Agatha’s People


While on the subject, let me direct you to this excellent article by John Lancaster in a recent LRB about our continuing fascination with Christie’s work. It is an in-depth, precise and intelligent reading of her work, and the only one small fault I could find is that it risks repeating the fallacious charge against Christie that she wasn’t interested in psychology. I don’t think that’s right at all.

True, Christie doesn’t have the time or inclination to go into the sort of modernist dissection of psychology best served by stream-of-consciousness, she did have – in stark, powerful flourishes – have a very solid philosophy of character. You could argue that Christie sacrifices psychological verisimilitude to the necessity of surprise and revelation – the timid clergyman is revealed to be a cold-hearted killer, the wicked cad to have been a big softy all along.

Except that this is never quite what Christie does. Rather than turn psychology on its head, the big turns in her narrative, more often than not deepen rather than scramble our view of who her characters are. Whereas Scooby Doo might pull off the ghoul’s masks and find the carnival owner beneath the whole time, when Christie pulls the masks from her killers, she finds the same features, only starker, deeper, and perhaps more diabolical.

Author: James Topham

James is a screenwriter and freelance. He has written films for Scott Free Productions and Addictive Films and developed TV with ITV Studios, Evolutionary Films and Channel 4. He writes a weekly tinyletter -

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