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April 5, 2014

All at once, the world’s best-selling author is everywhere!

I’ve been asked many times to choose the mystery I’d take with me to a desert island, if I could take only one.  It’s a no-brainer for me, something I don’t even have to think about.  It’s And Then There Were None, a.k.a. Ten Little Indians, by Agatha Christie.  To my mind, it’s her most perfect puzzle, illustrating mastery with every re-reading.

Three times during this last week I’ve been reminded that although Mrs. Christie has been dead for more than thirty-five years, there is no decrease in her popularity or in her name recognition.

The first was a quote in the Boston Globe late last month, when a blizzard dropped nearly a foot of snow on various towns on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  In a sidebar to an article noting people’s reactions to the storm, a woman at a Cape resort said, “It’s like being in an Agatha Christie novel, that feeling of being cut off from society.”  So nearly four decades after her death, Agatha Christie’s novel still is referred to when the idea of complete isolation comes to someone’s mind.

Second was a documentary on PBS television last week about Mrs. Christie, outlining her childhood, her marriage to Archibald Christie, their separation, her mysterious disappearance for ten days (still not completely explained), her divorce, her marriage to Sir Max Mallowan, and the films and multiple television series featuring her creations Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple.

And third was the daily Kindle deal of March 30, featuring three of her novels.  Really, can there be more proof of this author’s longevity? 

Mrs. Christie was an original member of the Detection Club, a group formed in London in 1930 to promote detective literature and to persuade authors to “play fair” with the readers by not holding back any information that would help them solve the mystery.  While I assume that all the members were well-known at the time of the club’s founding, only a few names still resonate with dedicated mystery fans–Dorothy L. Sayers and G. K. Chesterton, most notably.

But how many readers today can recognize these writers or have read their books–Arthur Morrison (Martin Hewitt, detective), John Rhode (Dr. Priestley, scientist), Jessie Rickard (various detectives)?  Their books, along with those of many of their literary colleagues, may possibly be found far back in library stacks, but certainly they are not available at airport bookstores.  Over two billion of Mrs. Christie’s books have been sold, according to the PBS program.  Only the Bible has sold more copies.

I’m constantly pushing friends to read Agatha Christie’s books.  Sometimes a response is that they don’t read “old mysteries,” that if a book doesn’t feature cell phones and GPS devices, they’re not interested.  But I maintain that a true devotee of the genre has to read the very best, and that best was written by the Queen of Mystery.  Take it from me.






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