When I was moving from children’s books to more adult fare, I cut my teeth on Agatha Christie.
I was 11 years old in 1976 when she died. The Detroit Free Press, which we had delivered at home, devoted the back page of the last section (the one with the comics) to a photo spread and story about the woman who essentially created a genre of fiction.
I asked my mother whether she would let me check one of Christie’s books out of the library and she said she’d have to think about it, not being familiar with Christie’s work. She got back to me a few days later, saying she had read or heard a minister say he let his children read the books because they were, at the core, very moral.
The next time we went to the library I could hardly hold in my excitement when my little brothers went to the children’s section and I headed over to the adult books. Shelves and shelves were devoted to Christie’s work and I had no idea what to choose. I don’t remember the name of the book, but I remember someone had been killed during a bridge game, in plain view of several other people, by means of a hat pin being shoved into his heart. (I can’t find the name of the novel, but a search finds the same type of murder occurs in a short story starring the married pair Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, the only detectives she created who actually aged over their career. Love them, by the way.)
Yet, I’m not reading a Christie novel for this category of the 2016 Classics Challenge. For me, they’re still treats I still enjoy reading.
Christie led me to other crime writers, and one Christmas when I was in high school, I received a huge volume called “The Complete Sherlock Holmes” along with a dictionary of people, places and cases that appear in the Holmes oeuvre.
I found the enormous complete stories tome the other day, while looking for a mystery to read, blew off the dust and cracked the cover for the first time, clearly, in years. I had made small check marks next to all the stories in the table of contents I had read.
I remembered the books being collections of short stories connected only by Holmes and his sidekick Watson, not a full case stretching over an entire novel. But as I do research, I find I’m wrong. The first introduction of Holmes and Watson was “A Study in Scarlet,” a novel published in 1887. There are four straight-up novels and more than 50 short stories which are collected in various ways, which may have led to my confusion. But doesn’t it seem really dorky that I would put check marks next to chapters of a novel I read? Well, it was high school, and I was nothing if not a huge dork.
Anyway, all this is to say I’ll be reading “The Hound of the Baskervilles” which, surprisingly, has no check marks on it.
Plus, it’s short. After my last classic, I need to be a bit more nimble. See you soon, I have some check marks to make.