I can't remember when I first read an Agatha Christie mystery, or which one for that matter, but I do remember the first time I felt completely transported by a novel so quickly I hardly noticed I was entering a world that was both glamorous, dangerous, and teaming with mystery. Agatha Christie's writing was the first I encountered to be completely spellbinding while at the same time so full of real, complex, and entertaining characters. Over the years I think I've read between 20-30 of her novels and have never been disappointed, no matter the setting, the crime, or which of her famous detectives the particular novel featured I always feel as part of her world. She seemed to have an ability like none other at creating perfectly a world with many layers and characters, passions and motivations, and of course crime, effortlessly. She maintained this wonderful skill while never lowering herself to bending the rules or either good crime writing or portraying a world in which right and wrong may be tampered with. She had a keen understanding of human psychology and motivation, but she never let a sympathetic murderer make murder alright.
I recently finished Agatha Christie's travel memoir, Come, Tell Me How You Live, about her time spent with her archeologist husband in the Middle East before the Second World War. It was a perfect time capsule of what life was like in a time one can hardly imagine now. She captures the environment perfectly, she tells humorous stories of herself, husband, and all who help their expedition, she depicts the people of the region honestly and with beauty. The reader comes away with an intense picture of what travel really meant. She may have been a Dame of the Empire, but she certainly wasn't travelling in a five-star fashion.
But I especially loved her candour. Agatha is blunt, opinionated, funny. A girl after my own heart. I can't help but love her even more for knowing that in real life she was more than willing to call a spade a spade, make a joke at her own expense, and use her keen power of observation when meeting new people. I wish we could have met, or at least enjoyed a weekend party at a country house together - no murder necessary!
Come, Tell Me How You Live is a must read for any travel lover no matter your feelings on Agatha Christie, and if you love her famous mysteries it is a special treat to read how she saw the world, and her life.
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