John Curran’s multiple award-winning Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks was only the appetizer. Now Curran has compiled even more of Christie’s notes, letters, and photographs into a new book, Murder in the Making, to provide Christie’s fans with an even deeper look into the mind of this remarkable writer.
With over 70 notebooks filled with ideas for plots, characters, and entire novels, Curran has a plethora of resources to filter. Christie herself did not work neatly or chronologically through her notes, nor were the notebooks numbered or dated. Fortunately for readers, Curran is up to the challenge. For this outing, he chose to order the resource materials by decade, leading readers through Christie’s works and life in an easy-to-follow manner.
We tend to think of Christie’s rise to fame as a fairly smooth and even blessed progression. In fact, we learn from Murder in the Making that she made all the same missteps as any other writer, and that her eagerness to be published plus the newbie’s naïveté led her to sign contracts that were not necessarily in her best interest. It is even mildly amusing to learn of her “conviction that she was not going to pursue a writing career” and therefore did not consider the long-term implications of that first contract.
Christie scholars will drool over the ideas jotted in her notebooks that refer to ideas she never used in her published works and fans will swoon when they discover that Murder in the Making contains the first incarnation of “The Man Who Knew” as well as a Miss Marple story, “The Case of the Caretaker’s Wife.” Along with text, Curran also provides us with images of several pages, including one of a sketch of St. Mary Mead made by Christie herself.
Scattered throughout her notebooks are found Christie’s notes to herself about books by other authors she particularly enjoyed, ranging from Erle Stanley Gardner and Ngaio Marsh to Rumer Godden and John Steinbeck. In at least one case, she’s even given herself the reminder to “Buy The Idea of a Christian Society” by T. S. Eliot.
Be aware! Curran gives up the mystery in favor of coverage, so those who have not read the complete works of Agatha Christie will be dismayed to have the solutions given away. While this would seem to be an error in judgment, the nature of the resource material and Curran’s goal to present the sort of background that serious Christie fans want make these spoilers both necessary and inevitable. It would be a good idea for readers to use the complete and chronological publication list in the back of the book as a guideline and read the books by decade before delving into Murder in the Making.
While reading notes scribbled in Christie’s own handwriting is not quite the same as being in her head or even looking over her shoulder, Murder in the Making does allow us to imagine ourselves in the same room with the Queen of Crime as she muttered and struggled to sort through plot tangles and character conflicts. This book is absolutely a must-have for every Christie fan or aspiring mystery writer who seeks to understand the strategies and mindset of a master.