I recently heard a much-respected writer of detective stories announce his disdain for Agatha Christie. His main criticism was the lack of empathy for the victim.
It’s easy to pour scorn on the Queen of Crime. Her later books are a warning that one should quit while one’s ahead, and her description of murder scenes seem too sanitised. Where is the blood splatter, the stains on the killer’s clothes? It may be that blood was invented in 1940 and I missed that history lesson, but somehow I doubt that.
That’s not the point. She’s popular because she didn’t wallow in guilt and sympathy. She set two-dimensional puzzles, and as such deserves to be compared with the Times crossword compiler, not Leo Tolstoy. She’s a crunchy oats bar, not a Michelin-starred entre – safe and easy to digest at any time. At her peak her plotting is superb—the ABC Murders and Death on the Nile for example.
I will raise another glass to Agatha Christie. Probably beer or supermarket plonk, certainly not vintage Dom Perignon. Or maybe I’ll drink Devonian cider. To paraphrase a party slogan, she’s a writer for the many, not the few.