Agatha Christie Mystery Code Cracked By Academics Who Have A Formula To Predict The Murderer

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There are few mystery writers from any time period who can compare to the great Agatha Christie, whose stories have kept readers eagerly guessing for decades. But now academics say that they've cracked the "Agatha Christie code," so to speak, and can tell readers a sure-fire formula to spot the murderer in Christie's stories long before her intrepid detectives do. Sorry, Hercule Poirot.

According to a panel of experts who have studied Christie's work in great detail, there are certain accidental clues in all of Christie's novels. They claim that by looking at the language Christie uses, in conjunction with details like the murder weapon and the story's setting, readers can use a relatively simple formula to pinpoint the murderer.

From the reader’s point of view, the killer can be identified by looking at key characteristics associated with the novel," one of the panelists, data analyst Brett Jacob told The Guardian. “These include the relationship of the victim to the killer — in the majority of cases the victim is related by blood or a spouse of the killer ... in conjunction with the other characteristics such as the primary means of transport associated with the novel, which points to the [gender]."

According to experts, Christie's novels often include an important, main clue halfway through that is not immediately noted as a clue but is “highlighted as it appears in the text” so readers will remember it for later.

The character who turns out to be the murderer is always introduced in the first half of the book and is usually connected to the victim somehow, often as a blood relative. The experts noted that if the killer is female she is initially described more negatively, whereas male killers are introduced using more neutral or positive language. If the setting is a country house, or if there are a lot of land vehicles, the killer is most likely female. If the victim was strangled or if there are a lot of nautical vehicles, the killer is usually male.

Put all these things together, and you can probably have a pretty good idea of who the killer is long before the investigators get close.

In a lot of ways, this is hardly surprising. After all, writers are people. Their brains work in particular ways, and even someone as inventive and imaginative as Agatha Christie is bound to have a few unconscious tropes it leans on. The most unexpected thing really is not that Christie's dozens of books contain unintentional patterns that readers can clue in to, but that it took this long for anyone to notice. It is the mark of a writer who knew how to either minimize or disguise her own tells very well.