You may or may not be aware but I began writing a murder mystery. Some of you may observe, it is in the style of Agatha Christie. This was originally a challenge set by my tutor on my creating writing course. I also weaved into the story the word prompt – Notable. This was my story Death of a Notable – A Murder Mystery,
See here for the link:
I have always been a huge fan of Agatha Christie, well at least since the age of 12 when my English teacher was rather scandalised to learn that I was still reading Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. Of course there is nothing wrong with those authors or their work. I recommend Enid Blyton’s Folk of the faraway tree, as it is a light-hearted fantasy worth of being well read. Roald Dahl was a very entertaining author and his books from James and the Giant peach to The Witches, are still deservedly entertaining children the world over. That is the point though, they were, in my teacher’s mind, very much children’s books and he felt I should have moved on to something a little more adult.
He lent me a copy of Agatha Christie’s Crooked house, which incidentally was one of Mrs Christie’s own favourites. I was hooked from then on. I probably own 90% of the books she wrote, including her entertaining autobiography.
Having taken a stab (if you pardon the use of the word) at writing something of a murder mystery I have a new appreciation for what she managed to do. Let me tell you, it is incredibly hard.
To weave a number of different alternatives into the story, each one believable; to put in certain clues, some real and some red herrings, it is nerve-wracking. You instantly believe that the solution is so obvious that people are bound to guess it. You worry that you have made it too easy, but then you are also in danger of weaving so many little plots that the whole thing becomes annoying for the reader. You have to create characters and once having done so you are bound to ensure that each one doesn’t behave out of character unless there is a very good reason for doing so.
That is another hard thing, you must have reasons for things to be believable. You find yourself saying to yourself “But of course people would have known straight away that someone altered the clock” or “They would have seen them pick up that knife”. I am sure that Mrs Christie would have done the same. Yet, she wrote the most amazingly complex plots, and deftly created some entertaining characters. She leads you round by the nose making you suspect everyone in turn and yet never really guess the whole answer, maybe if you’re lucky you may have worked a bit of it out, never the whole thing.
Having dipped my toe into writing this genre, I realise just how hard it is. To write a crime novel where you know who the person, that may be easier, I may have to try it in the future, but to write a mystery novel like Mrs Christie so expertly did, that has been one of the hardest things I have tried to do. I have loved the challenge, but I have to admit, my attempt is but a mere parody of the real thing. It is a loving tribute.
Bravo, Mrs Christie, let us all raise a glass (hopefully without any Cyanide in it) and toast to a literary giant and give thanks for the huge volume of work she has left us.
I am off to re-read some of my favourites:
A Murder is Announced
The Big Four
Cat Among the Pigeons
and of course,
Murder at the Vicarage.
Tell me, are you a fan of Agatha Christie? What are your favourites? Do you prefer Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot?
Let me know what you think.
All the best