Strychnine is the murder weapon that does for the wealthy and recently remarried Emily Inglethorp in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. As Guardian columnist Lucy Mangan notes, one can imagine Christie, a conscientious volunteer pharmacist in both the First and Second World Wars, ‘surrounded by the bottles of poisons that would one day find their way down the unsuspecting gullets of so many victims’ (Mangan 2010). Christie’s famous ‘disappearance’ amid the breakdown of her first marriage was front-page news in 1926, and the spa hotel in Harrogate where she was eventually found is now the venue for an annual crime-writing festival.
Her remarriage to archaeologist Max Mallowan meant spending summers on Middle Eastern digs where, as Mangan puts it, we can imagine ‘the meticulous plotter patiently aligning the scattered shards into a workable whole once more’ (2010).
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