Posts Tagged ‘Agatha Christie’

Mystery/suspense writing tip #2: Give the reader a sporting chance!

Personally, I rarely guess the ending of a mystery/suspense novel and if I do, I’m kind of disappointed. I want that author to stump me with a clue I didn’t notice or a twist I couldn’t see the significance of at the time. It’s a game I don’t want to win, but I do want the author to play by the rules and that means, sprinkling in those clues along the way. Bury them in back story, dribble them in dialogue, subvert them in setting, but readers need to have the chance to solve the mystery themselves. So clues are sprinkled, not dumped. The great Agatha Christie said she was “always wary of putting too many false clues into the plot, because with so many things to unravel the book would be not only difficult to solve but also difficult to read.”

And there must be herrings, red ones! Just as the fish could be dragged across the trail to confuse the hounds, a red herring is a false clue dropped into the story to confuse the reader and perhaps the protagonist as well.

Do you usually solve the mystery before the end of the book? Does that leave you satisfied or disappointed? All posts get you entered in the June drawing for a Starbuck’s card. sherlock

Dame Agatha saves a child in real life

I cut my reading teeth on Nancy Drew and Miss Marple. I used to spend time trying to observe people and clues like these two super sleuths. Sadly, I did not hone my investigatory techniques but I sure hung on every fiction detail in Agatha Christie’s stories. So did a nurse working in a London hospital in 1977. A young Arab girl was brought in, very sick. Doctors were unable to figure out the cause and on the child’s sixth day in the hospital she began to lose her hair. The attending nurse remembered Christie’s The Pale Horse, which she was reading at the time, in which the characters were killed by thallium poisoning. The nurse shared her theory and test revealed that was indeed the problem plaguing the girl. Case closed and a life saved thanks to a clever nurse and Dame Agatha!

-story taken from Anecdotes, by Clifton Fadiman

What was your favorite Agatha Christie story? Or were you a fan of another type of book as a child? Comment to get your name entered in the November Starbucks card and book drawing.