Tag Archive for: #Agatha Christie

Origin and Evolution of the Mystery Genre

 By Kathryn Lane

When I’m about to start writing a
new Nikki Garcia mystery, I take time to look back, like traveling through a
time capsule, to the origin of the genre.

Most literary historians place the origin of
mysteries in 1841 when Edgar Allan Poe wrote The Murders in the Rue
. He invented devices of suspense fiction still in use, such as the
subconscious motivation of his characters.

Poe also used kernels of truth in his fiction. Murders
in the Rue Morgue
is set in Paris. Since I like to place my novels in
foreign countries, I wondered why Poe used Paris as his setting. It turns out
that the first known private investigative firm was founded in that city by
, a former criminal who
became a criminologist and was also instrumental in organizing the
Sûreté that became part of the
national police force with
Vidocq as its first director.

Apparently, Poe created the first fictional
private investigator,
Dupin, based on what Poe knew about Vidocq.
doubt Poe ever anticipated
the reading public’s enduring fascination with suspense and mysteries, which have
also evolved into thrillers.

The next big innovator, Arthur Conan Doyle,
borrowed from other genres, including humor and romance, to spice up his Sherlock Holmes series,
a trend some current authors tend to follow.

Agatha Christie invented the husband-and-wife team
and moved her stories to the country, thus inventing the cozy mystery. She
dropped clues in her stories so the reader could figure out whodunit.

A lot of experimentation followed in the genre,
creating hard-boiled crime, spy thrillers, psychopathic and serial killers, and
the psychological thriller.

Readers who enjoy mysteries often prefer stories
full of twists and turns with memorable characters and plots that keep them
turning the pages.

After I go down memory lane in my time capsule, I enjoy
reflecting on specific ideas that might help me in my next project, such as creating
more tension between characters, perhaps experimenting with an unstable
character, or seeing how some of my favorite authors have used foreign locations
to make the story more satisfying.

As a reader, what do you anticipate in a new

Or, as a writer, do you look at the work of other authors, either
current or past, to inspire you?


Kathryn’s books – The Nikki Garcia
series and her short story collection – Backyard Volcano.
All available on Amazon.

Kathryn Lane started out
as a starving artist. To earn a living, she became a certified public
accountant and embarked on a career in international finance with a major
multinational corporation. After two decades, she left the corporate world and plunged into writing mystery and suspense thrillers. In her stories, Kathryn
draws deeply from
Mexican background as well as her travels in over ninety countries.




Crow, Investigator with Pipe, and
Fingerprint – Public Domain

Kathryn’s books – designs by Bobbye

Five Things You Might Not Know About Agatha Christie

 By superfan Shari Randall


September 15 marked the 130th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth and I’ve been celebrating all week. Please join me in raising a cup of tea in a toast to Dame Agatha, one of the most influential and successful novelists of all time. Her genre, the traditional mystery, has remained popular with readers since she published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920.


Most are familiar with the biography of Agatha Christie. The mega-selling (over two billion copies) author’s work is rediscovered by every generation and celebrated with a splashy, star-studded movie (the latest, Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile, is slated for October). Born to a wealthy family in Torquay, England, she was homeschooled and taught herself to read at age five. She had an ill-fated whirlwind marriage to Royal Flying Corps aviator Archie Christie and her disappearance when she discovered his affair caused a sensation. Her work in pharmacies during the war gave her a wonderfully deep and useful knowledge of poisons. Her happy second marriage to archaeologist Max Mallowan, and their travels, inspired some of her most popular books.


Her work continues to delight, inspire, and yes, confound 44 years after her death – from natural causes – in 1976 at age 85.

Here are a few lesser known facts about the Queen of Mystery:


Dame Agatha had a rose named after her: “Agatha Christie” is a “Beautiful rich, pink Hybrid Tea shaped blooms that are lightly fragrant. A strong growing disease-resistant climber with outstanding dark-green, glossy foliage. Repeat Bloom.”


She is the only female dramatist to have had three plays – Spider’s Web, Witness for the Prosecution, and The Mousetrap – running simultaneously in London’s West End.


She owned many dogs and her favorite breed was the terrier. Her first dog was named George Washington. Her favorite was a short-haired terrier called Peter that she wrote into Dumb Witness as “Bob.”


In 1922, Archie was asked to tour several areas of the British Empire to promote the British Empire Exhibition. He and Agatha stopped in Hawaii and the couple learned to surf, possibly becoming two of the first Europeans to master the sport.


Her daughter Rosalind, fiercely private like her mother, had one son, Matthew Prichard, with her first husband. Mathew received the sole rights to The Mousetrap for his ninth birthday.


There’s a misspelling on her gravestone. See if you can spot it.




What’s your favorite Agatha Christie book? Mine’s Murder on the Orient Express.

Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery series. Her debut, CURSES, BOILED AGAIN, won the Agatha Award (yes, named for Agatha Christie) for best first novel. You can see what’s new with her at https://www.facebook.com/sharirandallauthor or see her mermaid obsession on Instagram @sharirandallauthor.




Clicking Our Heels: Authors Whose Craft Abilities We Admire

Clicking Our Heels: Authors Whose Craft Abilities
We Admire

Although classes and books are ways writers
improve their skills, another way is to analyze the skills of writers we
admire. Here are some writers we each turn to when looking for great examples
of particular aspects of craft, such as dialogue, transitions, description and

Judy Penz Sheluk: John Sanford is the
master of pacing. I love how Tana French takes a minor character in one book and
makes them the protagonist in another. Fiona Barton for cleverly twisted plots
with a simple premise. Agatha Christie because (most of) her books still hold up

Shari Randall: What would Agatha do? Is
a question I ask myself when I run into plotting roadblocks. Her ingenious and
byzantine plotting sets a high bar that I know I’ll never reach, but it does
inspire. For dialogue I’ll turn to the films of the thirties. As far as most
elements of writing, I worship Kate Atkinson in general. For action, I turn to
Dan Brown. He has his detractors, but his stories move.

Juliana Aragon Fatula: Linda Rodriguez
has helped me so much with her Plotting the Character Driven Novel. Stephen King
because he writes the characters I love: Annie Wilkes, and Dolores Clairborne
and many other strong women.

T.K. Thorne: Sue Monk Kidd. I just
think her writing is amazing.

Kay Kendall: For emotional depth I look
to Louise Penny. No one fleshes out personality and motivation as well as she
does. For violent action balanced with understanding of the human psyche, all
written in fantastic prose, I think Tim Hallinan and Reed Farrel Coleman can’t
be beat.

Bethany Maines: I actually look quite
often to movies. A well-crafted script (and there are many that aren’t) is
incredibly informative about getting a story and characters from point A to
point B.

A.B. Plum: Elmore Leonard is my
go-to-dialogue guru. His characters make me laugh out loud, and I admire his
zany plotting – proving nothing is too crazy if you entertain the reader.

Dru Ann Love: I will answer this as the
only book that I reread is J.D. Robb as it has everything, great narrative,
good dialogue, good transition, great visuals, nice suspense and plenty of

J.M. Phillippe: I think it depends on
which genre I am writing in. I was taught a mimicking exercise in college,
where you start to copy, word for word, something an author has written to get
a sense of their literary voice, and then continue the passage using your own
words but mimicking their style. Depending on what genre I am writing, I will
pick up well known and respected authors in genre and do a mimicking exercise.
I am also always expanding my favorite author list that way.

Linda Rodriguez: Toni Morrison and John
Steinbeck are two writers I turn to for improving my dialogue. For description,
I turn to Alice Walker and Stephen King. For action scenes, I like Elizabeth
George and Tony Hillerman. For transitions, I study Ursula K. LeGuin and
Virginia Woolf. For bringing characters onstage and to life, Agatha Christie and
Charles Dickens are hard to beat.

Sparkle Abbey:

Mary Lee Woods: There are so many! I
recently did a program for a local writers’ group on taking your writing to the
next level where I discussed the difference between technically correct and “good”
writing , and really using all the creative tools you have at your disposal to
tell the story. As far as examples, I used: Characters – Nora Robers; Dialogue –
Jennifer Crusie; Description – William Ken Kruger; Action – Janet Evanovich;
and Humor – Laura Levine.

Anita Carter: For plot, Lisa Gardner…always.
For a great fast paced comedy, Laura Levine. For dialogue, Julia Quinn. For
emoton, Virginia Kantra. I also reference Hallie Ephon and Harlan Coben.

Agatha Christie’s Ariadne Oliver

Judy Penz Sheluk

I spent the better part of my teen and early-mid twenties reading everything Agatha Christie wrote (including the six books written under the pseudonym of Mary Westmacott. Recently, after the rather 2017 dismal remake of Murder on the Orient Express—sorry, Kevin Branagh, you are not a convincing Poirot (though perhaps no one can achieve David Suchet’s spot-on interpretation of the Belgian detective)—I reread the book and was pleasantly surprised to find that it held up very well.

That got me thinking about Christie’s alter-ego, Ariadne Oliver. A middle-aged woman and successful detective novelist, she’s an apple-chomping woman described as “handsome in a rather untidy fashion, with fine eyes, substantial shoulders, and a large quantity of rebellious grey hair with which she was continuously experimenting,” having written The Affair of the Second Goldfish and The Cat It Was Who Died.

While Christie always insisted that her characters were entirely fictional, she admitted that Mrs. Oliver had “a strong dash of herself.” The character appeared in Cards on the Table, Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, Dead Man’s Folly, The Pale Horse, Third Girl, Hallowe’en Party and Elephants Can Remember.

So why would Murder on the Orient Express make me think of Ariadne Oliver? Well, consider these quotes of Ariadne’s as she laments creating her Finnish detective, Sven Hjerson.

In Cards on the Table
“I only regret one thing — making my detective a Finn. I don’t really know anything about Finns and I’m always getting letters from Finland pointing out something impossible that he’s said or done. They seem to read detective stories a good deal in Finland. I suppose it’s the long winters with no daylight. In Bulgaria and Roumania they don’t seem to read at all. I’d have done better to have made him a Bulgar.”

This one makes me laugh: how many times, I wonder, did Christie hear that her Belgian Poirot wasn’t “Belgian” enough.

In Mrs. McGinty’s Dead

“I can’t help it,” said Mrs. Oliver obstinately. “He’s always been a vegetarian. He takes round a little machine for grating raw carrots and turnips.”

“But Ariadne, precious, why?”

“How do I know?” said Mrs. Oliver crossly. “How do I know why I ever thought of the revolting man? I must have been mad! Why a Finn when I know nothing about Finland? Why a vegetarian? Why all the idiotic mannerisms he’s got? These things just happen. You try something – and people seem to like it – and then you go on – and before you know where you are, you’ve got someone like that maddening Sven Hjerson tied to you for life. And people even write and say how fond you must be of him. Fond of him? If I met that bony gangling vegetable eating Finn in real life, I’d do a better murder than any I’ve ever invented.”

Robin Upward gazed at her with reverence.

“You know, Ariadne, that might be rather a marvelous idea. A real Sven Hjerson – and you murder him. You might make a Swan Song book of it – to be published after your death.”

“No fear!” said Mrs. Oliver.

Shades of Poirot’s vegetable marrow garden, and Curtain, his last case? I leave it for you to decide. But without question, this last quote from Dead Man’s Folly is my absolute favorite

“If you know anything about writers, you’ll know that they can’t stand suggestions. People say ‘Splendid, but wouldn’t it be better if so and so did so and so?’ Or ‘wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea if the victim was A instead of B? Or the murderer turned out to be D instead of E?’ I mean, one wants to say: ‘All right then, write it yourself if you want it that way!’”

Ahh…to create my very own Ariadne Oliver…not a bad idea, that.

Tell me, readers, do you have a favorite Agatha Christie quote, movie or book?

And now, for some Shameless Self Promotion: My latest Marketville mystery, Past & Present, is now available in trade paperback at all the usual suspects, including Barnes & Noble, and on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

Clicking Our Heels: Shadowing Any Writer – Dead or Alive!

Clicking Our Heels: Shadowing Any Writer –
Dead or Alive!
The Stiletto Gang members admire each other,
but for the fun of it, we all explained what writer (dead or alive) we’d want
to shadow and why.

Judy Penz Sheluk: Truman Capote when he
was researching In Cold Blood. It was
a different time, before 24/7 news cycles, and he paved the way for true crime.
I’ve seen the movie Capote a dozen

T.K. Thorne: Shakespeare, to plum the
mysteries of his genius.

Bethany Maines: James Patterson maybe.
Just to see his marketing machine work. But in general, writing is pretty dang
boring. I think possibly “shadowing a writer” would turn out to be code for
staring at them while they type.

Shari Randall: Agatha Christie, of
course! I’d love to ask her for plotting tips and I imagine she’d always stop
writing at tea time, just like I do.

: Jane Austen strikes me as a woman who wrote despite the obstacles society
put in her way. Her acerbic view of her society spurs me to write about family
and place and love.

Dru Ann Love: Linda Castillo. She
writes about a group of people that I would never think would be as evil and
dangerous and she makes it believable.

Linda Rodriguez: Virginia Woolf would
be my choice because she wrote groundbreaking novels, crystalline nonfiction,
and wickedly funny letters and diaries and she knew all of the most fascinating
people of the time (though she and her husband were the most fascinating of all
of them).

J.M. Phillippe: Oooh. Probably
Shakespeare so I can finally put the debate about if he was real (and really
wrote everything he is attributed to writing) to rest.

Juliana Aragon Fatula: When I was a
teenager, Pearl S. Buck made me fall in love with Asian Culture, people, land,
language. I would love to tell her how much her writing inspired me and led me
to believe a woman could write and be published.

Sparkle Abbey:

Mary Lee Woods: This question is so
difficult! First, dead writers. I’d love to shadow Agatha Christie and I’d love
to have a conversation with Mark Twain. Such unique views of the world and
their views clearly influenced the stories they told. Secondly, living writers.
I’d love to spend a day shadowing Nora Roberts. She seems to have so many
stories in her head and works on multiple projects at one time. How does she do
it? I have many stoires in my head, but the ability to work on them at the same
time escapes me. I suspect it comes down to a brilliant brain, a love for
storytelling, and a solid work ethic. But… if there’s a secret…I’d love to know
what it is!

Anita Carter: That’s hard. Can I pick
two? Lisa Gardner because I struggle with plotting. She’s a master at it, and I’d
love to know her process. And Agatha Christie. From my understanding she’d
start with the murder, then move to the suspects. It’s very similar to how I
work, but I know there are ways I could improve my process.

Kay Kendall: Shakespeare. What a
fertile mind he had.

Debra H. Goldstein: Anne George. Not
only was she a wonderful humorous Agatha award winning mystery writer and the
Alabama poet laureate, she wrote one of my favorite literary works, This One and Magic Life. She also was
generous with her time bringing the beauty of words and writing to children.

The Bobbsey Twins and Agatha Christie by Debra H. Goldstein

The Bobbsey Twins and Agatha Christie by Debra H. Goldstein

When I was a child, I was given a copy of The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport by Laura Lee Hope.  It’s book jacket claimed “Ghosts! Everyone agrees that the old Marden House is as haunted as a chimney on Halloween, but when there’s a mystery to be solved, the Bobbsey Twins, Bert and Nan, Freddie and Flossie, don’t intend to let a little thing like ghosts stop them.”  I became a diehard mystery reader from that moment forward.

Mysteries let me escape from school, chores, piano practice, and my pesky younger sister.  Reading the entire Bobbsey Twin series let me be part of solving a mystery at the circus, the beach, the mountains, and by the end, even Japan.  I explored more places and felt like the series’ characters became my friends as I read my way through Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden.  Then, I found Agatha Christie!  Not only were the characters of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot addictive, but their reasoning abilities challenged me to read carefully so that I could beat them to figuring out whodunit.

To this day, I relish the plot line in Christie’s The Pale Horse because it stumped me.  When I finished the book, I realized that Agatha Christie had hid the clues in the plot’s twists and turns, but I had been so engrossed in the story that I forgot to focus on putting them together.  It was at that moment I realized the complex analysis and delicacy of writing that makes a good mystery just plain fun to read.

Throughout the years, mystery writers have entertained and challenged me. They’ve kept me from being bored on long flights, distracted me when unpleasant things are happening, and interfered with my sleep because I was too intrigued in a book to put it down.  It is the latter type of books that remind me of the technical skills of word choice, plot, and characterization necessary to write an enjoyable mystery. These type of books are, as Flossie of The Bobbsey Twins would say, “bee-yoo-ti-ful!.”

Eating Apples in a Bathtub

The author of Death of a Cozy Writer , G.M. Malliet is an Agatha Award Winner, recipient of an Anthony and Macavity Nomination for Best First Novel, recipient of a David Nomination for Best Novel, and an IPPY Award Silver Medalist (Mystery/Suspense/Thriller). Death of a Cozy Writer was chosen by Kirkus Reviews as one of the Best Books of 2008.

Is there anyone who by now does not know the story of how the Harry Potter series was conceived? Just in case: J. K. Rowling was on a train from Manchester to London in 1990 when the idea for the boy wizard suddenly came to her. As she relates it:

“I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, and all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who did not know he was a wizard became more and more real to me.”

(Notice that she sat and thought. She wrote none of this down; she just let the ideas bubble away.)

But is this really how it happens? The idea for a beloved character just pops into your head? Or has the idea been there all along, percolating away, inspired by nothing more than a face in the crowd from months before, or a phrase overheard in a café? Some insignificant event that may not even have registered at the time? This question fascinates and vexes authors, who are always asked where their ideas/characters come from. In reply, we mostly go into blank-stare mode, or give some glib answer (“the idea tree”). The fact is, no one knows.

What is certain, however, is that a train ride is the world’s best conductor, so to speak, for the creative process. I think it’s because you are trapped. You can’t be distracted by the sudden urge to do laundry, or paint the house, or go make a cup of coffee. In order to do these things, you’d first have to throw yourself off the train, and wisely realizing that would be unwise, you are thrown back instead on your own thought processes.

This trapped concept doesn’t work—for me, at any rate—on airplanes, because I am too busy helping the pilot keep the plane aloft by aiming uplifting prayers towards the cockpit, and it definitely doesn’t work in cars, distracted as I am by some idiot changing lanes at high speed without using his turn indicator (just yesterday I saw a bumper sticker I loved. It said, “If Jesus Were Here, He’d Use His Turn Signal”).

You’d think the same “trapped” concept might work while you’re in the dentist’s chair, but it doesn’t seem to pan out that way. A dentist’s chair does seem to send my brain into high gear, however: What’s that noise? What is that big silver thing he’s holding now? Is that a needle—good heavens, is that a needle? Is this guy old enough to be a dentist, anyway? I wonder if I look like Hannibal Lecter in this rubber mask? Will this be over soon? What’s that noise?

In other words, it’s like having a hyperkinetic four-year-old trapped inside your head: It’s lively in there, but it’s hardly creative.

But on a train, the forward movement is restful. I’m freed from all obligations and distractions, especially if I’ve left the computer at home. Combined with the sense that I have been granted permission to just sit and daydream, that does the trick for me every time. Plot twists invented; characters who announce themselves, fullblown. It is pure bliss for a writer.

Agatha Christie wrote that her best ideas came to her while she was sitting in a bathtub, eating apples. Believe me, I would try this if I thought it would make me half as ingenious as she was, and I’d be willing to bet some mystery authors have tried it, but somehow I think this technique was unique to Agatha. Other authors swear by washing the dishes as a surefire generator of ideas, but that doesn’t really work for me: I just want to get the chore over with, not daydream. Walking? Sometimes works, but not really.

Maybe if I ate apples on a train while sitting in a bathtub…would another story as good as Murder on the Orient Express come out of it?

Please visit me at http://gmmalliet.com/

G.M. Malliet

Jane and Hercule Sittin’ in a Tree…

I’ve got a question – and apparently Agatha Christie has the answer.

My question is who owns the characters I love? The author who created them or the audience that sustains them?

According to a story in Monday’s edition of the New York Times, Mathew Prichard, Dame Agatha’s grandson, recently discovered 27 audiotapes, recorded by the legendary author as she prepared material for her autobiography (published in 1977). In it she responds to the repeated requests she had received about her characters: “People never stop writing to me nowadays to suggest that Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot should meet. But why should they meet? I’m sure they would not like meeting at all. I shall not let them meet unless I feel a really sudden and unexpected urge to do so.”

First, I agree with Dame Agatha. The concept of Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot working on a case together is, as undoubtedly my grandmother would have answered, just plain meshuganah (Yiddish for crazy).

But for those familiar with the fanfiction world, crossovers are a well-respected staple. In that genre, Miss Jane Marple might not just collaborate on a baffling whodunnit with the Belgian detective, but could be having his baby as well.

I know, I know – blasphemy. Mea culpa.

But in some ways, it’s a chicken and egg question. Dame Agatha – and Evelyn David, for that matter – is perfectly within her rights to decide what happens to her characters, including ***spoiler alert*** killing off Hercule Poirot when she saw fit. But like Arthur Conan Doyle, it is folly to ignore your readers when they are clamoring for a different outcome. Doyle took the “great hiatus,” as his fans referred to the period after he published The Adventure of the Final Problem, where Sherlock Holmes disappeared over the Falls and was presumed dead. The detective’s wondrous resurrection eight years later was motivated by many reasons, not the least of which was…$$$$

The collective Evelyn David has created backstories for all the main characters. These histories help us determine the motivations for Mac, Rachel, even Whiskey (it was hard being the runt of the litter…). So while you can do whatever you want with your characters – should you? Do you, the author, know them better than your readers?

The answer is: probably, sometimes, or it depends. Dame Agatha was undoubtedly correct that Jane and Hercule were destined never to be together. But like our real-life children, sometimes we need a fresh perspective. Our readers offer that. It may not change my decision on how a character will develop or change, but it will make me at least think through why I’m doing what I’m doing – and that’s never a bad thing.

Do you have a favorite character — in books, television, or movies — that you think was derailed by its creator?

Evelyn David

Me and Sally Field

I like to think of myself as a strong, independent woman, confident in my abilities, aware of my limitations. So how come I’m reduced to a sniveling wuss when it comes to my fiction writing?

I write nonfiction books for a living. I’ve got 10 books to my credit, two will be published this year. Unlike mysteries, you almost never write the entire nonfiction book before you have a contract. Yes, you have to do enough research to make the case to an editor that that you have a unique idea that will appeal to a large segment of the book-buying public, but generally you haven’t spent the better part of a year or more finishing your life’s work—only to have it rejected.

I never take it personally if a nonfiction book proposal is rejected. I might be disappointed, but I don’t immediately launch into a weeping rendition of the “I’m never going to work in this town again” blues. I, Ms. Rationality, am able to discuss in modulated tones how the market for this topic has changed; or conversely it’s been done to death (even if I could have done it better); or the editor wouldn’t have the good sense to recognize a great idea if he were on the Titanic and being offered a life preserver. In other words, it’s not me that is being rejected, but instead it’s a bad concept or maybe just bad timing. As Michael Corleone would say, “it’s not personal, it’s business.”

But my fiction? Whether it’s a short story or a novel, I crave feedback and unless I hear the equivalent of a marching band playing the Hallelujah chorus, I’m crushed. When I read a favorable review, I break into my best Sally Field impersonation, announcing to the world “you like me, you really like me.”

Conversely, even a minor criticism or less-than-enthusiastic comment, and I’m ready to turn in my Mystery Writers of America membership card in abject humiliation. As my mother, the original Evelyn, would say, OY!

I’m amazed at the authors who insist that they never read reviews – the good ones or the bad. I’m impressed by their self-confidence and self-restraint. Not only do I read the reviews, but I parse each sentence and search for intonation and nuance.

Do you think this need for outside validation is because I’m still relatively new at the fiction game? Does Mary Higgins Clark still worry when she publishes a new book? Did Agatha Christie care what the reviewers said?

Tell me the truth. Is this an affliction of a newbie or do all writers need public confirmation of their work? Is it “this too shall pass” or “learn to live with it; it goes with the territory?”

Evelyn David

Are You Kidding Me?

There are some books that are sacred. I’m not talking about the Bible or the Koran. I’m referring to those classic mysteries that I believe it’s damn near sacrilege to change so much as a comma, let alone the storyline. But that’s exactly what happened a few days ago. There I was, comfortably ensconced on the sofa, Diet Coke in hand, popcorn at the ready, all set to watch one of my favorites: Agatha Christie’s The Body in the Library.

Of course, I’d read the book. Of course, I’d seen Joan Hickson’s 1984 version. So I was psyched to see a remake, this time with Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple. But suddenly Ms. Marple, who has been transformed into a 21st century feminist sleuth, appears to have been dropped into a very dumb episode of All My Children, except in this version Susan Lucci has a British accent. I mean the tele-movie used all the names of Christie’s characters, but somebody, and I’m looking at you screenwriter Kevin Elyot, had the gall to change everything else. Somehow Ms. Marple found herself in the midst of a lesbian triangle. Hell, even the murderer had been changed.

Have you no shame Mr. Elyot? What’s next? You’ve decided to rewrite Gone With the Wind? Scarlett O’Hara undergoes a sex-change operation and become Sam O’Hara, owner of Tara, a tranny bar in Greenwich Village?

J. W. Eagan, and try as I might I can’t find out who this pundit is, once said: Never judge a book by its movie. More power to the screenwriter who succeeds in preserving the essence of a beloved book while transforming it to the big (or small) screen. All hail Horton Foote who took Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and wrote a screenplay worthy of that powerful novel.

I confess. Both halves of Evelyn David regularly play the casting game for Murder Off the Books. I’m envisioning a 30-years younger James Garner as Mac, and maybe Karen Allen for Rachel. My Irish Terrier Clio thinks she has the style and wit to play Whiskey and no one will notice that she’s 80 pounds lighter and five feet shorter. Dreams were made of lesser things. The Southern half has her own casting choices. Should we ever be lucky enough to sell the book (we’re looking at you Hallmark Channel) – well, I hope that our literary integrity would withstand any financial incentives (but I’m not putting all my money on it).

But Dame Agatha? Maybe the executors of her estate are laughing all the way to the bank and aren’t offended at all by the changes in her immortal plots and words. But this fan is “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” You don’t mess with my Aggie.

Evelyn David