Today is the birthday of one of my favourite authors – Agatha Christie, who was born on 15 September 1890.

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Christie is of course a literary legend, having created some of the most famous detectives in fiction, Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. She had a long and prolific career, producing 66 detective novels, many short stories, romances under the name of Mary Westmacott, and plays – including “The Mousetrap”, the world’s longest-running play.

That’s certainly some achievement! Agatha’s books have been among my favourites since I discovered Hercule Poirot in my teens, during that difficult reading transition from childhood to adulthood – this was in the days before there were dedicated Young Adult books, and in some ways I think this was preferable. If you were an avid reader, like me, you could easily make the transition to adult books in your early teens and murder mysteries were a good way to do this (we won’t mention my mum’s collection of Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy, Mary Stewart, Susan Howatch et al!).

So I devoured Agatha’s books in my youth, collecting old and battered paperbacks where I could from charity shops, jumble sales etc (I didn’t have much book money at the time) and I still have them proudly on my shelves. I loved Poirot and Marple of course, but I’m also inordinately fond of her Tommy and Tuppence books, and also her thrillers.

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Christie has been criticised by some as having undeveloped characters or bad plotting, which I really don’t understand. She’s a brilliant writer in my view, in control of her material and what she wants to do and say with it. Her characters live for me and I return to her books over and over again, always with a great sense of enjoyment. Yes, perhaps her later books are not quite so good as the early ones – but not-so-good Christie is better than most others!

So happy birthday Dame Agatha – and thank you for the reading pleasure you’ve given me over the years!

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