Creator / Agatha Christie

Donna: Agatha, people love your books, they really do, they're gonna be reading them for years to come.
Agatha: If only! Try as I might it's hardly great literature, now that's beyond me. 'm afraid my books will be forgotten, like ephemera.

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie (15 September 1890 12 January 1976) was the Queen of English Mystery Fiction, ranked with Arthur Conan Doyle as the greatest mystery writer of all time. Her stories are elaborately plotted puzzle pieces, full of false identities and faked deaths. She enjoyed a very long career; her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was published in 1920, while her final novel, Sleeping Murder, was published posthumously in 1976. Among the best-selling authors of all timenote .

Her principal detectives were:

  • Hercule Poirot, a retired Belgian police detective turned P.I. Fastidiously neat, he pretended to be a Funny Foreigner in order to put his clients and suspects off their guard. Agatha Christie herself eventually tired of the character, but since fans enjoyed him, she continued to write Poirot stories. He appeared in 33 novels and 51 short stories.
  • Miss Jane Marple. Seemingly a fluffy old spinster, her mind was as sharp as her knitting needles; having lived in small towns her whole life, nothing about human nature ever surprised her. She appeared in 12 novels and 20 short stories.
  • Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, a husband and wife team. Their adventures were more like spy novels than straight mysteries, though they did contain elements of classic detective novels. They appeared in five books: four novels and a short story collection, Partners in Crime.

Christie also wrote 16 novels which did not feature any of her series detectives. These ranged from traditional mysteries with one-shot detectives to Thrillers which placed more emphasis on action than detection. The latter were almost universally the most poorly received of Christie's works, while one of the former, And Then There Were None, is widely regarded as one of her best, even the best. Six of her novels, which are usually classed as Romances, were written under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott.

While most of the stories are nominally set in the year of publication, in practice they all take place in the time of the Genteel Interbellum Setting. Of Christie's series detectives, only the Beresfords age in real time. Poirot and Marple both begin as elderly characters and over the course of Christie's 56-year career, age roughly 20 years at most. (This matches a line from the final Poirot novel Curtain, in which it is stated that it has been "over twenty years" since the first adventure, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which came out in 1920 and was set during World War 1.)

Christie possessed an uncanny ability to subvert the reader's expectations. Being well aware of the mystery conventions of the time, she was frequently able to subvert them for a Twist Ending. For example, Christie knew that there were certain characters, who by virtue of their role in the story, the reader would not suspect. To drive home the point that the reader should suspect everybody, she would frequently make one of these characters the murderer.

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She invented most of the above twist endings. For a list of her works, see this page.

Most of the books in the main series have been televised, and many filmed, some repeatedly. There's even an anime Crossover of Poirot and Miss Marple.

Christie works which have their own pages:

    Associated Tropes: 
  • Adjective Animal Alehouse: The titular Pale Horse in The Pale Horse.
  • Amateur Sleuth: It would be quicker to list the Christie protagonists who aren't amateurs: Hercule Poirot (a former officer of the Belgian police, turned private detective) and Superintendent Battle (a police detective).
  • Author Appeal: Christie's second husband was an archaeologist, and Christie eventually developed a strong interest in the subject herself. Not surprisingly, several of her mid-period novels reflect this interest either by taking place at an archaeological dig (Murder in Mesopotamia) or by simply having such a setting as the background (Appointment with Death). This interest eventually led Christie to actually set one novel in ancient Egypt itself (Death Comes as the End).
  • Author Filibuster: Christie novels tended to have long Start to Corpse times, something which she was occasionally criticized for. She used the first chapter of Towards Zero to respond to these criticisms by having a character deliver a lengthy speech on how a murder is the culmination of a murderer's plot rather than the instigating point, and thus should come as late in the book as possible.
  • Beneath the Mask: Inspector Huish, the investigating officer in Ordeal by Innocence is described as a sad-looking man with a perpetual air of melancholy around him. Despite this, he is said to be the life of the party and is fond of jokes.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: When a case involves the death of a wealthy and influential character, this trope is likely in play. More often than not, the victim is killed for their inheritance by financially insatiable relatives who have no love for said victim, and everyone is equally likely to be the murderer.
    • The Boyntons from An Appointment with Death is a tight-knit family dominated by the sadistic and tyrannical Mrs. Boynton. Mrs. Boynton keeps her step-children, plus her biological daughter, in a tight leash and prevents them from having much contact with the outside world, leaving them entirely dependent on her. The TV adaptation takes this even further by having Mrs. Boynton beat and physically torture the children in addition to the emotional abuse they put them through.
    • The Argyles from Ordeal by Innocence. Rachel Argyle, the matriarch, is a wealthy philanthropist who is obsessed with motherhood but because she is unable to conceive, expends most of her attention to support child care services, and, in the process, adopted five children from broken homes. Her husband, feeling unneeded because he can't satisfy her needs, began to fall for his secretary. Meanwhile, four of the five children harbours resentment towards Rachel for her interference, although two of them eventually grew out of it.
  • The Butler Did It: Several times, in different variations, both straight and skewed (for instance: the butler did it, but he wasn't really a butler).
  • Canon Welding: Christie's main detectives never crossed over, but several minor characters did, effectively tying the majority of her detective fiction into the same universe.
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster: Christie wrote her most serious and psychological works (like Five Little Pigs) in the middle of her career, in the 1940s. Her earlier and later stories, are, in general, more lighthearted.
  • Covers Always Lie: Subverted. Christie was greatly displeased with the original artwork for the cover of The Man in the Brown Suit; she felt it was both horribly done and intentionally misleading. From then on, all covers of the original editions required her final approval.
  • A Day in the Limelight: After a number of minor, supporting, and cameo roles, Superintendent Battle gets to be main detective in Towards Zero.
  • Dispense with the Pleasantries: Inverted in The Pale Horse where Mr. Bradley is shocked at Mark Easterbrook dispensing with the pleasantries.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: In Crooked House, the murderer turns out to be the ten year old girl who was going around playing detective.
  • Dogged Nice Guy:
    • Bill Eversleigh from The Secret of the Chimneys is a sweet, eager-to-please young man who is hopelessly in love with Virginia Revel, and proposes to her at every opportunity. Virginia thinks of him as nothing but a friend, and laughs off his proposals. She marries the dashing Anthony Cade by the end of the book. However, Bill finally averts this fate in the sequel, The Seven Dials Mystery, when he falls in love with Bundle Brent, and she chooses him over her other suitor, George Lomax.
    • Inverted in The Sittaford Mystery. Beautiful Emily Trefusis is engaged to James Pearson, a weak-willed young man who, while quite a nice guy, is not very reliable. Later she develops a bond with Charles Enderby, a charismatic, quick-witted journalist who proved a most useful ally when the two decided to have a crack on the case by themselves. Many of the residents of Sittaford think Charles is a much better match for Emily, but she decided to stick with her fiance, knowing that James would need her more than Charles (who is perfectly capable of taking care of himself).
  • Drives Like Crazy: Lady Eileen "Bundle" Brent from The Secret of Chimneys and The Seven Dials Mystery is an absolute road hog. People had learned to clear out of the road while she's on it, and her father refuses to go anywhere with her for fear of developing heart attack. He was not surprised when she came home one day saying that she had ran over someone, and was more inclined to disbelief when he later find out that she didn't.
  • Eagleland: As an rather old-fashioned British subject, it should be no surprise that her depictions of Americans in her works were just a little... off. In fact, you pick up early on that if one of her characters is American, Canadian or Australian, or is an British subject who spent any significant time there, that person is either a) the Asshole Victim, b) the killer or c) if not the killer, then a weak criminal type anyways. And of course, there's the case where everyone has ties to America; they all can't have done it, right?
    • However, being Agatha Christie, that didn't stop her from averting and subverting this trope. In "Sparkling Cyanide", for example, the supposed untrustworthy American character turns out to be a double-agent spy on the side of good, and he also ends up being the one to solve the mystery and prevent the murderer from striking again. The same novel has an example of a British subject masquerading as one of those 'weak criminal type' Americans. He does this in order to slip under the radar of the British detectives - and the radar of any readers too familiar with Christie's other works.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: One of the central tenets of Christie's body of work. In most of her books, it truly feels that any of the characters could be guilty. Surprisingly - and yet totally believably - subverted in Peril at End House, Poirot making the seemingly complete list of suspects and the main culprit not being there at all despite being well-known by everybody for all the time.
  • Expy:
    • After noting how much she enjoyed writing the gossipy spinster Caroline Sheppard in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Christie decided to revamp this character into someone who would become a fixture in her work — Miss Jane Marple.
    • Bobby Jones and Frankie Derwent of Why Didn't They Ask Evans? are expies of Tommy and Tuppence. The ITV productions lampshaded this by having both sets of characters played by the same two actors.
    • Author Avatar Ariadne Oliver's most popular character, Sven Hjerson, is a thinly-disguised expy of Poirot.
    • It is outright stated in Sparkling Cyanide that Inspector Kemp is basically a less competent version of Battle. Kemp used to work under the former Superintendent and has adopted many of his mannerism.
  • Fake Assisted Suicide: In Destination Unknown, a secret agent recruits a suicidal young woman, telling her that if she's decided to die, she might as well make herself useful to her country, and promising that at the end of the mission, he'll help her with it. Naturally, at the end she's found happiness with another agent and has no intention of killing herself — just as her recruiter intended.
  • Fate Drives Us Together: William Smith and Christina Grant in Murder on the Nile where he continuously courts her and at last asks to marry her. She refuses at first but it is hinted and later revealed that they do get married.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Multiple instances, described on their respective pages.
  • Genre Savvy: Take a shot every time someone compares the current situation to a mystery novel, or even rules out a possibility based on its likelihood in fiction.
  • Golf Clubbing:
    • A golf club is the murder weapon in Spider's Web.
    • Subverted in Towards Zero. It appears that Lady Tressilian was killed with a golf club, but the murder weapon was actually a modified tennis racket. This is important because it means that she was killed not by Audrey Strange, a left-handed golfer, but Nevile Strange, a right-handed tennis player using a backhand.
  • Greedy Jew: Christie often relied on the pre-War stereotypes of Jews as somehow "other" in her stories and novels, though she rarely goes into the truly offensive territory. After WW II Christie went back and edited the most offensive language out of her earlier books.
  • He Knows Too Much: The surest way for an Agatha Christie character to sign his own death warrant is by attempting to blackmail a killer. Also goes for anyone who didn't know that they knew anything significant, or who didn't know the whole story but knew something vital. Basically, if you're in an Agatha Christie novel, you'd better hope and pray that you either don't have a major part, don't find anything out, aren't confided to by anyone; or if you do find something out, you know how to keep your mouth shut. (See series and works pages for specific examples.)
  • Intrepid Reporter: Journalist Charles Enderby from The Sittaford Mystery serves as one of the novel's Amateur Sleuths and comes to visit the victim's village (the titular Sittaford) to search for clues. However, while he does manage to find some good stories throughout the investigation, he doesn't really discover anything useful to the case, which is eventually solved by his ally and fellow Amateur Sleuth Emily Trefusis.
  • Invisible Writing: Two short stories (one featuring Hercule Poirot and one Miss Marple), involve rich eccentrics writing their will in Invisible Ink, and challenging the heirs to find it.
  • King Incognito: The Secret of the Chimneys, which heavily features a European monarchy provides numerous examples of this.
    • The murder victim, Prince Michael Obolovitch, heir of the Herzoslovakian throne, had previously masqueraded as a less important noble by the name of Count Stanislaus. He had also appeared as Mr Holmes from Balderson and Hodgkins to steal an important manuscript from Anthony Cade.
    • One of the murderers is in fact the former Queen of Herzoslovakia, who had faked her death during the revolution, and lived as Miss Brun, governess to Bundle Brent's younger sisters while biding for her time to strike back.
    • There's also Prince Nicholas, Michael's missing cousin who is rumoured to have died before the events of the stories. In the book's climax, he reveals that he had spread rumours of his own death in order to relinquish his royal duties so that he could live a normal life as Anthony Cade, adventurer.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Christie's novels occasionally revealed the solutions of previous works, a habit which vexed her publishers. See the Hercule Poirot page for several examples.
    • One of the characters in The Pale Horse is one of the suspects from Cards on the Table. If you read the former first, you'll know he can't be the guilty party in the latter. Which wouldn't be such a big deal if it weren't for the fact that Cards on the Table was a subversion of Everyone Is a Suspect where four, and only four, suspects could've committed the murder (and the murderer is one of the four). If you read The Pale Horse first, then you only have three suspects.
    • In turn, Cards on the Table reveals the solution for Murder on the Orient Express (though, thankfully, not the murderer's name).
  • Love at First Sight: Many of the romantic developments in Christie's stories develop very rapidly when two people meet and is immediately consumed by passion for each other.
    • In The Man In Brown Suit, Anne rescues a young man and becomes so infatuated with him that she's willing to "walk across Africa" for his sake.
    • In The Clocks, Sheila Webb runs into Colin Lamb, and the latter immediately declares her as "his" girl.
    • Murder in the Clouds is a more subtle example. Jane Grey and Norman Gale met at the casino and is immediately attracted to one another, though they spend more time afterwards getting to know each other.
  • Love Hurts: A trope that became a favourite of Agatha's after her divorce from her first husband. When love wasn't driving a character to commit murder, it was guaranteed a broken heart from one side or the other. Only a few pairings survived amidst the body counts and broken hearts.
  • The Matchmaker: Both Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple display a tendency at times to play matchmaker in the lives of two lovers who need to be brought together during their investigations.
  • Loving a Shadow: Ordeal by Innocence has an interesting non-romantic example of this trope. Michael "Micky" Argyle resents his adoptive mother because she took him away from his real mother — whom he remembers as a nice and caring, if somewhat ill-tempered, woman — even though according to his adoptive parents, she was an abusive drunk. Micky later admits that he deliberately paints a rosy image of his real mother because he genuinely loved her and did not want to acknowledge that she doesn't love him back.
  • Murder by Mistake:
    • In Sparkling Cyanide. Victor Drake intended to poison his cousin Iris to gain control of her fortune, but Iris's brother-in-law George ended up drinking from her glass instead of his own.
    • A variation occurs in Curtain. Barbara Franklin attempts to poison her husband, Dr. Franklin, but Hastings accidentally changed the arrangement of the coffee cups by turning the table aside, causing Barbara herself to drink the poisoned coffee.
  • Name's the Same: invoked In Christie's verse, it seems that every Italian guy is named Giuseppe. One is a hotel attendant in The Secret of Chimneys, one is the head waiter of a restaurant in Sparkling Cyanide, while one serves as a butler for the Cleggs in The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side.
  • Police Are Useless: Although Christie's depictions of the police force is usually more positive than the usual examples of the trope, they never seem to be able to solve a case quickly enough without the aid of the amateur sleuths or "outsider". They also frequently arrest the wrong person, forcing the star detective(s) to act quickly before an innocent gets hanged for the crime.
  • The Resenter: In The Sittaford Mystery, it is revealed that Major Burnaby had always been jealous of his supposed best friend, Captan Trevelyan for being better than him at everything they do.
  • Revised Ending: Christie changed the endings of at least two of her novels when adapting them for the stage.
  • Revisiting the Cold Case: Ordeal By Innocence opens with a key witness arriving two-years late to present an alibi for a convicted murderer, Jack Argyle, who had since died in prison. His testimony had forced the state to grant a free pardon to Jacko, and the police must re-investigate the case to catch the real murderer.
  • Same Face, Different Name: Christie also wrote six romance novels under the name Mary Westmacott.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Between Secret of the Chimneys and Seven Dial Mysteries, lady Eileen "Bundle" Brent has grown from being "just a kid" to a very eligible young woman pursued by both George Lomax and Bill Eversleigh.
  • Shown Their Work: Christie was an expert on poisons and how they worked, and she never missed an opportunity to show this knowledge off.
  • Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism: There are a couple of times in the books when the narrative switches to a dog's point of view, with the dogs coming somewhat close to the "Intellectual Animal" point - examples include Bob from Dumb Witness and half a page from Towards Zero.
  • Something Completely Different: Death Comes as the End, a murder mystery set in Ancient Egypt.
  • Spousal Privilege: A key plot point in Witness for the Prosecution.
  • Stopped Clock: Used several times, in works featuring various detectives. More often subverted (e.g. it turns out the murderer set it up to mislead the detective about the time of death) than played straight.
  • Suicide, Not Murder: Played with in the novels, though Never Suicide ultimately wins out 99% of the time. Occasionally one of a series of deaths will turn out to be a suicide (such as in Dumb Witness), but there is always at least one genuine homicide in each full-length novel. However, in the short stories "The Market Basing Mystery" and "Murder in the Mews", as well as the stage adaptation of Appointment With Death, the alleged suicides do indeed in the end turn out to be suicides.
  • Theme Naming: Christie was fond of titling her works after nursery rhymes. Novel examples include And Then There Were None; One, Two, Buckle My Shoe; Five Little Pigs; Crooked House; Hickory Dickory Dock; and A Pocket Full of Rye. Short stories include "Sing a Song of Sixpence", "Four and Twenty Blackbirds", "How Does Your Garden Grow", and "Three Blind Mice". Note that each of the first three lines of "Sing a Song of Sixpence" has provided the title of a work.
    • And the novel Postern of Fate and the short story "The Gate of Baghdad", both of which titles came from the first quarter of the poem Gates of Damascus by James Elroy Flecker.
    • The Moving Finger, a novel about blackmail in a small English village, gets its title from Edward FitzGerald's translation of "The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám": The Moving Finger writes, and having writ/Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit/Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,/Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Aristocrats are often depicted in Christie's books as silly and self-absorbed, something which Superintendent Battle lampshades in The Secret of Chimneys. Examples of this are Sir Eustace Pedler (The Man In Brown Suit) and Lord Caterham (Secret of Chimneys & Seven Dials Mystery), who, in their respective novels, whines about how inconsiderate people are for dying in their properties and causing them a lot of trouble due to the subsequent scandals that occur. Even Bundle, who is a lot more sensible than her family, briefly expresses indignation when she finds out that the first victim of Seven Dials died in her room.
  • The Verse: Although Christie withstood public demands and never put Poirot and Marple in a story together, there was enough crossover among the lesser characters to show that they both lived in the same world. For instance,
    • A minor character, Mr. Robinson, appeared briefly with each of Poirot and Miss Marple, as well as in Passenger to Frankfurt, which featured neither of them. He also appears in Postern of Fate, with Tommy and Tuppence.
    • The Pale Horse, which does not feature Poirot or Miss Marple, does feature Mr. and Mrs. Dane Calthorp (who had appeared in Miss Marple novel The Moving Finger) along with Ariadne Oliver, who appears in several Poirot novels, and Major Despard, one of the suspects from the Poirot novel Cards on the Table. Rhoda Despard née Dawes also appears in both Cards on the Table and The Pale Horse.
    • Speaking of Ariadne Oliver, she first appeared as a supporting character to Parker Pyne, one of Christie's lesser-known detectives; as did another of Poirot's supporting cast, Miss Felicity Lemon.
    • Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard, another of Christie's lesser-known detectives (Towards Zero, etc.) is a supporting character in the Hercule Poirot novel Cards on the Table and is mentioned in at least one other Hercule Poirot novel (Hercule Poirot's Christmas); his son appears in The Clocks, another Poirot novel.
    • Colonel Race, who also appears as a supporting character in two novels with Hercule Poirot (Death on the Nile and the aforementioned Cards on the Table), but also in The Man in the Brown Suit and Sparkling Cyanide (which are not Hercule Poirot novels).
    • Another of Christie's lesser-known detectives, the elderly Mr Satterthwaite, collaborates with Poirot in the novel Three Act Tragedy and briefly appears at the start of the Poirot short story "Dead Man's Mirror," which ties the supernatural-themed Harley Quin stories into the universe.
    • The Beresfords have clearly heard of Hercule Poirot enough to make jokes about him and pretend to be him while solving a case in Partners in Crime, and in The Secret Adversary they meet someone borrowing the identity of Poirot's friend Inspector Japp.
    • Tapes of Christie found in 2008 state she deliberately did not want Poirot and Marple to ever meet. However, seeing this was a possibility for her to avoid, pretty much admits that Poirot and Marple are in the same universe together.
    • Agatha Christie herself apparently exists in her universe; an errand boy working in an apartment building in one novel (The Body in the Library) mentions having the autographs of several mystery authors, including Agatha Christie.
  • Wrong Guy First: In several of Christie's stories, two suspects begin to fall in love, only for one of them be revealed the murderer.
  • Yandere:
    • One of her most prominent example is Vera Claythorne from And Then There Were None who , while working as a governess, murdered a child in her care so that her lover can become rich and free to marry her.
    • Another good example would have to be Jacqueline de Bellefort from Death on the Nile who is the mastermind behind Linnet's murder and murdered two other witnesses who saw too much. And who still manages to be one of the most sympathetic murderers in an Agatha Christie novel.
    "She cares too much, that little one."