Agatha Christie would have turned 120 years old last week. Born September 15, 1890,the daughter of an American father and a British mother, Agatha Christie is the best known mystery writer of all time. Few would argue that the books were literary masterpieces with their pedestrian writing and stock characters, yet people continue to read and enjoy them. Only Shakespeare and the Bible have bested her more than 2 billion copies sold. But what explains the popularity of Christie's work and the diversity of her readers? Why do her books still sell about 25 million copies a year? Not only are several of her titles on the Clarkstown schools summer reading list year after year, but kids seem to like them. Her books are enjoyed by those who like the strict conventions of her mysteries and the intellectual puzzles they provide. Her world is an orderly place and once the murderer is revealed, everything can continue as before. They are comforting books that reassure us that no matter what ugliness intrudes, life will go on. The evil will be punished and the good will triumph and all will be right in the world.
Upon Agatha Christie's death in 1976, Max Lowenthal of the New York Times offered this summary of her work: "Dame Agatha's forté was supremely adroit plotting and sharp, believable characterization (even the names she used usually rang true). Her style and rhetoric were not remarkable; her writing was almost invariably sound and workmanlike, without pretense or flourish. Her characters were likely to be of the middle-middle class or upper-middle class, and there were certain archetypes, such as the crass American or the stuffy retired army officer now in his anecdotage. However familiar all this might be, the reader would turn the pages mesmerized as unexpected twist piled on unexpected twist until, in the end, he was taken by surprise. There was simply no outguessing Poirot or Miss Marple--or Agatha Christie." What else is there to say?