Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a HUGE Agatha Christie fan. Since I read my first Christie novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, I’ve been a fan. In fact, I credit her with starting me on my path from mystery lover to mystery author. Recently, I was honored to be selected as the guest professor at one of my alma maters, Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania for their January residency. When asked what I’d like to teach, I turned to my bookshelf, and my Agatha Christie collection, for inspiration.
Christie died January 12, 1976, but I won’t bore you with a biography. Most people, even if they aren’t mystery lovers, have a general idea of who she is. However, what many may not know, is that Agatha Christie is one of the best-selling authors of all time, only surpassed by Shakespeare and The Bible. She wrote at least sixty-six detective mysteries, fourteen short story collections, sixteen plays, an autobiography, and six romance novels under her Mary Westmacott pseudonym. Christie’s play, The Mousetrap, holds the record for the longest running play in history, opening November 25, 1952 and closing March 16, 2020 when the theatre shut due to the pandemic. Whether you’re a Christie fan or not, there’s surely something to learn by looking at such a prolific and successful writer.
To prepare for my classes, I reread three of her most popular mysteries, Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (it’s a rough life, but…). Each time I reread one of her books, I find something I didn’t see the first (or the fifth or sixth) time that I read it. Close to ninety years after publication, even when I know the plot and whodunit, I find the stories enjoyable. I asked myself, WHY?
Her mysteries aren’t great from a literary standpoint. The stories are entertaining and enjoyable, but they aren’t world changing literature like, Uncle Tom’s Cabin or War and Peace. When I read them with a critical eye, I notice she is guilty of head hopping (changing POV). Many of her characters are stereotypical, and she perpetuates the caste system of her time. Yet, I still love these mysteries. She creates characters that readers care about. They aren’t perfect, they’re real. Hercule Poirot’s little grey cells are amazing, but he’s finicky, vain (especially about his moustaches), and a bit silly as he traipses across the British countryside in his patent leather shoes. Yet, there’s something very endearing about this Belgium private detective with his egg-shaped head. Christie’s killers aren’t evil monsters either. They too are real. Perhaps they’re misguided, greedy, and accustomed to getting their own way, but these are characteristics that most of us can, if not identify with, at least understand.
Christie masterfully uses clues, red herrings, and
misdirection to weave complex plots and captivating stories. Intriguing
characters and cunning plots are a great combination to engage readers and keep
them engaged from discovery of The Body in the Library to the
denouncement or final Curtain. Reading Agatha Christie is a blueprint
for crafting Whodunits. With sixty-six detective stories to choose from, I have
many hours of enjoyable research ahead.
While visiting the land of Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes, bookstore owner and amateur sleuth Samantha Washington finds herself on a tragical mystery tour . . .
Sam joins Nana Jo and her Shady Acres Retirement Village friends Irma, Dorothy, and Ruby Mae on a weeklong trip to London, England, to experience the Peabody Mystery Lovers Tour. The chance to see the sights and walk the streets that inspired Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle is a dream come true for Sam—and a perfect way to celebrate her new publishing contract as a mystery author.
But between visits to Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel district and 221B Baker Street, Major Horace Peabody is found dead, supposedly of natural causes. Despite his employer’s unfortunate demise, the tour guide insists on keeping calm and carrying on—until another tourist on their trip also dies under mysterious circumstances. Now it’s up to Sam and the Shady Acres ladies to mix and mingle among their fellow mystery lovers, find a motive, and turn up a murderer . . .
About the author
V.M. (Valerie) Burns was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dog Writers Association of America, Thriller Writers International, and Sisters in Crime. V.M. Burns is the author of the Dog Club Mystery series, the RJ Franklin Mystery series, and the Agatha Award nominated author of Mystery Bookshop Mystery series. She currently resides in East Tennessee with her two poodles. Readers can keep up with new releases by following her on social media.