From archaeologist to nurse to author, how Agatha Christie turned into a thriller novelist

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Queen of detective fiction, Agatha Christie has reigned over the cosmos of detective fiction since the 1920s. Even to this day, she is inextricably associated and synonymous with crime. The all-time bestselling mystery writer Christie was an accidental writer, not one who grew up wanting to be.

Born in Torquay to upper-middle-class parents, she moved to Paris at the age of 16 to study voice and piano; she was an archaeologist by profession later in life. Author of 66 mysterious murders, Christie freely admitted to knowing nothing about ballistics. Most of his books feature characters who die from poisoning, as more than 30 characters in his books have been poisoned to death. The connection to crime and poisons dates back to her training as a nurse during World War I, when she trained and worked under the direction of a pharmacist. Prescriptions at the time were handwritten and she had to write the prescriptions herself at the dispensary of the hospital where she was stationed. She acquired a good knowledge of the use of poisons and their dosage. It is interesting to note that the pharmacist, under whom she worked, had in her pocket at all times a dose of curare, a chemical that causes death by paralysis and asphyxiation. When asked why he was carrying such a deadly item with him, the pharmacist proved his resemblance to one of Christie’s characters when he mentioned the feeling of satisfaction that comes with carrying such a dangerous substance ” It makes me feel powerful, ”he told the author. It turned out later that he was administering a batch of suppositories with 10 times more medicine than needed. Christie noticed this and stopped the doses from being given to the patients by deliberately dropping the lot on the floor and apologizing later. The next batch was properly prepared and avoided such dramatic acts.

Pharmacology professor Michael Gerald studied Christie and published a book in 1993 called “The Poisonous Pen of Agatha Christie” which lists his favorite poisons and their uses. It is not a difficult task to notice how the narrative of his novels focuses primarily on poisons and associated chemistry, including availability, symptoms, methods of detection and antidotes, instead of psychological makeup or of the murderer, rendering the plot into an elaborate puzzle that has no particular formula for solving and leaves the reader guessing until the end, reaffirming the author’s and reader’s faith in the effectiveness of the “Whodunit” formula.

Credibility and praise are found in Christie’s work because of the extremely reliable sources she refers to for her writings. In Christie’s day, chemicals were used to commit suicides and murders by people eating phosphorus-laden matchsticks to kill themselves or administering arsenic to anyone they wanted to avoid. So Christie’s plots involve deaths by administering poisons, both rare and common, through food and drink instead of any other obscure path that is difficult to fit into her plots. The aforementioned supervising pharmacist who was originally Christie’s primary connection to poisons and criminal psychology is also featured in Christie’s 1961 novel “Pale Horse” and this becomes the defining example of how her actual engagement with poisons and chemistry paved the way for his writing. journey that immortalized her.

(By: Bhavya Sharma)

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