Agatha Christie

(1890-1976), British Crime Writer

Agatha Christie was an English writer famous for her mystery novels and hallmark feats in the genre of detective fiction. She had a prolific literary career with a total of sixty-six novels, fourteen short story collections, four plays, three non-fiction books, and six other books written under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. Christie created some of the most popular fictional characters in detective fiction, such as Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

In addition to her intriguing novels, Agatha Christie had her fair share of thrills in her personal life, which kept the attention of the press and the entire world glued to her. She witnessed the two world wars, disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and partook in many archaeological expeditions during her lifetime. Her ingenuity in crafting detective stories earned her the title ”Queen of Mystery.”

Life Facts

  • Agatha Christie was born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller on September 15th, 1890 in Torquay, Devon, England.
  • Agatha Christie was married twice. Her first marriage was to Archibald Christie in 1914, the marriage ended in divorce in 1928, and in the year 1930, Agatha Christie married her second husband, Max Mallowan but retained her first husband’s last name.
  • Agatha Christie once disappeared for many days under mysterious circumstances. When she was eventually found, she had no recollection of the details of the incident.
  • Agatha Christie was a pious Christian, and she was a member of the Church of England until her death.
  • Agatha Christie had a sporadic formal education. She did not attend a proper school, as a child, she was tutored at home by her elder sister. As a teenager, she attended an establishment where she was taught ladylike manners and etiquette.
  • Agatha Christie died on January 12th, 1976 at the age of 85 in her home at Winterbrook House. She was buried at St Mary’s Church, Cholsey, Oxfordshire beside her husband Max Mallowan.

Interesting Facts

  • Agatha Christie is listed in the Guinness World Records as the best-selling fiction writer of all time. Her novels have sold more than 2 billion copies.
  • Agatha Christie is the most translated individual author in the world.
  • Agatha Christie wrote the world’s longest-running play. It is a murder mystery titled ‘’The Mousetrap’’ which has been performed in the West End since 1952.
  • She was made a Dame (DBE)  by Queen Elizabeth II in 1971 for her contributions to literature.
  • There is an annual event in Torquay, England in honour of Agatha Christie. The event is called the Agatha Christie Festival.
  • In addition to her 80 books, Agatha Christie wrote six romance novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott.
  • Agatha Christie served in both World Wars. She volunteered in hospital dispensaries where she nursed injured soldiers and gained in-depth knowledge of poisons which she sometimes used in her writing.
  • Christie was once investigated by the British Intelligence Agency MI5 for featuring a character called Major Bletchley in her 1941 thriller novel titled ”N or M.” The MI5 feared that Christie had a spy in Britain’s top-secret centre Bletchley Park.

Famous Books by Agatha Christie

The Murder at the Vicarage This 1930 crime novel by Agatha Christie features the beloved detective character Miss Jane Marple. At the vicarage of St Mary Mead, an insufferable colonel is found dead in his study. The mystery around his death confound even the police, as there are many suspects with motives to murder the colonel. The colonel’s wife and her lover are among the suspects, and they confess to the crime at first but are exonerated due to inaccuracies in their testimonies. Miss Marple however indicts them as the true killers with her sharp wit and shrewd deductions that solve the mystery. The novel explores views on the workings of the human mind that renders it capable of murder.

Murder on the Orient Express This 1934 classic by Agatha Christie features another of her famous detective characters Hercule Poirot. Hercule Poirot boards the Orient Express train from Istanbul to London. On the train, he meets many other passengers with interesting personalities and supposedly from diverse backgrounds. One of the passengers is Samuel Ratchett, an American Businessman. Ratchet tries to employ Poirot’s protection because he has been receiving death threats, but Poirot blatantly refuses to protect him.

Later, Ratchett is found dead in his compartment with twelve stab wounds as the train is halted by the snow. Poirot picks up clues, investigates, and eventually solves the mystery. The solution is that none of the passengers are who they claim they are, including the victim Samuel Ratchet. And the murder was a collective revenge mission undertaken by a majority of the passengers on board the Orient Express.

And Then There Were None This is one of Christie’s most popular works. Ten strangers are invited to an island for a getaway. On getting to the island, they discover that none of them have a clear recollection of the person that invited them to the island. Shortly after they arrive, they are confronted with the crimes each of them committed in the past and while dealing with their guilt in their ways, the guests begin to die mysteriously in line with a counting rhyme until no one is left alive on the island.

Early Life and Education

Agatha Christie was born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller on September 15, 1890, as the youngest of three children born to Fredrick Alvah Miller and Clarissa Margaret ‘’Clara’’ Miller, nee Boehmer. Her family was a wealthy upper-middle-class family in Torquay, Devon, England. Agatha’s siblings were Margaret ‘’Madge’’ Frary born in Torquay in 1879, and Louis Montant ‘’Monty’’ born in Morristown New Jersey in 1880 while the family was on an extended visit to the United States. The large age gap between Agatha and her siblings led to Agatha spending most of her childhood alone without a playmate.
Before Agatha Christie was born, her mother, Clarissa Miller, inherited 2000 pounds when her foster father, who also became her father-in-law, died in 1869. With this fortune, they bought a leasehold of a villa in Torquay named Ashfield in 1881. It was in Ashfield that Agatha was born in 1890. Agatha Christie described her childhood as a happy one. They lived mainly in Devon but often visited relatives in Ealing and Bayswater. Her family also spent time abroad in the French Pyrenees, Paris, Dinard, and Guernsey.
Agatha Christie’s mother wanted Agatha to be at least eight years old before she could learn to read, but the curious Agatha was already reading by the age of four, as observed by her nursemaid. However, Agatha was still not sent to school for formal education. Agatha’s sister had been sent to a boarding school, but their mother insisted that Agatha get her education at home. Therefore, her parents and sister supervised her studies in reading, writing, and basic arithmetics. Agatha was also taught music and learned to play the piano and the maudlin.
In 1901, when Agatha was eleven years old, her father died. Her mother Clara would have sold Ashfield, but Agatha begged her not to, and they continued living there. Agatha was quite close to her mother, and they were both fond of each other.
Agatha was enrolled in a ladylike establishment in Torquay where she attended twice a week as a substitute for school. When Agatha was fifteen, her mother took her to Paris to complete her sporadic education. Agatha did well in music in Paris but could not become a professional pianist because of her nervousness in performing on stage.
Agatha’s sister Madge was a writer and had a number of her stories published in Vanity Fair. Perhaps motivated by this, Agatha began to write with increasing interest in her late teens.

Literary Career

Agatha Christie’s first book was ‘’The Mysterious Affair at Styles’’ written in 1916. The book faced six rejections by publishers until 1920 when it was accepted and published by John Lane of Bodily Head. Christie was paid 25 pounds for its weekly serialization in The Times. It was the first appearance of the character Hercule Poirot, a brilliant Belgian detective with quirky beards. In subsequent years,  Hercule Poirot was featured in numerous other books by Agatha Christie.

After the success of ”The Mysterious Affair at Styles,” Christie got a better writing-publishing arrangement at Collins Publishers and got Hughes Massey as her literary agent on Eden Philpotts’ recommendation. In the year 1922, she published her second book ”The Secret Adversary” which was quickly followed by a third book in 1923 titled ”Murder on the Links.” For over two decades after the publication of her first book, hardly did any year go by with a new Agatha Christie title in bookstores.

Agatha Christie was steadfast in her writing and wrote a total of sixty-six novels and fourteen short story collections, some plays, and 6 additional novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. Her works have been translated into many languages and adapted into various media across the world. She is the author of the play ”The Mousetrap” which holds the Guinness record as the longest-running play in the world.

Marriage and Personal Life

Agatha Christie met her first husband Archibald ”Archie” Christie in October 1912. He was a gentleman, educated at Clifton College in Bristol where his stepfather had been headmaster. At the time, Archie was training to become a pilot at the Royal Flying Corps. By January 1913, Archie asked Agatha to marry him, and she agreed. The war started the year after their engagement, and Archie was sent off to war while Agatha volunteered at a nursing post to aid wounded soldiers. On Christmas Eve of 1914, Archie and Agatha got married.

In August 1919, the couple had a daughter and named her Rosalind. Rosalind was Agatha’s only child.

Agatha who had been quite attached to her mother, was plunged into great grief when her mother died in April 1926. A few months later, her marriage with Archie started to fail, and Archie eventually confessed to her that he was having an affair with another woman called Nancy Neale. After a heated argument in early December, Agatha Christie disappeared from her home and was missing for days. She was eventually found and returned home after eleven days of search. Archie and Agatha’s marriage crashed completely after this series of events.

In October 1928, Archie and Agatha were officially divorced, and Agatha retained the Christie surname and custody of their daughter Rosalind.

In February 1930, Agatha Christie met Max Mallowan through some friends with whom she was spending time away from home. Max Mallowan was an archaeologist and archaeology was of interest to Agatha, and they bonded quite well. In September 1930, Agatha Christie and Max Mallowan got married. The duo acquired a new home in Winterbrook Oxfordshire and settled there. Agatha and Max stayed married until Agatha died in 1976.

Later Life and Death

In the year 1934, Agatha Christie and her husband Max Mallowan acquired a home called Winterbrook House in Oxfordshire, England and it was in this home that Christie lived and did most of her writing until she died in 1976. Christie settled into a quiet life in Winterbrook, gardening and participating in horticulture contests, leading local drama clubs, and being a devout member of a local church.

In Agatha Christie’s later years, she received lots of awards and recognition for her contributions to Literature. In 1956, she was awarded the honour of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), and in 1971, she was promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) by Queen Elisabeth II. The University of Exeter awarded her an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Literature in 1961.

Christie’s health began to fail in 1971, but she continued to publish books, some of which were written decades earlier and saved in vaults.

Agatha Christie died on January 12th, 1976. But her legacies continue to live on, and the impact of works on culture and literature remains. Her works have been made into thousands of radio, stage, and film adaptations to date.

Literature by Agatha Christie

Explore literature by Agatha Christie below, created by the team at Book Analysis.