Mystery writer Agatha Christie died 40 years ago this week. Here are some facts you may not know about the best-selling novelist of all time.
What don’t you know about the English crime novelist who mastered the art of mystery?
1. With between 2 and 4 billion works sold (depending on your source), she is bested only by William Shakespeare and the Bible.
2. She is also the most translated novelist in history.
3. Christie wrote her first detective story after being challenged by one of her older sisters.
4. Six publishers rejected the manuscript before it was eventually published in 1920.
5. Christie received £25 for her first story.
6. She would go on to write 80 novels during her lifetime.
7. Her books have been adapted into films 27 times, as well as into television shows and even video games.
8. Her play The Mousetrap holds the record for the longest initial run in London’s West End theatre district.
9. The Mousetrap opened in 1952 and is still running to this day after more than 23,000 performances.
10. Her two most lasting creations are Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.
11. Poirot appears in 33 novels and 51 short stories.
12. When she killed off the character in 1975’s Curtains, The New York Times ran a full page obituary.
13. Hercule Poirot remains the only fictional character ever given such treatment by the newspaper.
14. Miss Marple appears in 12 novels and 5 short story collections.
15. Christie said she based Miss Marple in part on her grandmother.
16. Christie wrote the final Miss Marple novel in 1939, but kept it locked in a safe for fear it would be destroyed in the Blitz during World War II.
17. The novel was finally published in 1976.
18. She also published romances under the name Mary Westmacott.
19. In 1926 after quarreling with her first husband, who revealed he was having an affair, she disappeared for 11 days and was the subject of a nationwide manhunt.
20. Police feared her dead, as her car was found abandoned near a lake called Silent Pool – a location where one of her fictional characters had drowned.
21. Instead, she had checked into a hotel in a resort town in North Yorkshire under the name Teresa Neele.
22. Neele was the last name of the woman with whom her husband was having an affair.
23. Recognized by fellow hotel guests, she told the police she had no memory of the episode and was later diagnosed as being in a psychogenic fugue.
24. Many in the public thought the disappearance a publicity stunt for her upcoming novel. Others felt it had been an attempt to shame her husband.
25. She refused to speak of the incident and made no mention of it in her autobiography.
26. In 1930 she met her second husband, archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan, and would remain married to him for the rest of her life.
27. During WWII, she worked in a hospital pharmacy. She there began acquiring a knowledge of poisons that would serve her novels well.
28. In addition to using poison to dispatch her characters, Christie killed her fictional victims in the following ways: strangled by a raincoat belt, strangled by a ukulele string, jabbed in the neck with a venom-tipped dart, stabbed with a corn knife, stabbed with an ornamental Tunisian dagger, drowned in an apple tub, crushed by a bear-shaped marble clock, and electrocuted by a chessboard rigged to deliver the fatal charge upon completion of the third move of the Ruy Lopez opening.
29. The third move of the Ruy Lopez opening is Bb5.
30. One of her most successful novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, inspired critic Edmund Wilson’s derisive essay “Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?”
31. Novelist Raymond Chandler also blasted the Christie style of British drawing room mysteries in his polemic “The Simple Art of Murder,” in which he accused the genre of being preoccupied with the “utterly incomprehensible trick of how somebody stabbed Mrs. Pottington Postlethwaite III with the solid platinum poignard just as she flatted on the top note of the Bell Song from Lakmé in the presence of fifteen ill-assorted guests.”
32. Some of her pre-1950s writing has also been criticized as anti-Semitic due the way Jewish characters are depicted.
33. Agatha Christie died in 1976, at the age of 85.
34. No foul play was suspected.
35. London’s West End theatres dimmed their lights for an hour to mark her passing.
36. Christie has been portrayed on screen by Vanessa Redgrave, Anna Massey, Olivia Williams and Bonnie Wright (who also played Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter movies).
37. Years after Christie’s death, a fan purchased a trunk that had belonged to the author and found a mysterious locked box inside. She declined to open it for four more years “because then the mystery would be over.”
38. The box turned out to contain gold coins as well as diamond jewelry that sold at auction for more than $80,000 in 2014.
39. New works based on her novels continue to be released, including the BBC television miniseries “And Then There Were None” in December 2015.
40. She’s even inspired a new video game: “Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders,” set to be released in February, 2016.