and in the end, they reveal the murderer in a gathering. The detective then goes on to reveal the motive and the method used to orchestrate the murder. Christie made sure that all her works, including her short stories, followed this format. She also spun the stories in a way that made it a puzzle for readers, ensuring a thrill at the end as the readers discover the culprit. This ensured that Agatha Christie slowly and surely transformed into a worldwide cult, gathering more and more fans as days passed.
This phenomenon called Agatha Christie produced 14 short story collections including Poirot Investigates (Hercule Poirot), Partners in Crime (Tommy and Tuppence), The Mysterious Mr. Quin (Harley Quin), Parker Pyne Investigates (Parker Pyne), and The Labours of Hercules (Hercule Poirot).
In 2010, Harper Collins published a book on Agatha Christie’s formulae to bringing a story to life, showing her experiments with different character combination. Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making by John Curran, describes a variety of notebooks that the author used to scribble down characters, experiment with the combinations of characters and their psychologies, and then zero in on the recipe for the book that suits best.
Christie’s stories have always been famous for taking crime fiction to another level altogether – rather, being one of the first to introduce such brilliant portrayal of crime thrillers.
There is no doubt that her epithet of the Queen of Crime is quite safe. Nobody will come close to touching it for a long, long time.