Agatha Christie, Queen Of Crime, Continues To Reign With Latest Film

Death on the Nile

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Death on the Nile

Agatha Christie, Queen Of Crime, Continues To Reign With Latest Film

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Hercule Poirot’s little grey cells will be back in action next month (December) when British actor Kenneth Branagh returns as the world-famous Belgian detective in Death on the Nile.

His first outing as the super sleuth in Murder on the Orient Express netted $353 million and Branagh, who both produced and directed the movie, has described it as dark, sexy and unsettling.

As ever it has attracted a stellar cast including Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer,  Annette Bening, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. But the real star is Agatha Christie who, 45 years after her death in 1976, continues to reign supreme as the queen of crime fiction.

She has 66 detective novels to her name and with sales of over two billion and counting, she is outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare.

Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie via The Irish Times

October marked the 100th anniversary of the publication of her debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which was published in the UK in January 1921 and introduced the world to the moustachioed Poirot.

At the height of her writing, Christie was producing four novels a year and in Poirot and Miss Marple, she created two iconic detectives that have continued to stand the test of time.

Her best-selling stand-alone novel, And Then There Were None, published in 1939, sold 100 million copies worldwide.  She was the only female author to have had three plays produced at the same time in London’s West End.

One of them, The Mousetrap, which opened in 1952, ran continuously until March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic forced theatres to close.  It had been making up to £5 million a year.

But it is her own life that continues to be as intriguing as her novels, not least when in 1926, a massive manhunt was launched when she suddenly disappeared.

On December 3, 1926, at 9.30pm, she kissed her sleeping daughter Rosalind, 7, then, leaving the home she shared with her unfaithful husband Archie, drove off into the night.  

Her car was later found abandoned and it sparked the biggest manhunt ever seen. One thousand police officers, 15,000 volunteers, and for the first time ever, aeroplanes were used in a search.

Police even drafted in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, and Dorothy L Sayers, author of the Lord Peter Wimsey series in the hopes their specialist knowledge might help trace Christie.

Agatha Christie, death on the nile, crime
Agatha Christie disappearance via Scientific American

The detective leading the case believed that the philandering Archie had killed her and hidden the body.

She went missing for 11 days, checking into a hotel in Harrogate, Yorkshire, somewhat bizarrely under the name of Theresa Neele, her husband’s mistress.

It was only when she was recognised by one of the hotel’s musicians that police were alerted.

She never explained what made her disappear, some suspected a publicity stunt.  But like her novels, the mystery only added to her allure.

Her grandson Mathew Prichard remembers her fondly as someone nice to have around and lists his favourite things about her.

‘She was modest, interested in others more than herself, she could write a book almost without one noticing, she was incredibly generous – it is well-known she gave me The Mousetrap for my ninth birthday – and she was always so full of enthusiasm.

‘It’s worth remembering that my grandmother had been through many times in her life when money was not plentiful.  So it was incredibly generous to give away a play to her grandson, especially as in 1952 her books were only approaching the enormous success they have now become’.

Agatha Christie, novels, crime
Agatha Christie novels via The Nerd Daily

The literary and media rights to Agatha Christie’s works around the world have been managed by Agatha Christie Ltd a company she set up in 1955.  It is now headed by her great-grandson James Prichard and is thought to be worth more than $600 million.

John Curran, author of Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks, believes there is comfort to be drawn from Christie in these difficult times.

‘A Christie reader knows that when the end of the story is reached, the world will be set to rights, the innocent vindicated and the guilty punished. That, more than ever, is re-assuring. It’s notable how often she appeared on lists of recommended authors during lockdown’.

It seems the mistress of mystery will reign for many years to come.

Death on the Nile is out December 18.

Feature image via Russh

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