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Agatha Christie: The Best-Selling Mystery Writer of All Time

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Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie

Early Years

Agatha Christie was born Mary Clarissa Miller on September 15, 1890. Her family was part of the financially comfortable middle class. Christie was homeschooled by her father. This was unusual for the time. Her mother didn't want Christie to learn to read until she was eight. Christie taught herself to read by the time she had reached the age of five.

Family Financial Problems

When she was eleven: Agatha Christie’s family had financial difficulties. Her father died after having more than one heart attack. After this, she and her mother became good friends. The two eventually worked out the family's financial problems.

Starting at the age of 15, Christie lived in a series of boarding schools. She took piano lessons and was told by instructors she could be a professional pianist. Agatha Christie refused to pursue this as she suffered from intense shyness when playing in front of people she didn't know.

Writing Short Stories

Short Stories

When she was 18, Christie attempted writing a number of short stories. Some of them were published during the 1930s. Her first short story was called "The House of Dreams." Its subject was dreams and madness.

Other short stories she wrote during this time were "This Little Lonely God," "This Call of Wings" and others. A family friend was an author; her name was Eden Philpotts. Christie always remembered how Philpotts provided some constructive as well as shrewd advice when it came to her writing. It was advice Christie valued highly as she started her writing career.

Agatha Christie as nurse during World War I

Agatha Christie as nurse during World War I

Marriage and Divorce

Christie met her future husband, Archie Christie, in 1912. He was an aviator who joined the Royal Flying Corps. They got married in 1914 on Christmas Eve. Both had experiences during World War I. She was a volunteer working in a hospital attending to sick and wounded soldiers. Archie fought in France.

They didn't see one another too often during the war years. In January of 1918, Archie Christie was assigned duty at the War Office in London. This is when the couple felt their married life began. In August of 1919, the couple had their only child. A daughter they named Rosalind Margaret. The couple divorced in 1928.

Agatha Christie met her next husband, Max Mallowman, late in 1928. The two married in September of 1930. The couple remained married until Christie passed away in 1976.

Hercule Poirot character

Hercule Poirot character

Creation of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple

Two of the best-known characters in mystery novels are Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Hercule Poirot was based on Belgian refugees Agatha Christie met during World War I. After meeting a few Belgian policemen, she figured a Belgian detective would be an excellent private detective. She first wrote Hercule Poirot into her novel, The Mysterious Affair.

During this time, Agatha Christie worked hard to develop different characters. The next one she really liked was Miss Marple. This character was based on her smart and cunning grandmother.

The first appearance of Miss Marple in print was a short story published in "The Royal Magazine" in 1927. The Murder at the Vicarage was the first book written by Christie that featured the Miss Marple character. It was published in 1930.

Miss Marple character

Miss Marple character

World War II

During this time, Christie’s husband Max Mallowman worked in Cairo. He had language skills that enabled him to assist in the war effort. Agatha Christie stayed in England. She volunteered to work at the University College Hospital in London. Agatha Christie worked in the hospital’s dispensary.

This is where she obtained an extensive knowledge about poisons. This knowledge she was able to use in many of her crime novels. People in the medical profession were impressed that her descriptions of poisons were so accurate. During one incident, physicians were able to identify a person suffering from thallium poisoning based on how Agatha Christie described it in one of her books.

Agatha Christie working in her home

Agatha Christie working in her home

British Intelligence

In 1942, Agatha Christie was investigated by British intelligence. The reason is a character that appeared in her novel titled N or M? The characters name was Major Bletchley. In the book, he was a deadly spy working against England.

British Intelligence worried that Agatha Christie had connections to a spy working at the government code-breaking center. Everything associated with it was top secret. The fears were over when Agatha Christie told a code-breaking friend how she was stuck on a train because of the army and sought revenge by giving the name to one of her book’s least likable characters.

Poster for play Mousetrap

Poster for play Mousetrap

The Mousetrap

This is a play written by Agatha Christie. The Mousetrap has the world record for the longest initial run of any theatrical play. On November 25, 1952, the play was first seen at the Ambassadors Theatre in London's West End. As of 2018, it is still being performed. It has had more than 26,000 performances over the years.

Agatha Christie surrounded by some of the many books she wrote

Agatha Christie surrounded by some of the many books she wrote


In 1956, Agatha Christie was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for her many successful works of literature. In 1957, she was elected President of the Detection Club.

She continues to hold the title of the most-translated individual novel writer. It's estimated her work has been translated into more than 102 languages. And Then There Were None, is her best-selling book. Estimates have it selling over 100 million copies. This makes it the world's best selling mystery book in the history of novels. It is also one of the highest selling novels of all time.

Over 32 of her books have been made into feature films or movies based on her writing.


Agatha Christie, who gave so much to the world of mystery writing, died from natural causes on January 12, 1975. She was in her home located in Oxfordshire, England. Agatha Christie was 85 years old. Her final resting place is in the churchyard of St. Mary's, Cholsey. The plot where she is buried was chosen by her and her husband a decade before she died.

Her funeral service was attended by more than 19 television as well as newspaper reporters. Some of the reporters came from distant places like South America. Many wreaths were placed on her grave, including one from the cast of her play Mousetrap and several from book publishers.

Queen of Crime

Agatha Christie is considered by many mystery writers and publishers to be the true Queen of Crime. During her career, she created many innovative mystery writing structures that are still being used.

It was the way she concealed secrets in a story and how a detective was able to slowly discover them. Gathering all the suspects in a room to identify the guilty party is still a popular tool for many mystery writers. Her legend and stature in the world of mystery writing seems to only grow with the passage of time.


Readmikenow (author) on September 01, 2020:

Cheryl, thanks. I found her very interesting.

Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on September 01, 2020:

I find it interesting that she retained the last name of her first husband. Thanks for the history lesson because I learned a lot.

Readmikenow (author) on April 11, 2020:

bhattuc, thank you for sharing your experience. I agree, she is one of the best mystery writers of all time.

bhattuc on April 10, 2020:

I want to add something more to my earlier comment. When I was in my student life, frankly speaking, I was not able to follow the novels of Agatha Christie. It was only later when my English improved and I finished reading novels of Sir Arthur Connan Doyle that I again came back to Agatha and then slowly got a love with her books. Undoubtedly she is the great among so many mystery writers.

Readmikenow (author) on April 10, 2020:

I agree with you. Agatha Christie was a great author. I find it difficult to determine my favorite book she has written.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on April 09, 2020:

Mike, she is my favorite author among all mystery writers. Hadley Chase was good, but lot of violence but Agatha was superb. Her character Hercule Poirot is now part of English literature. I must have read at least 25-30 of her books. Great article

Readmikenow (author) on December 02, 2019:

Umesh, thanks for the comment. I agree with you. Her books are timeless.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on December 02, 2019:

She was a great writer. Her books are still as fresh as the flowers. Well written. Thanks.

Readmikenow (author) on November 22, 2019:

Devika, thanks. I agree that she was an incredible writer and person. If you are able to read some of her books, I believe you would enjoy them.

Devika Primic on November 21, 2019:

I watched series haven't read books and find Agatha Christie an amazing person. You have shared an informative and well researched title of someone I hadn't know much of.

Readmikenow (author) on July 12, 2019:

Scott, thanks for sharing. That is great book. Murder on the Orient Express remains my favorite.

promisem on July 11, 2019:

Thanks to this article, which I read several weeks ago, I read my first Agatha Christie book, "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd". You now have hooked me on Christie.

Readmikenow (author) on August 14, 2018:

I agree, Cannery Row is good. My favorite is East of Eden.

savvydating on August 14, 2018:

I hear you. Steinbeck's "Cannery Row" is my favorite. Just love Doc & the boys. ;)

Readmikenow (author) on August 14, 2018:

Yves, thanks for your kind words. If you experience any type of enjoyment from reading a well-written mystery, Agatha Christie is the best. I don't really recommend books, but I will say John Steinbeck is my favorite author.

savvydating on August 13, 2018:

Hi Readmikenow....

I haven't read any of Agatha Christie's novels, despite knowing that she is a great mystery writer. The next time I stop by the library, I'll check out one of her books. I "fancy" books that are somehow "cozy" if that makes any sense. (I like Dickens) If you have a recommendation, I'd love to hear it.

Your story is well written. I appreciated how you captured Agatha's childhood and personality. She was an interesting person. I look forward to finally reading one of her novels. Thank you for reminding me of something I really need to do.

Readmikenow (author) on May 07, 2018:

Leah, thanks. I've read several of her books and have enjoyed every one.

Leah Kennedy-Jangraw from Massachusetts on May 07, 2018:

I have been reading a few of her mysteries a year for the past few years. Just finished Death on the Nile, which is wonderful. It makes sense such a prolific writer had an interesting life but I wasn't aware of the details. Thank you for sharing.

Readmikenow (author) on April 27, 2018:

Dora, thanks. I've read several and I have my favorites. Murder on the Orient Express is toward the top of my list. If you haven't read it, I recommend it.

Readmikenow (author) on April 27, 2018:

Tim, thanks. Yeah, I think you're right about that.

Readmikenow (author) on April 27, 2018:

KT, Thanks. She is a writing legend.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 26, 2018:

Regretting that I haven't read more of Agatha Christie's books. So jealous of her too. Thanks for all this interesting information about her.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on April 26, 2018:

Thank you for taking many of the mysteries out of one of my favorite writers, Readmikenow. I love the Ms. Marples character. Great and interesting article. Someone told me that Agatha Christie's Ms. Marples was used in developing the lead character in "Murder She Wrote."

Thanks again. Superb read.



KT Dunn from United States on April 26, 2018:

She was not only a great novelist (and one of my favorites), but such an interesting person as well. I enjoyed reading this, Mike!

Readmikenow (author) on April 26, 2018:

Kristen, thanks! I've read many of her novels and have enjoyed every one of them.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on April 26, 2018:

Great lens, Mike. She's considered to me one of the classic mystery writers of all times. Her stories have been transformed and remade into movies many times.

Readmikenow (author) on April 26, 2018:

Mary, I agree. I love her books, play as well as many of the movies based on her books.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on April 26, 2018:

I love Agatha Christie. I had been reading her novels since grade school. Of course, my favourite character is Hercule Poirot.