Agatha Christie, you may (it’s possible) be surprised to learn, is considered one of, if not the, greatest selling authors of all time, ranking, according to her estate, ever so slightly behind Shakespeare and the Bible, which gives credence to claims that she is the most popular novelist of all time. Her novels have sold in excess of two billion copies, been published in over 103 languages and she continues to be have work adapted for television and radio to this day, more than 50 years after her death. And that’s not to mention the longest running play of all time (The Mousetrap) and the best selling mystery novel of all time (And Then There Were None, sales in excess of 100 million copies). If this doesn’t warrant the odd biography or two, then factor in the mystery of her disappearance in 1926, subsequent to news of her first husband’s infidelity, and the corresponding uproar which made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic (and was later made into a film, Agatha, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman that infuriated her heirs, and a book by Jared Cade called Agatha Christie and the 11 Missing Days). This is the point at which mssrs Martinetti, Lebeau and Franc choose to begin their somewhat uneven graphic rendition of her life.
Roughly the first half of the book flits between her disappearance (we see her husband Archie interviewed by the police, and Agatha herself holed up in the company of Hercule Poirot – a device employed throughout the book, the fictional Christie always somewhat put out by the presence of her creation, the two of them bickering like an old married couple) and her life up to that point (her childhood – you may be unsurprised to learn Christie – or Miller, as she was in the years pre-Archie – came from wealth, there are not too many biographies, graphic or otherwise, centred on cultural figures who hauled themselves up by their bootstraps and plus ca change). Unfortunately, when past and present intersect, we move into the future in a much more conventional way, stopping off for highlights – her fondness for travel, her treatment of her children (which is probably typical of the time and the way she was raised), her enduring success – along the way.
It’s neat, of a fashion, likely to provide casual fans with the frisson that comes from reading graphic works if you are not predisposed to read them normally, but it’s light. Serious fans – who will more than likely have already read her own autobiography and one of the several previous biographies – will not read this for something new. It may be that the graphic form revives a beloved author and allows the reader to repine in her company for a while. But at the same time, there’s a sense of opportunity missed. Christie was famously not a fan of the modern world, calling it ‘a society with no sense of order, of cause and effect, of history’ – what an opportunity for a graphic novelist, to propel her forward, to see her own works endure even as the world grows stranger and stranger to her – just as Appignanesi and Zarate did in their most recent Freud graphic novel Hysteria (although, it has to be said, they dropped the ball on a device that would have worked much better here).
Any Cop?: A perfectly adequate graphic biography of one of our national treasures.