BORN: 1890, Torquay, England
DIED: 1976, Wallingford, England
GENRE: Fiction, Drama
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
The Mousetrap (1952)
Witness for the Prosecution (1953)
Agatha Christie is the most commercially successful woman writer of all time and probably the most widely read author of the twentieth century. A master of the murder mystery, her dozens of novels, stories, and plays have been translated into more than one hundred languages and have sold a phenomenal two billion copies—a record topped only by the Bible and the works of William Shakespeare. Her drama The Mousetrap opened on the London stage in 1952 and has yet to close; it is the longest-running play in theater history. Her ingenious plots, usually involving a mysterious
death among a group of upper-middle-class British characters, invariably stumped crime buffs and largely defined the popular genre of the whodunit.
Works in Biographical and Historical Context
Christie was born by the name of Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller on September 13, 1890, in the English seaside resort of Torquay, in Devon. She was the youngest of three children of Frederick Alvah Miller, an American from New York, and Clarissa Boehmer Miller. Her father died when she was a child, and until she was sixteen she was educated at home by her mother. She became an avid reader as a child, enjoying mysteries and often improvising them with her sister, Madge. She attended finishing school in Paris and initially considered a musical career.
Begins Career on a Dare In 1912, Agatha Miller became engaged to Archibald Christie, a colonel in the Royal Air Corps; they were married on Christmas Eve, 1914. The couple was separated for most of the war years. Agatha Christie continued to live at Ashfield, her family's Victorian villa in Torquay. She volunteered as a nurse and worked as a pharmaceutical dispenser in local hospitals. Her knowledge of poisons, evident in many of her mysteries, developed through these experiences. After the war, her husband went into business in London, while Christie remained at home with their daughter, Rosalind, born in 1919.
Christie wrote her first novel after her sister challenged her to try her hand at writing a mystery story. The result, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was published in 1920. Like many of her subsequent classics, it features the detective Hercule Poirot, a former member of the Belgian police force. Although this maiden effort only sold some two thousand copies, the publication encouraged her to continue writing mysteries. Throughout the 1920s she wrote them steadily, building a loyal following among mystery aficionados for her unfailingly clever plots.
With her eighth book, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), Christie gained notoriety, and her deceptive plotting caught the attention of the general reading public. The sheer audacity of the novel's resolution—in which the murderer is ultimately revealed to be the narrator of the story, a character traditionally above suspicion in mystery novels— prompted a heated debate among mystery devotees. Christie's violation of the crime genre's conventions outraged some readers, but delighted many more. From that point, her reputation was established. For the next half-century, she was rarely absent from the best-seller lists.
Divorce and Remarriage Christie's personal life had become troubled, however. Shortly after her mother's death, her husband asked for a divorce so that he could marry another woman. These emotional blows brought on a nervous breakdown. In December 1926 she disappeared for ten days, attracting great publicity. After this incident, Christie shunned the public eye for the rest of her life. Her divorce was finalized in 1928.
Two years after her divorce, however, while traveling on the Orient Express to see the excavations at Ur Turkey, she met archaeologist Max Mallowan, whom married the couple same year. During the 1930s, the divided their time England between their several homes in and many archaeological expeditions in the Middle Christie acted as her husband's assistant on these digs, she never stopped period writing during her travels. This provided Christie with experience of other cultures and valuable distance from her own several British one. She set of her best-known works, including Murder on the Orient exotic Express (1934) and Death on the Nile (1937), in locales. Many of her other novels and plays are set in British countryside, where corruption and crime beneath the placid surface of middle-class life.
Poirot and Miss Marple Christie was most for the literary creation famous detective of Hercule Poirot, one of fiction's most famous sleuths. In his black jacket, trousers, and bow tie, the striped diminutive Belgian appeared thirty-three novels and Poirot regularly referred to the “little grey cells” of his brain; relied primarily on reason in solving crimes, shunning the more physical and laborious tactics of A. Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and other investigators. Christie grew distinctly sour on the pompous Poirot over the years—an occupational hazard for authors in the detective genre— yet she continued to crank out Poirot mysteries to meet the demands of her readers. She did, however, eliminate him from the stage versions of several of her stories, believing that Poirot was a more effective character in print.
In the novel The Murder at the Vicarage Christie introduced her other well-known detective: rural English village. Miss Marple is in many ways the antithesis of Poirot. Miss Marple works largely by intuition to solve crimes, often finding clues in village gossip. One of her most effective traits is her shrewd skepticism, which prevents her from taking anyone she meets at face value.
World War II brought about a major change in Christie's life. Her husband served as an intelligence liaison officer in North Africa while Christie remained in London, working again as a volunteer dispenser. In her off hours, she was busy writing.
During the war years, Christie published ten novels and adapted two of her earlier works for the theater. Two of her wartime manuscripts were not published until decades later; these were the final Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries. Their author secreted them in a vault, to be published after her death.
Stage Triumphs Christie's work for the theater has proved as enduringly popular as her fiction and as full of cleverly constructed plots and surprise endings. Most of her plays are adaptations of her own stories or novels. One such work, originally titled Ten Little Niggers and subsequently retitled Ten Little Indians (1943), uses a children's nursery rhyme to build suspense. Ten strangers assemble for a holiday on a small island, where, one by one, they are murdered. The combination of terror and orderly predictability creates a memorable theatrical mechanism.
The success of her early plays pales before the phenomenon of The Mousetrap (1952), which is now in its sixth decade of uninterrupted performances on the London stage. Despite the success of the work, Christie received no royalties for it. She gave the rights to her nine-year-old grandson when the play first opened; the grandson, it is estimated, has since earned well over fifteen million pounds Sterling from his grandmother's gift. The year after The Mousetrap opened, Christie scored another smash with Witness for the Prosecution (1953).
Christie's powers gradually declined in the decades after World War II, but she retained her towering popularity and reputation as the “Queen of Crime.” In 1971, she was made a Dame of the British Empire. Her last formal appearance was in 1974, at the opening of the film version of Murder on the Orient Express. As her health failed, her publishers persuaded her to release the final Poirot and Marple mysteries. Curtain: Poirot's Last Case (1975) takes the detective back to Styles Court, the location of Christie's first mystery. Poirot's pursuit of an elusive killer leads to his inadvertent suicide. The death of Poirot caused a sensation, making the papers even in the People's Republic of China, and spurring the New York Times to publish, for the first time, an obituary for a fictional character. Christie herself died the following year.
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL CONTEMPORARIES
Christie's famous contemporaries include:
Virginia Woolf (1882–1941): British novelist and essayist, author of To the Lighthouse and A Room of One's Own.
Raymond Chandler (1888–1959): American crime novelist, creator of the private detective Philip Marlowe.
James N. Cain (1892–1977): American novelist, master of “hard-boiled” detective fiction; author of The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Dorothy L. Sayers (1893–1957): British novelist and dramatist, creator of the amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey.
Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980): Popular British filmmaker and producer, the “master of suspense.”
Cecil Day-Lewis (1904–1972): Irish poet, author of mystery novels under the pseudonym Nicholas Blake.
Works in Literary Context
Agatha Christie enjoyed a wide selection of literature in her youth. The novelist Eden Philpotts, a neighbor,
visited frequently and became a mentor to the home schooled child. The Sherlock Holmes mysteries by A. Conan Doyle were a mainstay of her teenage years. Christie followed Doyle's formula to some extent early on; for example, in her first mysteries, she gave Poirot a Watsonlike sidekick, Captain Hastings. Other literary influences upon Christie were Edgar Allan Poe, G. K. Chesterton (who wrote the Father Brown detective stories), and the American detective novelist Anna Katherine Green.
Mystery Puzzles Gamesmanship and subtle deception were the secrets of Christie's success. The best of her novels are intricate puzzles, presented in such a way as to misdirect the reader's attention away from the most important clues. The solution of the puzzle is invariably startling, although entirely logical and consistent with the rest of the story. Like a magician's sleight of hand, a Christie mystery dispenses red herrings, ambiguities, shadings, and other subterfuges that keep the attentive reader baffled, until the story culminates in a satisfying surprise. In works such as Ten Little Indians and The A. B. C. Murders (1936), Christie uses nursery rhymes and other children’s games, uncovering their more sinister implications.
Straightforward Style As befits this most commercial of novelists, her writing style was supremely unpretentious. She told stories in a straightforward manner, rarely injecting any thoughts or feelings of her own. She usually sketched her characters with the lightest of touches so that readers from any country could flesh them out to fit their own backgrounds. Her novels are frequently set in the English countryside, and usually focus on a group of upper-middle-class British characters and the detective who reveals the perpetrator at a final gathering of the suspects. One common theme that emerges from this genre formula is a concern with appearances, such as the respectable facade of parochial life, and the corruption and criminality that surface appearances conceal.
The Detective Another important factor in Christie's popularity is surely her ability to create charming and enduring detective characters. Both of her primary sleuths, Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple, gain reader sympathy from the way they are underestimated by other characters. Poirot, with his small stature, Belgian background, and amusing pomposity, arouses derision and, occasionally, ethnic prejudice. Similarly, Christie plays on Miss Marple’s eccentricities, in addition to her age and gender, to manipulate the reader into trivializing her capabilities. When the detective defies expectations and solves the crime, the resolution is that much more delicious.
Works in Critical Context
Agatha Christie began writing at the start of what became known as the golden age of the detective story, when mysteries were attaining worldwide popularity. As she continued to turn out books, her name became in the public mind almost a shorthand expression for the genre as a whole. Her bankability made her a literary institution long before the end of her extended career; the success of her brand with the reading and theater-going public made critical appraisal of her work largely moot.
The Ackroyd Controversy Christie first drew critical attention with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which created a sensation upon its publication in 1926. Christie's choice to make the novel's narrator the murderer inspired vitriolic criticism from some reviewers—the London News Chronicle called it a “tasteless and unforgivable let-down by a writer we had grown to admire.” Other critics heaped extravagant praise on Christie for pulling off this narrative coup. British mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers, a rival of Christie's, defended her in the controversy. Roger Ackroyd certainly helped establish Christie's name among the reading public, and in retrospect, it is considered one of her finest works. The prominent literary critic Edmund Wilson later attacked the genre as a whole with his controversial 1945 article in the New Yorker, “Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?” Apparently, many people did.
COMMON HUMAN EXPERIENCE
Agatha Christie was one of the most prominent practitioners of very popular literary genre, the murder mystery. Below are some of the more memorable titles, and heroes, of the whodunit.
“The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841), by Edgar Allan Poe. Often considered the first detective story, Poe's “tale of ratiocination” established some of the conventions of crime fiction.
L.A. Confidential (1990), by James Ellroy. Three Los Angeles police officers, investigating the same homicide case, slowly uncover their own precinct's connections to organized crime, in this suspense novel made into a celebrated film.
A Ticket to the Boneyard (1991), by Lawrence Block. The hero of this detective story, private investigator Matt Scudder, struggles with alcoholism while tracking down a psychotic criminal released from prison.
Such books as Murder on the Orient Express, The A. B. C. Murders, and Ten Little Indians have been
especially singled out by critics as among Christie's best work and indeed, among the finest examples of the mystery genre. The literature available on Christie's life and work is extensive, from armchair companions on her fictional characters, through numerous biographies and autobiographies, to more recent academic studies. Christie’s body of work has been of particular interest to contemporary feminist theorists. Although her work is lacking in overt social commentary, her challenges to traditional constructions of class, race, gender, and age have led to a reconsideration of her popularity. Some detractors of her work point to her workmanlike style, the formulaic structure of her novels, and the stereotyped nature of some of her characters. There can be no doubt, however, that her ingenious and intricate narrative puzzles have brought enjoyment to millions of readers.
Responses to Literature
- There have been many great detectives throughout literary times, yet Poirot stands out as being unique. How so? What features illustrate his uniqueness? How is he different from, say, Sherlock Holmes? What makes each of them classics in their own right?
- Write a character study of Miss Marple. How does she meet, and/or subvert, conventional expectations of the detective hero?
- Closely analyze the mechanics of plotting in one of Agatha Christie's novels. What techniques does she use to mislead the reader?
- What insights into the class structure of British society can you gain from reading Agatha Christie?
Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1980.
Haining, Peter. Agatha Christie: Murder in Four Acts: A Centenary Celebration of the “Queen of Crime” on Stage, Film, Radio and TV. London: Virgin, 1990.
Irons, Glenwood, ed. Feminism in Women's Detective Fiction. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995.
Keating, H. R. F., ed. Christie: First Lady of Crime. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1977.
Klein, Kathleen. The Woman Detective. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995.
Light, Alison. Forever England: Femininity, Literature and Conservatism between the Wars. London: Routledge, 1991.
Munt, Sally. Murder by the Book? Feminism and the Crime Novel. London: Routledge, 1994.
Osborne, Charles. The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie. London: Collins, 1982.
Ramsey, G. C. Agatha Christie, Mistress of Mystery. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1967.
Wynne, Nancy Blue. An Agatha Christie Chronology. New York: Ace, 1976.
Born: September 15, 1890
Died: January 12, 1976
English author and playwright
Agatha Christie was the best-selling mystery writer of all time. She wrote ninety-three books and seventeen plays, including the longest-running play of modern-day theater, The Mousetrap. She is the only mystery writer to have created two important detectives as characters, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.
Childhood and family
The daughter of an American father and a British mother, Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born at Torquay in the United Kingdom on September 15, 1890. Her family was comfortable, although not wealthy. She was educated at home, with later studies in Paris, France. Christie taught herself to read at five years old. She grew up in a family environment full of stories—from the dramatic, suspenseful tales her mother told her at bedtime to her elder sister's frightening creations. She began creating her own fictions, too, with the help of her nanny, her dolls, and her pets. In 1914 she was married to Colonel Archibald Christie, with whom she had one daughter.
In Christie's first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), she introduced one of her two best-known detectives, Hercule Poirot. Poirot's character also makes clear Christie's debt to the mystery writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930), the creator of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Like Holmes, Poirot is a committed and convincing spokesman for a rational (reasoned and unemotional) approach to solving mysteries. (Poirot places his faith in his brain's "little grey cells"). Poirot's friend and companion, Captain Hastings, also shares much in common with Holmes's friend Dr. John Watson. Hastings, like Watson, is a retired military man who is too trusting and often foolish, but he occasionally stumbles upon some observation that inspires the far-more-intelligent Poirot.
While writing in imitation of Conan Doyle, Christie experimented with many other versions of the sleuth, a term for a detective or solver of mysteries. Some of Christie's early sleuths included the married couple Tuppence and Tommy Beresford, whose specialty was hunting down spies. The Beresfords first appeared in her book The Secret Adversary (1922), where their breezy and almost offhand approach to detection provided a sharp contrast to the methods of Poirot. Another Christie detective, Colonel Race—a mysterious man of few words—first appeared in The Man in the Brown Suit (1924). However, since his principal area of activity was in the English colonies (territories then under British government control), Christie only used him occasionally afterwards.
Superintendent Battle, who was strong, dependable, and hardworking, came onto the scene in The Secret of Chimneys (1925) and later solved The Seven Dials Mystery (1929). He was not a greatly attractive character, however, so Christie only used him as a minor character after that. Other sleuths who first appeared during this experimental period were the weird pair of Harley Quin and Mr. Satterthwaite, as well as the clever Parker Pyne. Pyne specialized not in solving murders, but in influencing the lives of others so as to bring them happiness or adventure. Pyne was often fortunate enough to have the assistance of Mrs. Ariadne Oliver, a mystery novelist who bore an uncanny resemblance to her creator, Agatha Christie.
A mysterious breakdown
The year 1926 was an important one for Christie. It saw the publication of her first hugely successful novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which the narrator (the character in whose voice the story is told) is the murderer. It was also a year of personal tragedy. Christie's mother died in 1926, and Christie discovered that her husband was in love with another woman. She suffered a mental breakdown and on December 6 she disappeared from her home, and her car was found abandoned in a quarry. Ten days later, acting on a tip, police found her in a hotel in Harrogate, England, where she had been staying the entire time, registered under the name of the woman with whom her husband was having his affair. Christie claimed to have had amnesia (severe memory loss), and the case was not pursued further. She divorced her first husband two years later.
In 1930 Christie married Sir Max Mallowan, a leading British archaeologist. She often accompanied him on his expeditions in Iraq and Syria and placed some of her novels in those countries. In Come, Tell Me How You Live (1946) she wrote a humorous account of some of her travels with her husband.
In 1930 Christie also produced what is believed by many to be her best-written novel, Murder at the Vicarage. This mystery also marked the first appearance of Jane Marple, who became one of Christie's favorite sleuths and who showed up frequently thereafter in her books. Miss Marple was one of those complicated characters in whom readers delight. Behind her old-fashioned, grandmotherly appearance, Miss Marple's mind was coldly aware that all human beings are weak and that some are completely immoral.
In the mid-1930s Christie began to produce novels that bore her special manner. In them she arranged a situation that seemed highly unrealistic or unlikely, and then she placed characters, who acted for the most realistic of reasons, into this framework. In Murder in the Calais Coach (1934) the murder is committed through the planning of a dozen people. In And Then There Were None (1939) nine murderers are invited to an island by an ex-judge who kills them out of an unshakeable sense of justice. In Easy to Kill (1939) four murders are committed in a tiny town without any suspicions being aroused, while in A Murder Is Announced (1950) the killer notifies others that the crime will occur in advance. Also interesting in these books is Christie's philosophy that it is quite acceptable to kill a killer, particularly one whose crime is especially horrible.
Christie wrote several works in addition to her fiction, including seventeen plays. Her favorite play was Witness for the Prosecution (1953), but the public disagreed. The Mousetrap opened in London in 1952 and was a huge success, playing there for over thirty years. In addition, many of Christie's mysteries were made into movies. In 1998 her play Black Coffee was adapted into a novel by another writer, Charles Osborne.
In 1971 Christie was named a Dame of the British Empire—a title given by the English king or queen in honor of a person's extraordinary service to the country or for personal merit. Five years later Christie died on January 12, 1976.
For More Information
Bunson, Matthew. The Complete Christie: An Agatha Christie Encyclopedia. New York: Pocket Books, 2000.
Dommermuth-Costa, Carol. Agatha Christie: Writer of Mystery. Minneapolis: Lerner, 1997.
Gill, Gillian. Agatha Christie: The Woman and Her Mysteries. New York: Free Press, 1990.
Morgan, Janet. Agatha Christie: A Biography. New York: Knopf, 1985.
Osborne, Charles. The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie. London: Collins, 1982, revised edition, 1990.
Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was the best selling mystery author of all time and the only writer to have created two major detectives, Poirot and Marple. She also wrote the longest-running play in the modern theater, The Mousetrap.
The daughter of an American father and a British mother, Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born at Torquay in the United Kingdom on September 15, 1890. Her family was comfortable, although not wealthy, and she was educated at home, with later study in Paris. In 1914 she was married to Col. Archibald Christie; the marriage produced one daughter.
In 1920 Christie launched a career which made her the most popular mystery writer of all time. Her total output reached 93 books and 17 plays; she was translated into 103 languages (even more than Shakespeare); and her sales have passed the 400 million mark and are still going strong.
It was in her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), that Christie introduced one of her two best-known detectives, Hercule Poirot, and his amanuensis, Captain Hastings. Her debt to the Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is manifest in the books in which this pair appears. Like Holmes, Poirot is a convinced and convincing spokesman for the human rational faculty (he places his faith in "the little grey cells"), uses his long-suffering companion as a sort of echo-chamber, and even has a mysterious and exotically-named brother who works for the government. Captain Hastings, like Dr. John Watson a retired military man, has much in common with his prototype: he is trusting, bumbling, and superingenuous, and by no means an intellectual. Yet occasionally he wins applause from the master by making an observation which by its egregious stupidity illuminates some corner previously dark in the inner recesses of the great mind. There is even a copy of Conan Doyle's ineffectual Inspector Lestrade in the person of Inspector Japp.
While writing in imitation of Conan Doyle, Christie experimented with a whole gallery of other sleuths.
Tuppence and Tommy Beresford, whose specialty was ferreting out espionage, made their debut in The Secret Adversary (1922); their insouciant, almost frivolous approach to detection provided a sharp contrast to that of Poirot.
The enigmatic, laconic Colonel Race appeared first in The Man in the Brown Suit (1924), but, since his principal sphere of activity was the colonies, he was used only sporadically thereafter.
Superintendent Battle, stolid, dependable, and hardworking, came onto the scene in The Secret of Chimneys (1925) and later solved The Seven Dials Mystery (1929), but probably because of a lack of charisma was relegated to a subordinate role after that.
Others who debuted during this experimental period were the weird pair of the other-worldly Harley Quin and his fussbudgety, oldmaidish "contact," Mr. Satterthwaite, and the ingenious Parker Pyne, who specialized not in solving murders, but in manipulating the lives of others so as to bring them happiness and/or adventure. Pyne was often fortunate enough to have the assistance of Mrs. Ariadne Oliver, the mystery novelist who bore an uncanny resemblance to her creator.
The year 1926 was a watershed year for Christie. It saw the publication of her first hugely successful novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which the narrator is the murderer, a plot twist that provoked great controversy about the ethics of the mystery writer. It was also a year of personal tragedy: her mother died, and then she discovered that her husband was in love with another woman. She suffered a nervous breakdown and on December 6 disappeared from her home; subsequently her car was found abandoned in a chalk-pit. Ten days later, acting on a tip, police found her in a Harrogate hotel, where she had been staying the entire time, although registered under the name of the woman with whom her husband was having his affair. She claimed to have had amnesia, and the case was not pursued further. The divorce came two years later.
In 1930 she married Sir Max Mallowan, a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and one of Britain's foremost archaeologists. She often accompanied him on his digs in Iraq and Syria and placed some of her novels in those countries. In Come, Tell Me How You Live (1946) she wrote a humorous account of some of her expeditions with her husband.
Also in 1930, writing under the penname of Mary Westmacott, she published Giant's Bread, the first of six romances, none of which showed distinction. In that same year in Murder at the Vicarage, undoubtedly the best-written Christie novel, she first presented Jane Marple, who became one of her favorite sleuths and showed up frequently thereafter. Miss Marple was one of those paradoxes in whom readers delight: behind the Victorian, tea-and-crumpets, crocheted-antimacassar facade was a mind coldly aware of the frailty of all human beings and the depravity of some.
In the mid-1930s Christie began to produce novels that bore her unique stamp. In them she arranged a situation which was implausible, if not actually impossible, and into this unrealistic framework placed characters who acted realistically for the most realistic of motives. In Murder in the Calais Coach (1934) the murder is done with the connivance of a dozen people; in And Then There Were None (1939) nine murderers are invited to an island to be dispatched by an ex-judge with an implacable sense of justice; in Easy to Kill (1939) four murders are committed in a miniscule town without any suspicions being aroused; in A Murder Is Announced (1950) the killer advertises in advance. Also interesting in these books is Christie's philosophy that it is quite acceptable to kill a killer, particularly one whose crime is a heinous one.
In addition to her fiction, her archaeological reminiscences, the children's book Star over Bethlehem (1965), a collection of her poetry (1973), and her autobiography (1977), Christie authored 17 plays. Her own favorite was Witness for the Prosecution (1953), based on one of her novellas, but the public disagreed. The Mousetrap opened in London in 1952 and played there for over three decades, a run unparalleled in theater history. Many of her mysteries were made into movies—And Then There Were None three times—with the most successful those in which Margaret Rutherford portrayed Miss Marple.
Named a Dame of the British Empire in 1971, Christie died on January 12, 1976.
Besides An Autobiography (1977), there is a good biography by Gwen Robyns, The Mystery of Agatha Christie (1978). It contains a bibliography, although not as complete a one as that in Contemporary Authors. Janet Morgan's Agatha Christie: A Biography (1985) traces the writer's career through her first marriage and 1928 divorce. Christie is also a central figure in Sir Max Mallowan's Mallowan's Memoirs (1977). A semi-factual, semi-fictional look at the 1926 disappearance can be found in Kathleen Tynan's Agatha (1978). □