WHAT MAKES AGATHA CHRISTIE CLICK?
Robert Ludlum, Ken Follet, Robin Cook, Tom Clancy all come up with the most exciting and nail-biting books. They have dark, enigmatic and silent heroes, seemingly authentic plots, ruthless villains, assassinations, blood and everything that is alien to our sheltered existence. They have heroes from the enigmatic institutions like FBI, CBI, KGB, Fedayeen, Mossad and blah… blah…They make us yearn for a more dangerous and adventurous life. But still after reading so many of such books I seem to go back to my Agatha Christies-old-worldish, exciting to a certain degree and having nothing more exciting than the Scotland Yard.
Agatha Christie’s style of writing is not very remarkable. The plot is never too complicated and the crimes are never of a very big scale. The heroes and heroines too are never the trigger-happy and brooding types that catch our fancy. In spite of all this we find that once Agatha Christie was titled a Dame and was also tagged as the ‘Queen of Crime for her contribution to writing. Her books have sold over a billion copies in 44 different languages. She is also the author of the longest ever running play in history known as ‘The Mousetrap’.
So what makes her click? I would say that there are multiple reasons for it, one of which is her simple style of writing. There is nothing more irritating to a reader than having to open a dictionary while reading the climax of a book. Fortunately Agatha Christie seems to have realized just that, for her use of words is varied but at the same time lucid.
She also has the capability to showcase a murder in all its various forms. We were introduced to serial killing in ‘The A.B.C. murders’, a murder that occurred long years ago in ‘Death comes as the end’, a child psychopath in ‘The Crooked House’, a jealous lover and killer in ‘Towards Zero’. She has presented all of it with the same lucidity and elaborateness through which we have come to recognize her books.
Another point that I mentioned before but would like to do so again is that her plots are never of a very huge scale. Anyone who has read both Ludlum and Christie would be able to testify that in Agatha novels the villains are not fiends who have the power to collapse the entire world, nation or even a particular community. They are just assassinators limited to a certain household or family. Every household member is an individual character and in some or the other way, a part of the plot. She makes it such that everyone is under suspicion. Everyone is guilty until proven innocent.
But the most important aspect that I kept for the last is the curious detective with the egg-shaped head- Hercule Poirot. If Arthur Conan Doyle created the brilliant Sherlock Holmes then Agatha Christie created a very creditable Hercule Poirot. This is an egoistic but discerning man without the brooding nature and painful past that is synonymous to a hero. He has no training in defense or fighting to speak of and does possess even a trace of dare-devilry. It’s just him and his grey-cells filled head. With his pleasant demeanor and self-important air, he is the most unlikely detective ever but still a very popular one. In the beginning, I used to scorn at these books and compare them with the Micheal Crichtons and Alistair McLeans of this world. But I was lying to myself for I was always enticed by the unbelievable climax of ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’, by the adventures of Hillary Craven in ‘Destination Unknown’ and the cold reasoning of Justice Wargrave in ‘And Then There Were None’. So I have come to accept that indeed, there is something in Agatha Christie that makes her click.