Monday, June 13, 2022

Younger Readers Discover Agatha Christie

 By Thomas Kies

A little a week ago, I attended Thrillerfest in New York.  It was my first in-person conference since 2019 and I loved it.  The organizers of the conference did a terrific job even though it was at a different venue than it’s been in the past.  The Sheraton Times Square is a wonderful facility, but it took me a couple of days to figure out the configuration of the conference area.  

Because of Covid, it appeared that attendance was down, and I noticed that a couple of the panels were missing some of the participants.  Toward the end of the conference, there was a panel on News and Investigations.  Three participants were missing leaving only two authors and the facilitator.  In an interesting quirk of fate, John DeKakis, formerly a CNN writer for Wolf Blitzer, and I were drafted to sit on the panel.

Yes, I had my own panel the day before.  This was just extra and something fun.

But even with the threat of an uptick in Covid, there were hundreds of attendees including authors, publishers, agents, and most importantly, readers and fans. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, there was in an interesting article entitled “Young People Discover a Hot New Writer—Agatha Christie.” It talked about how a young generation has “discovered” Christie.  Indeed, scrolling through TikTok, videos labeled #AgathaChristie have clocked in at 26 million views. 

Sales of Agatha Christie books in the US have risen 39% in the first quarter from last year’s period according to book tracker NPD BookScan. 

Part of the reason may be the popularity of the 2017 movie “Murder on the Orient Express” that featured Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot.  Then there was another spike in popularity when the 2022 movie “Death on the Nile” arrived.  

Indeed, at ThrillerFest, it appeared there was an increase in interest in mysteries and thrillers from those who are under 40, both readers and writers. I have no hard evidence of that.  Only my observations in the panel rooms, the cocktail parties, and at the hotel bar.  You know…the typical mystery writer hangouts.

So, let’s go to the basics.  Why do people like mysteries and thrillers?  It’s an opportunity to sit at home, or on a train, or in a coffeeshop, safely, and experience danger, fearsome scenarios, and life and death struggles with some really nasty villains. In a world fraught with injustice, nearly all of these books have a satisfying ending.  The bad guy is brought to justice, the good guys win.  That’s life as it should be. 

It also gives us a chance to match wits with the detective.  If the mystery is well written, the clues are all there.  You simply have to recognize them and figure it all out…before the ending. 

But if it’s well done, the reader should get to the ending, slap his hand against his forehead and say, “Of course, I should have seen that coming.”

And that’s another reason why Agatha Christie is finding a renewed audience. She wrote 72 novels, 150 short stories, and 20 plays over a writing career that spanned fifty years.  She’s synonymous with writing intricate stories, incredibly clever plotting, and red herrings…leaving trails of false clues. 

In addition to meeting some great people and interesting characters at a conference like Thrillerfest, you inevitably bring home a new cache of books, many from authors you’ve never heard of.  That’s part of the thrill of Thrillerfest.  While some readers are just discovering Agatha Christie, others are discovering new mystery writers. 

Speaking of new…my newest Geneva Chase Mystery, WHISPER ROOM, will be released on August 2nd.  I hope you’ll read it and let me know what you think. 


Anna said...

Agatha Christie had been mostly forgotten by a younger generation? Who knew? As a village elder and long-time reader of Christie, I can only say about these younger readers: How sweet! Isn't that charming! But seriously, welcome to the tribe.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Wow--these young readers have a treat in store for them.