Agatha Christie was born in September 1890 and lived through 1976, so her work was inspired by and utilized the concepts of forensic science that were established during this time period.
Christie had no formal education during her upbringing but was a polymath and a natural scientist. Her father taught her arithmetic, and she had an inherent understanding of quantity, scale, and proportion. She also taught herself to read and read a range of books and newspapers throughout her life, including the Daily Mirror and the Telegraph. Examples of forensic science in action from these newspapers are shown below to illustrate what Christie was exposed to.
It is fitting that Christie drew upon her favorite theatrical characters and grandmother’s figurines for her first Poirot short story. In quick succession, she would publish her first Harley Quin story, The Coming of Mr. Quin (originally titled The Passing of Mr. Quin), in 1924.
Unlike Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, Harley Quin is not a detective. Rather he is an ephemeral being, arriving at the scene of mysterious circumstances (often involving romantic entanglements) to guide Mr. Sattherthwaite (who could be considered the detective in stories involving Mr. Quin) to the truth about the situations. Although he wears a typical dark suit, it is often described that the light hits him in certain ways to produce effects of a colorful motley or black domino mask.
Although the first full-length novel with Miss Jane Marple as the detective was published in 1930 (Murder at the Vicarage), the character initially appeared in print in a series of 6 short stories Christie wrote for a magazine in 1928. In 1932, an additional 6 stories were added, and the compilation was published as The Thirteen Problems (UK) or The Tuesday Club Murders (US).
See Night Train to Perdition, Act I, for a summary of Murder on the Orient Express, and Night Train to Perdition, Act II, for a summary of related true-crime cases, including the kidnap and murder of Charles Lindbergh, Jr. The post you are reading details the forensic science responsible for the capture and conviction of one of the kidnappers, in particular the wood evidence provided by the ladder used in the kidnapping.
See the previous post, Night Train to Perdition, Act I, for background on Murder on the Orient Express as well as a synopsis of the book. The post you are reading will summarize some related true-crime cases, particularly the kidnap and murder of Charles Lindbergh, Jr. As mentioned in the previous post, the setting of a railway train is particularly evocative for a mystery. To date, no single crime has comprised all the elements from the novel, but there have been several noteworthy cases involving trains since its publication.
Murder on the Orient Express, written by Agatha Christie in 1933 and published the following year, is perhaps her seminal work. It is certainly the most famous, with 2 notable feature film adaptations and references in “SCTV” and “Parks and Recreation” (to name a few). It is easy to understand the longevity of the work: a locked room mystery set on a glamorous sleeper train wherein “a repulsive murderer has himself been repulsively, and, perhaps deservedly, murdered.” But while the mysteries at the center of the story are neatly wrapped up by Hercule Poirot as he enacts his own interpretation of justice, fascination around the true-crime case that influenced the book persists to this day.
See the previous post Dressed to the Strychnines, Act I for a summary of the creation of Agatha Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, as well as a synopsis of the book; see Dressed to the Strychnines, Act II for an in-depth description of strychnine poisoning in the context of Christie’s first novel. The post you are reading will describe the history behind the legal concept of double jeopardy in England and the United Kingdom.
See the previous post, Dressed to the Strychnines: Act I, for a summary of the creation of Agatha Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, as well as a synopsis of the book. The post you are reading will provide an in-depth description of strychnine poisoning in the context of Christie’s first novel.
The previous post, What’s in a Dame?, provided a very brief biographical sketch of Agatha Christie up until her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was accepted for publication in 1919. The novel was subsequently published in 1920.
Welcome to Christie’s Mysteries. This blog is an in-depth exploration of the world of Agatha Christie—not only her classic and lesser known stories but also contemporary happenings in the realm of true crime, early forensics, and the life of the Queen of Mystery herself.