Influential Woman—It’s a Mystery to Me
I was an ugly duckling girl who yearly packed boxes and endured the ritual of another first-day-at-school. I found solace in best friends who trained horses, hijacked trains … solved crimes. Though I certainly didn’t take it in at age thirteen, these friends taught me right from wrong. These friends intertwined love and hate like two-strand embroidery thread. One particular friend dashed about
society circles, digesting story snippets as well as gallons of tea and crumpets. Undaunted by a messy divorce, this friend rebounded with a marriage that granted passage to Middle Eastern archeological digs. London
Dear friends, meet Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976), writer of eighty detective novels, short stories and plays. Only the Bible is believed to have sold more than the four billion volumes of Christie works rung up at international registers. Christie garnered the first Grand Master Award of the American Mystery Writers Association in 1955 and in 1971 achieved
Britain’s highest honor, Dame of the British Empire.
Pretty amazing stuff for a Dame. But I knew nothing about Agatha’s accolades, only her characters. Hercule Poirot taught me how to hold a teacup, how to greet guests, had me swooning over snippets of the lovely French language (though he indignantly informed me that he was Belgian.) You see, mon ami, besides solving crimes, Hercule dispensed advice, oozed charm. Gave me a calling card into upper-crust society. Obviously others adored the man, who to date is the only fictional character honored with an obituary in the New York Times!
When I tired of the little man’s egg-shaped head, overwhelming pomade, and endless cocked glances, a dash to the bookshelf brought out Miss Marple, who hid a sharp eye and sharper mind behind piles of knitting and her sweets stash. Christie created an old lady who didn’t just sit by the fire and dream of yesteryear. Christie created characters to live by. Plots to live with. Books for a reader.
Dame Christie also penned books for a writer. Decades before God led me to capture stories on paper, Christie primed the inkwell with tantalizing plots (Murder on the Orient Express), great characters (Lady Edgware, Captain Hastings), KILLER dialogue. Lovers of mysteries still analyze, categorize, theorize on Agatha’s techniques. Did I mention the dialogue?
“So that is Lady Edgware? Yes, I remember—I have seen her act. She is belle femme.”
“And a fine actress too.”
“You don’t seem convinced.”
“You don’t seem convinced.”
“I think it would depend on the setting, my friend. If she is the centre of the play, if all revolves round her—yes, then she could play her part…” Poirot paused and then added, rather unexpectedly, “Such people go through life in great danger.”
“Danger?” I said, surprised.
“I have used a word that surprises you, I see, mon ami. Yes, danger. A woman like that sees only one thing—herself. Such women see nothing of the dangers that surround them—the million conflicting interests and relationships of life. No, they see only their own forward path. And —sooner or later—disaster.” (excerpted from Lord Edgware Dies.)
As writer and postmenopausal wife, mother, teacher, friend, Agatha Christie’s work evokes emotion, lends instruction, and establishes The Moral Premise so key, as Williams declares, to successful literature.
Over forty years after Monsieur Poirot and Miss Marple and I made acquaintance, these old friends call, especially when my world has tilted askew and I need a comfortable, safe old reread from the chapters of ones who know just what to say, just what to do. If you haven’t met my English friends, I urge you to seek them out. Their appointment books are more open than you would suspect!
What’s your favorite Christie mystery? Oh, how I love them all. Still, my hands-down favorite is Curtain. Au revoir, Poirot. Au revoir, dear friends. “They were good days. Yes, they have been good days…”
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