"An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets the more interested he is in her." This was uttered by none other than Dame Agatha Christie whose second-husband was incidentally the world famous archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan.
Reading detective fiction has been one of my favourite pastimes since childhood. It started with Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries and has progressed to Paul Doherty’s historical thrillers. Many a time, I have read the same books again and again because I have forgotten the story within an year or two. Among these books Agatha Christie’s works stand first and foremost.
When I look at the titles, they look familiar and though I may remember some of the storylines very vaguely, I can re-read most of her books (except a few haunting ones) just because of the fact that they are so readable and so forgettable.
Most of the time what I do is to read the blurb just to see if it rings a bell. If it does, the book must still be vivid. Otherwise, it usually only three or four of concentrated reading to finish a novel and the blessing is the kind of intellectual stimulation at the end of it.
The feeling can be compared to that of putting together a jigsaw puzzle and watch it fall together in a kind of “aha” moment. This is not just my opinion, as only recently I read the historian Romila Thapar’s recommendation to read Agatha Christie mysteries to enhance gestalt thinking.
A few of her mysteries are so haunting that I don’t even need to read the blurb to know the storyline. For instance, I find it impossible to forget 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. It has Miss Jane Marple as the detective and she is of the view that human life everywhere the same as in her village of St. Mary Mead.
Most of the good reads have Hercule Poirot, the Belgian as the detective. 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.
What I still remember from childhood is that reading was mostly an accompaniment to meals as these books were so un-put-downable. Even now there is this fascination for reading a Poirot with a hot mug of steaming coffee and something really good to eat. Enjoy your reading, mon ami!