Reading detective fiction has been one of my favourite pastimes since childhood. Many of these still remain my favourites because of the fact that they are so readable and at times so forgettable. Among such books, Agatha Christie’s works stand first and foremost.
Her detective fiction gives a kind of “aha” feeling, which can be compared to the exhilaration that one feels on putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Now wonder, the historian Romila Thapar advises her research students to read Agatha Christie to enhance gestalt thinking or the ability to see the whole picture. As these books belong to the category of popular fiction, they are easy to read and intellectually stimulating at the same time.
Her most famous detective is Hercule Poirot who has been immortalised on the small screen by David Suchet. Poirot is a retired police officer from Belgium who is known for his penchant for detecting crime. He is described as short, with his head the shape of an egg, moustache always well-trimmed and shining, and with good manners. He is shown as obsessed about neatness and order, be it solving the case or his attire. The most famous among Hercule Poirot novels are Hallowe’en Party, Five Little Pigs, Elephants Can Remember, The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Appointment With Death and Murder in Mesopotamia.
Miss Jane Marple is one of Christie’s detectives who views human life everywhere the same as in her village of St. Mary Mead. She is an elderly spinster who is very observant and manages to ask the right questions at the right time. Some of the books with Miss Jane Marple as the detective are The Murder at the Vicarage, The Body in the Library, A Murder is Announced, They Do It with Mirrors, A Pocket Full of Rye, 4.50 from Paddington, At Bertram's Hotel, Nemesis and Sleeping Murder. My favourite is At Bertram’s Hotel, which is about a nightmarish world where some very innocent people are framed for crimes they have not committed and the police recognizes a gang of lookalikes who manage to get away with it.
Though not so numerous as the Hercule Poirot mysteries or the Jane Marple stories, there is the couple Tommy and Tuppence. Her true names are Thomas Beresford and Prudence Beresford and they appear in stories such as Partners in Crime, The Secret Adversary, N or M?, By the Pricking of My Thumbs and Postern of Fate. Tuppence is shown as a charismatic young lady who manages to keep her head in cases involving mafia or espionage.
Though there are chances of reading an earlier read Agatha Christie by mistake, most of the time, it goes completely unnoticed.