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Creator / Agatha Christie

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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. I'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 I.)

Personality-wise, she was extremely introverted and secretive, sometimes probably even drawing amusement from it. It is really indicative of her character that at the end of her play The Mousetrap, the viewers are specifically asked not to spoil the ending to outsiders — 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. For example:

    Twist endings used in Christie's works 
  • The way too obvious suspect (who therefore of course won't turn out to be the real killer, now will they?invoked) really was the killer after all.
  • Everyone was guilty.
  • The narrator was guilty.
  • One of the sleuths (including the main detective!) investigating the mystery was guilty.
    • The guilty party was impersonating the detective.
  • One of the murder victims was guilty.
  • The murders looked like the work of an Ax-Crazy killer, but the murderer was not crazy.
  • The initial victim was a distraction, and the major intended victim was one of those killed later.
  • The murder was just a ploy to accuse someone other of it and get them hanged.
    • The murder was a suicide, arranged by the victim to look like a murder and thus posthumously condemn their enemy.
      • The murder was a suicide with no ulterior motives, but someone else decided to frame another person for it to send them to the gallows.
  • There was no murderer at all.
  • One of the victims was chosen randomly, despite the murderer being completely sane.
    • The nurderer didn't choose his victim at all.
  • The seemingly accidental victim was in fact the real target, and the apparently intended target was the murderer.
  • The murder took place in the narrator's head only.
  • The murderer was a child.
  • The Secret Circle of Secrets are the good guys.

Note that Christie invented most of the above twist endings.

For a summarized list of Christie works, including novels, short stories, and stage plays, see this page. Most of the books in the main series have been televised, many filmed, some repeatedly. There's even an anime Crossover of Poirot and Miss Marple.

    Works by Agatha Christie which have their own pages 

Other works by Agatha Christie include examples of:

  • 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). Her work on digs ended up making her an expert on Mesopotamian pottery - reportedly, she once asked an archaeologist friend who the greatest authority on a particular kind of pottery was, as she wanted to consult them, only to be told it was her.
  • 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 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.
  • Blackmail Backfire: One of Agatha Christie's unspoken rules is that any person trying to blackmail a murderer will be dead before the story ends. If the blackmailer is still alive by the end, it means that the person they blackmailed was not a murderer to begin with.
  • 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.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • In one Poirot novel, a girl mentions having autographs from several crime writers, including Agatha Christie.
    • Earlier, in Partners In Crime, Tommy and Tuppence solve murders in the style of other literary detectives...such as Hercule Poirot. Possibly an aversion, as Poirot is meant to be a celebrity in the Christieverse.
  • 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.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: The Pale Horse has a Double-Meaning Title. Most obviously, "The Pale Horse" is the name of an old inn that is central to the plot. But, also, it is an allusion to the Book of Revelation: "I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death." In the book, three old women claim to be able to kill people using magic, and they have the body count to back up their claim.
  • Covers Always Lie: Defied. 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.
  • Dirty Cop: Generally averted. In Christie's verse, police are almost always honest and diligent, if often inefficient and prejudiced. And that concerns police everywhere, not only in Good Old England: in one of the short stories Poirot scoffs at an Englishman who thought he could bribe Czechoslovakian police to conceal a murder.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • The play The Unexpected Guest also includes this with the titular guest trying to shift blame in the murder of Richard Warwick to the father of a little boy that Warwick ran over two years before. It's never truly revealed how it happened, only that Warwick is completely unrepetant about the matter, his caretaker did a damn good job keeping him out of jail over it, and that the father was found to be dead not long after the event.
  • 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.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: Naturally, it occurs to some extent in quite a few works, but the most prominent examples are probably The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Unexpected Guest and Endless Night.
  • 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 mannerisms.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: She was one of the most successful worldwide practitioners of this, although her early novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd sparked a major controversy over its fairness. It was accused of not being fair as the narrator, who for this novel only replaced Hastings as The Watson, turns out to be the killer. It's now generally considered to be extremely fair, as the narrator never lies to the reader about his motivations or actions, but simply leaves his actions at the time of the killing undescribed in a way that is glaring at a second reading but easy to pass over the first time.
  • Fat Bastard: Countess Charlotte von Waldsausen, one of the leaders of the neo-Nazi movement in Passenger to Frankfurt, is morbidly obese.
  • 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. And then hope you have a strong liver.
  • Golf Clubbing: A golf club is the murder weapon in Spider's Web. Subverted in Towards Zero.
  • 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 truly offensive territory. After World War II Christie went back and edited the most offensive language out of her earlier books; she did, however, sometimes leave in a character's anti-Semitism as a hint that we're not supposed to like him.
  • 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.)
  • Heroic Russian Émigré: Agatha had quite conservative political views, typical for her epoch: she disliked Bolshevism and tended to portray post-1917 Russian émigrés in a generally sympathetic light, though also recognizing that the chaotic situation often gave life to spurious claims to non-existent nobility status by various impersonators. Examples of the émigrés include "Countess" Vera Rossakoff, Hercule Poirot's only acknowledged love interest, and Princess Natalia Dragomiroff from Murder on the Orient Express who was a Vigilante seeking to avenge the murder of a child, and was acquitted by Poirot.
  • 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 play with Everyone Is a Suspect where the total number of , 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.
  • 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 the Brown Suit, Anne rescues a young man and becomes so infatuated with him that she's willing to "walk across Africa" for his sake.
  • 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.
  • Market-Based Title: Many of her books received new titles for the US market. All are now published under the UK titles with the exception of And Then There Were None, which has also become the official title in the UK - the previous title of Ten Little Indiansnote  no longer being socially acceptable (for obvious reasons).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The unnamed French Marshal in Passenger to Frankfurt is a clear reference to Charles de Gaulle.
  • Pair the Spares: When Poirot or Miss Marple aren't actively playing matchmaker, there's still a good chance of a romantic pairing in the background.
    • Special attention goes to Appointment with Death. During the main story, of the four Boynton children, Lennox is married to Nadine (who is deciding whether or not to leave him for Jefferson Cope), Raymond is in love with Sarah King, and neither Carol nor Ginevra has a romantic plot. In the epilogue, all four are married: Nadine chooses to stay with Lennox, Raymond marries Sarah, Carol marries Jefferson Cope, and Ginevra marries Dr. Gerard.
  • Plucky Girl: Anne Beddingfield, the heroine of The Man in the Brown Suit, who decides on the spur of the moment to throw herself into an adventure involving murders, stolen diamonds, lost heirs and a criminal mastermind.
  • 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.
  • Revised Ending: Christie changed the endings of at least two of her novels when adapting them for the stage.
  • 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.
  • Spousal Privilege: A plot point in Witness for the Prosecution.
  • Stock Foreign Name: 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. Averted in Murder on the Orient Express, which makes a one-line reference to a Wagon-Lits waiter named Pietro.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Wrong Guy First: In several of Christie's stories, two suspects begin to fall in love, only for one of them to be revealed as the murderer.
    • A very odd example is in Taken at the Flood, probably because of Values Dissonance. After a fling with undoubtedly evil Wrong Guy, a heroine decides to stay with her fiance. Which would be perfectly fine, if not for the fact that the said fiance had tried to kill her just a few hours earlier.


Example of: