Sunday, May 3, 2009

The books that changed my life (3)

No other books have made as much impact on my 13-year-old self than the mysteries of Agatha Christie. I've always loved a good mystery, and, being an Anglophile of the highest order, the works of Dame Agatha Christie are a wet dream. There's something about good, old-fashioned British mysteries that I can't put my finger on. Is it the thick London fog described in the novels, or the proper English gentleman, or the classic murder tools such as arsenic and knives?

The first Christie mystery that I've read was titled Sleeping Murder. Yes, the title is quite unimaginative. Looking at the author's list of more than 80 novels, I just realized that some of the titles are really cheesy: Evil under the Sun, Appointment with Death, Murder Is Easy, A Murder Is Announced, and By the Pricking of My Thumbs, just to name a few. When I was 13, I only bought these prosaic titles: I thought that the more in-your-face the titles are, the more satisfying the novels would turn out to be.

I think I've read about 20 Christie mysteries and probably owned a dozen. They're in my bookshelves somewhere, probably collecting dust bunnies in a corner. When I was a teenager, I was happy curled up in bed with an Agatha Christie novel. I couldn't get enough of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, although I was more partial to reading those featuring the lovable British spinster.

My favorite will always be And Then There Were None, which was originally titled Ten Little Indians, which was originally titled Ten Little Niggers. (Oh my goodness! The N word!) The novel featured neither Poirot nor Marple. All the characters die, leaving you to wonder who the hell did it. It's one of those novels that lets you realize that you're in the hands of a master.

Vintage Christie paperbacks

In related news...

Recently, scientists believe that Christie may have suffered from Alzheimer's disease when she wrote her final novels. This is something that strikes a personal chord. My maternal grandmother had Alzheimer's disease, and I think my great-grandmother had it too. I'm sure I'll be getting it too.


SariJ said...

Great post. I have read several Christie novels; they never disappoint.
Roots was the book that changed my life. I read it in high school and because of Haley's work I no longer blindly believe what our American history text books say.

Portobello's coffee said...

No, you will not get Alzheimer's!! :(