I’ve already expressed my enthusiasm for John Curran’s analysis of Agatha Christie’s plotting notebooks. One of the many insights that fascinated me is the way in which Christie played around with ideas, sometimes for years, before coming up with an approach to a story that satisfied her.
Something that Christie’s critics foolishly overlook when they dismiss her as a ‘cosy’ writer whose characters were ‘cardboard cut-outs’ is her determination to experiment, and to push the boundaries of the whodunit. Her originality of approach is one of the explanations for her enormous success. Curran rightly points out, for instance, that relatively few of her novels are set in the cosy English villages with which she is so often associated. Her range of settings was remarkable.
One of her most interesting ideas was to set a murder mystery in Ancient Egypt. Death Comes as the End is in some ways a flawed book, although I do like it. I was intrigued to learn from Curran that Christie toyed with a number of different possible culprits.
But most intriguing of all is the revelation that Christie toyed with having a modern day story running in parallel to the ancient one. Shades of Possession or The French Lieutenant’s Woman – but this is not a concept that (so far as I know) has ever been adopted in a murder mystery. It’s a great idea, and someone really ought to give it a crack, even though Christie didn’t. I’m almost tempted myself….