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Legacy of Agatha Christie

Last Saturday there was a tribute on Channel 5 to Agatha Christie to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the publication of her first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles.  

The programme was narrated by Nigel Havers and various actors who had appeared in televised adaptations – and the writer Anthony Horowitz – gave their views on the biggest selling author of all time.

It was not entirely satisfactory as there was no real explanation for her huge popularity.

None of the five actors who have played Poirot (Peter Ustinov, Albert Finney, John Malkovich, Kenneth Branagh and the best of all David Suchet) appeared, nor did any of the Jane Marples.

One of the features of Agatha Christie is her popularity amongst diverse circles such as academia and some professor might have given a convincing explanation for her enduring popularity.

It set my mind thinking.

Her skill lies in the creation of the mystery: there are always numerous red herrings and a dim detective, or Poirot’s best friend Captain Hastings, to set the reader in a totally wrong direction.

Poirot knows but leaves the big reveal to the end.

Antony Horowitz did the best job.

He said that he had read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd many times and it’s a perfect crime novel.

I could only remember the clever twist but read it for the second time.

There are clues but it’s beautifully constructed and a real page-turner.

Agatha Christie writes of and in a world that no longer exists: it’s white, not diverse, households have servants and there are references to foreigners that jar.

John Malkovich and Kenneth Branagh made their Poirot more contemporary but dramatisations work better treating the novels as period pieces.

She would never have written a Nordic noir.

Watching the third series of The Bridge there are still elements of Christie in the way the viewer is set in the wrong direction.

The Malmo detective Saga Noren, who has Asbergers, works it out when we viewers and her colleagues are baffled

That manipulation is Christie’s greatest legacy.


About Melanie Gay

A former literary agent with three published novels of her own, Melanie retains her life-long love of the written word and recently mastered the Kindle. She is currently writing a historical novel set in 17th Century Britain and Holland. More Posts