The Science of Agatha Christie, a review by Joanna

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The Science of Agatha Christie

Meg Hafdahl & Kelly Florence

216 pages

Published on Sept 5, 2023



I was a big Agatha Christie fan as a child, devouring all her mysteries that I could find, yet I don’t recall ever reading one as an adult. The last ten years have seen her roar back into fashion, with movies, TV adaptations, new Poirot and Marple books by current authors, and a flood of Golden Age-inspired fiction being published. I was therefore intrigued to read this non-fiction work purporting to be about the Science behind her books. Sadly, while it had several interesting nuggets, the disorganised structure and overly chatty writing style was annoying, and there was way too much irrelevant filler.

Written by two American horror podcasters, who are clearly big Christie devotees, this has each of twenty chapters focussing on one book, then throwing in whatever factoids, opinions, analysis and digressions they can relate to it, jumping incoherently from one topic to another, and sometimes even giving lifestyle advice! Most of the topics could only be loosely referred to as science. They would’ve been far better organising chapters by characters, themes, branches of science, and murder methods, for example. Unforgivably, there are numerous blatant spoilers for many of the books, with no warning given. They also include interviews with a random selection of people from the theatrical and gaming world, with only loose connections to Dame Christie’s books. I found the historical and pharmacological aspects the most interesting, and enjoyed the quotes from Agatha the most – what a remarkable woman she was.
Now it may be hypocritical to say this, as I use a lot of them myself, but I don’t think that many exclamation marks are appropriate for a supposedly serious non-fiction work. I also didn’t like the very random boxed facts that appear throughout, printed in bold, for no obvious reason – it’s possible these will contain photos or illustrations in the published version, but in my ARC copy they were just confusing. There are also multiple pages of “end-notes” or references at the end, which would be useful if you wanted to check sources I suppose, but on a kindle I would rather see them at the end of a chapter. They show the extensive research the authors have done, which is admirable, but unfortunately the outcome is a jumbled mess that I would recommend to only only the most ardent Christiephile. 2.5 rounded up because I did at least learn some interesting things.
I received an ARC from NetGalley and am posting this honest review voluntarily.

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