GUEST POST: Agatha Christie Wrote So Many Great Characters! By Colleen Cambridge

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I was a voracious reader throughout my childhood and teen years (still am, to be honest), and mysteries like Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden were my favorites. But it wasn’t until I discovered the magic of Agatha Christie—and the extent of her oeuvre!—when I was twelve that I realized how well-crafted and human a murder mystery could be.

When I first started reading Christie’s books, I immediately fell for Hercule Poirot. Today, he remains my absolute favorite Christie character. (Confession: I’ve never read, nor watched, Curtain, his final case, because I simply cannot imagine M. Poirot being gone.) M. Poirot is not only a gentleman, but he is a romantic at heart as well as being brilliant and determined to see justice. Although there were times when Agatha Christie wished she could be rid of Poirot, thankfully, she never took the steps Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did when he murdered Sherlock Holmes over Reichenbach Falls (and then had to bring him back to life!). I know Agatha thought of Poirot as persnickety and annoying, but I have never felt that way. He’s simply too kind-hearted and romantic for me to hold his high opinion of himself against him—and I, like Phyllida, feel that credit should be given where credit is due: Poirot is the finest detective in the world.

…In a similar manner to Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective. Although, with Mr. Pyne’s short stories, we learn after the fact how he helps people solve their problems. It’s always fun to read those shorts because part of the mystery for the reader is to figure out where Mr. Pyne’s “assistance” comes in, and what is just happenstance.

Another of my favorite Christie characters is the mysterious Mr. Quin, who appeals to my love of paranormal elements. Although not quite as well-known as Marple and Poirot, Mr. Quin (along with his counterpart, Mr. Satterthwaite) appears in wonderful short stories. Whether he’s some sort of angel or fairy godfather or simply a master manipulator, we never find out. But I love the way he works in mysterious ways to help people…

Short stories are a lost art in the mystery writing world, but I highly recommend that you check out the short story collections of The Mysterious Mr. Quin and Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective. They’re clever, witty, and entertaining—and they’re short enough to read in one sitting.

Another favorite series is Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, who star in the more action-oriented side of the mystery genre. I love that Ms. Christie created a strong female character who keeps pace with her male counterpart from the beginning. Most of those stories are very over the top, almost James Bond-ish, but are fun to read even if you have to reallllly suspend your disbelief.

You might have noticed that so far I’ve left an obvious Christie character off the list. Miss Jane Marple. I must admit, I’ve had to warm to her character over the years. She’s not ever been one of my favorites, to be honest—yet at the same time, I really love the premise that she is an excellent detective not from any actual investigating (or not much) on her part, but simply because she is a student of human psychology. That’s quite an interesting characteristic, and although Miss Marple can come across as sharp and even a little bitter at times, I do enjoy her books. One of my favorites is A Murder is Announced (maybe that’s because I spotted the murderer very early on!).

All this is to say…if you haven’t read Agatha Christie, there’s a type of story for any mystery preference a reader might have. Short stories, thrillers, closed-room mysteries, interesting detectives, and some very, very brilliant and diabolical solutions. There’s a reason Agatha Christie is the bestselling author of all time, and I’m here to tell you that even in the 21st century, her works hold up and entertain just as much as they did when they were originally published.


MURDER AT MALLOWAN HALL

In this delightful new historical mystery series, Phyllida Bright, housekeeper and amateur sleuth, discovers a body in the library—and a mystery to baffle even her famous employer…

Tucked away among Devon’s rolling green hills, Mallowan Hall combines the best of English tradition with the modern conveniences of 1930. Housekeeper Phyllida Bright, as efficient as she is personable, manages the large household with an iron fist in her very elegant glove. In one respect, however, Mallowan Hall stands far apart from other picturesque country houses…

The manor is home to archaeologist Max Mallowan and his famous wife, Agatha Christie. Phyllida is both loyal to and protective of the crime writer, who is as much friend as employer. An aficionado of detective fiction, Phyllida has yet to find a gentleman in real life half as fascinating as Mrs. Agatha’s Belgian hero, Hercule Poirot. But though accustomed to murder and its methods as frequent topics of conversation, Phyllida is unprepared for the sight of a very real, very dead body on the library floor…

A former Army nurse, Phyllida reacts with practical common sense—and a great deal of curiosity. It soon becomes clear that the victim arrived at Mallowan Hall under false pretenses during a weekend party. Now, Phyllida not only has a houseful of demanding guests on her hands—along with a distracted, anxious staff—but hordes of reporters camping outside. When another dead body is discovered–this time, one of her housemaids—Phyllida decides to follow in M. Poirot’s footsteps to determine which of the Mallowans’ guests is the killer. With help from the village’s handsome physician, Dr. Bhatt, Mr. Dobble, the butler, along with other household staff, Phyllida assembles the clues. Yet, she is all too aware that the killer must still be close at hand and poised to strike again. And only Phyllida’s wits will prevent her own story from coming to an abrupt end…

Reprinted with permission from Kensington Books.

 

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Her fiction writing has received the Author / Ambassador at Library Journal Self-e Authors, Winner Queen of the West Reader Favorite Award, Amazon Bestseller - Historical, Double finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Mystery and Humorous Categories. Writing humorous cozy mysteries and romantic comedy, Jocie can find humor in most everything, even when she shouldn't. She lives in the Midwest on Dust Bunny Farm with her family.