Agatha Christie

Of the four Golden Age Queens of Crime (with Allingham, Marsh and Sayers), Christie was the most prolific and has remained the most popular. One of her many plays, The Mousetrap, has run in the West End for more than 40 years, and film and TV versions of her novels still proliferate. Beginning in 1920, Christie soon perfected the puzzle novel, in which the writer challenges the reader to solve an intricate crime before the fictional detective does.

With extraordinary fertility and ingenuity she rang endless changes on this formula during her best period (1926-45), usually using closed-word settings (a train in Murder on the Orient Express, a boat in Death on the Nile). Her originality first struck home in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), featuring her most celebrated detective, Hercule Poirot, the engagingly eccentric Belgian who relies heavily on his "little grey cells".

In The Murder at the Vicarage (1930) she introduced a very different detective, the elderly spinster Jane Marple. There is more psychological interest in the Miss Marple novels, which points forward to post-war developments by the next generation of women crime writers.

Christie’s own postwar fiction is less consistent than previously, but books such as The Pale Horse (1961) and Endless Night (1967) still show her at her best.

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