I’ve always felt that as a writer, it’s so important to read good books. I mean, I love to read anyway, but I really like to find unique authors that offer a different perspective because they, in turn, can give me new ideas about what I’m writing.
A new favourite author I discovered years ago in high school was Agatha Christie. Almost anyone you ask will have heard of “The Queen of Mystery,” and I’ve been pleased to find that a lot of people have read Murder on the Orient Express or And Then There Were None. It’s really no wonder, as Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time; her books have only been outsold by the Bible and Shakespeare. And do you know what astounds me about that? Her books are less than a century old. That means that in less than 100 years, Agatha Christie became the best-selling author in the whole world’s history. Wow.
Even with such an astounding legacy, it can be difficult to believe that one person’s books can be that good. Though I had heard of Agatha Christie before reading her books, in hindsight I probably only picked up And Then There Were None because of the Doctor Who episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp.” I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but by the end of that book, I was entirely hooked.
And so began my obsession with Agatha Christie, from Murder on the Orient Express to N or M?, to her autobiography and bingeing my way through the Poirot TV show, and finally to seeing The Moustetrap in London. It’s difficult to describe what exactly makes Christie’s books so incredible, especially because every novel does, essentially, have the same kind of format. The genius in her writing is that it never feels like you’ve read the same book over and over again. Every single story is completely fresh. To be honest, even after reading a countless number of her books, I’ve only correctly guessed the murderer a few times, if that.
I was always a fan of mysteries growing up. When I was in 6th grade, one of my greatest achievements was that I could finish a Nancy Drew book in one hour. I’d borrow piles of them at a time from the library. Of course, I made my way through the Sherlock Holmes mysteries as well when I was a little older.
However, there’s something remarkably different about Agatha Christie’s style of mysteries, which is the element that I believe makes them so popular. Rather than focusing on the crimes, Christie chooses to focus on the people surrounding the crimes. And let’s be honest: people are far more interesting. Her books are very simple and take no effort at all to read. Rather than being filled with technicalities about how a certain crime was committed, they’re packed with tons of dialogue.
Agatha Christie proved to me that a mystery (or any book, for that matter) doesn’t have to be complicated to be good. If you have interesting characters, your readers will be hooked.
And, well, I could go on about Agatha Christie for hours, but I’m in the middle of Cards on the Table and someone’s just been murdered. There are only four suspects, and somehow I have a feeling it might not be any of them…
I’ll be off reading, then. The moral of the story is grab yourself an Agatha Christie book. Read something different. Write something different. And always be amazing.