How Agatha Christie Changed the World (of small town mystery fiction)

Okay, I’ll admit it. Until recently I had never read an Agatha Christie novel. This is especially embarrassing because I love mystery novels and my favorites are mysteries set in small towns! When I finally read one of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books for my book club all I could think was, um I think new mystery authors totally ripped off Agatha Christie! Maybe “ripped off’ isn’t the correct term. After all imitation is the best form of compliment, right? Perhaps it is better to say, I love a good small town mystery and now I know where they all got started. Small town England! Pretty much every popular mystery series featuring a woman protagonist stems from Miss Marple. (Or so it seems to me.) Maybe they have different characteristics, live in another place, or look different but the similarities are there.

Some of my favorite small town mystery series are Nadia Gordon’s Napa Valley Mystery series, Louise Penny’s Three Pines Mystery series, and Mary Daheim’s Alpine mystery series. Another favorite of mine is Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Mystery series. Although Santa Barbara, a.k.a Santa Teresa is no longer a small town it was back in the 1980s, when this popular series featuring lady private investigator, Kinsey Millhoune, takes place. Take a look at these book series and their nosy lady sleuths, cast of strange and interesting characters and descriptions of small town life and see if you see traces of Agatha Christie anywhere. I guess this is why Christie is dubbed “The Queen of Crime”. Feel free to comment on this post if you agree or disagree with my observation!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have also never read an Agatha Christie. If you like small town, you might try M.C. Beaton's books featuring Scottish policeman Hamish MacBeth. I'll try yours, if you try mine! pb