Agatha Christie was born in Ashfield. Agatha grew up in the town of Torquay in southwest England. She taught herself how to read at five years old even though her mother didn’t want her to do so until she was eight. She was home-schooled, which was a lot more uncommon at the turn of the 20th century than it is now. Her father was her primary teacher, but her mother was a storyteller—and gave strong encouragement for Agatha to write. Although she became a prolific writer, she claimed she really did not have much in the way of lessons other than arithmetic.
Although she did not have the social experience of public school, she studied dance and piano as a teenager. She was too shy to perform. Her first published writing happened when she was 11. It was a poem about electric trams. She was very clever at inventing ways to keep occupied. She has been quoted as saying, “There is nothing like boredom to inspire you to write.” She had written a number of short stories by the time she was 17.
In 1910, at 20, Christie spent winter months in Egypt with her mother. Her time there influenced the rest of her life. In 1914, she married Archibald Christie, who was a Lt. Colonel. Archibald returned to military service right after their marriage, and Agatha was later to say that she felt her married life really began in 1918—when her husband was stationed in London.
She began writing detective fiction while working as a nurse during World War 1. The confusion and sadness of the patients she tended affected her deeply, and her knowledge of poison and drugs is seen again and again in her novels. During quiet periods at the hospital, she started writing in response to her sister’s statement of long past that she could not write a detective story.
The author’s mother died in 1926, not long before Archibald left Agatha for another woman. He was in Spain when her mother died and seemed completely indifferent to her feelings and grief. He told her of his affair and love for Nancy Neel (an acquaintance) immediately upon returning from Spain. The couple seemed to overcome this and try to stay together. They moved to Styles. But after a few months, she left her house and disappeared after a huge fight. There was an extensive search, with some thinking she was dead and others speculating she was alive. When it was discovered she was indeed alive, there was speculation that she did it to either spite her husband or gain publicity for her latest novel. This episode of Agatha’s life is perhaps the most talked about and less known.
She later married Max Mallowan, an archeologist. They spent over a decade in Assyria, at an archeological dig. They traveled back to England at least once a year. Mallowan and Christie bought several homes and lived in several flats over the years. Their final home was a large Georgian house near Torquay, not far from Agatha’s childhood home. In 1936, Mallowan was part of an expedition which dug up seventy cuneiform tablets. The couple traveled back and forth between England and the Middle East quite extensively.
Agatha returned to serving as a nurse during World War II. Her one child, Rosalind, was named after a female hero from a Shakespeare play. Rosalind had a significant share in Agatha’s company that controlled the rights to her works.
In 1954, Christie had three plays she had written running at the same time. Her novels and her plays did so well that she had to form a company to avoid excessive taxation. Her most famous play was The Mousetrap. She said she had more fun writing plays than writing books.
Christie wrote so many novels some say she lost count. She was named a Dame of the British Empire in 1971. There is speculation that Agatha suffered from dementia in her later years even though she kept writing. Changes in the vocabulary and dialog of her later novels have been said by some to support this theory. There is an increasing preoccupation with older people in her writing, especially the novels Elephants Can Remember, and Postern of Fate.
She died in 1976. She spend much of her life avoiding the public, according to some because of the way the press found her and wrote about her when she was “hiding” after leaving her first husband—an incident she never spoke of or wrote about. She had her way and wrote her life story herself. She began writing her life story in 1950 and finished it in 1965. Her autobiography was published in 1977.
Her first novel was published in 1920, but it wasn’t until 1926 when her novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, gained recognition that her novels hit the best-selling lists. After this novel, 75 subsequent novels hit the best-seller lists in England and the United States. It featured perhaps her best-known character, Hercule Poirot. He was a Belgian detective in many of her books.
Poirot was described by the author as “a small man, muffled up to the ears of whom nothing was visible but a pink-tipped nose and the two points of an upward-curled mustache.” His detection methods spring from his ability to get people to talk and inventing fictitious backgrounds for himself in order to make this happen. This character was so popular, and some say so well written, that he is mentioned in textbooks that teach crime scene analysis.
Another character Christie used in novels was Miss Jane Marple. Like Poirot, this character has had significant impact. She is considered the source of what is termed, “The Spinster Detective.” The nice little old lady who is cunning and intelligent—who makes sense of crimes by comparing them to events in normal life.
Of her novels that were made into films, two stand out: Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile. The latter was even made into a video game. Murder on the Orient Express is perhaps her most famous piece. It has been a novel, a play, a movie, a TV movie, and a radio show.
In addition to her detective stories, Christie is the author of many poems, and some romances. Absent in the Spring, for example, was published in 1944 under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott.
Hercule Poirot Books
|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||(1920)|
|The Murder on the Links||(1923)|
|The Murder of Roger Ackroyd||(1926)|
|The Big Four||(1927)|
|The Mystery of the Blue Train||(1928)|
|Peril at End House||(1932)|
|Lord Edgware Dies||(1933)|
|Murder on the Orient Express||(1934)|
|Three Act Tragedy||(1935)|
|Death in the Clouds||(1935)|
|The A.B.C. Murders||(1936)|
|Murder in Mesopotamia||(1936)|
|Cards on the Table||(1936)|
|Death on the Nile||(1937)|
|Appointment with Death||(1938)|
|Hercule Poirot’s Christmas||(1938)|
|One, Two, Buckle My Shoe||(1940)|
|Evil Under the Sun||(1941)|
|Five Little Pigs||(1942)|
|Taken at the Flood||(1948)|
|Mrs. McGinty’s Dead||(1952)|
|After the Funeral||(1953)|
|Hickory Dickory Dock||(1955)|
|Dead Man’s Folly||(1956)|
|Cat Among the Pigeons||(1959)|
|Elephants Can Remember||(1972)|
|The Monogram Murders||(2014)|
Hercule Poirot Collections
|Murder in the Mews||(1937)|
|The Labours of Hercules||(1947)|
|Poirot’s Early Cases||(1974)|
Miss Marple Books
|The Murder at the Vicarage||(1930)|
|The Body in the Library||(1942)|
|The Moving Finger||(1942)|
|A Murder is Announced||(1950)|
|They Do It with Mirrors||(1952)|
|A Pocket Full of Rye||(1953)|
|4:50 From Paddington||(1957)|
|The Mirror Crack’d||(1962)|
|A Caribbean Mystery||(1964)|
|At Bertram’s Hotel||(1965)|
Miss Marple Collections
|The Thirteen Problems||(1932)|
|Miss Marple’s Final Cases||(1979)|
Tommy and Tuppence Books
|The Secret Adversary||(1922)|
|N or M?||(1941)|
|By the Pricking of My Thumbs||(1968)|
|Postern of Fate||(1973)|
Tommy and Tuppence Collections
|Partners in Crime||(1929)|
Superintendent Battle Books
|The Secret of Chimneys||(1925)|
|The Seven Dials Mystery||(1929)|
|Cards on the Table||(1936)|
|Murder is Easy||(1939)|
|The Man in the Brown Suit||(1924)|
|The Sittaford Mystery||(1931)|
|Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?||(1934)|
|And Then There Were None||(1939)|
|Absent in the Spring||(1944)|
|Death Comes as the End||(1944)|
|The Rose and the Yew Tree||(1948)|
|They Came to Baghdad||(1951)|
|A Daughter’s a Daughter||(1952)|
|Ordeal by Innocence||(1958)|
|The Pale Horse||(1961)|
|13 at Dinner||(1969)|
|Passenger to Frankfurt||(1970)|
|The Murder at Hazelmoor||(1984)|
Short Story Collections
|The Mysterious Mr. Quin||(1930)|
|The Hound of Death||(1933)|
|The Listerdale Mystery||(1934)|
|Parker Pyne Investigates||(1934)|
|The Regetta Mystery and Other Stories||(1939)|
|The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories||(1948)|
|Three Blind Mice and Other Stories||(1950)|
|The Under Dog and Other Stories||(1951)|
|The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding||(1960)|
|Double Sin and Other Stories||(1961)|
|Star Over Bethlehem and Other Stories||(1965)|
|The Golden Ball and Other Stories||(1974)|
|Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories||(1991)|
|The Harlequin Tea Set||(1997)|
|While the Light Lasts and Other Stories||(1997)|
|Come, Tell Me How You Live||(1946)|
|Agatha Christie: An Autobiography||(1977)|