When Agatha Christie was living in London during World War II, she wasn’t sure she was going to survive. The Blitz by the German air force had inflicted heavy damage on London’s capital city, and thousands of people had died. Christie believed she might eventually be among them.
She was famous, and so were her characters, Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot. So, she did something odd.
She wrote a final book for each, one for each character, and in both books, the main character dies. Then Christie locked them away in a bank vault. One book was for her daughter; the other for her husband. In case she died during the Blitz, each would have something of hers.
The books showed how much Christie has mastered her form and her characters. She did survive the war, of course, and she went on to write many more books about both Poirot and Marple. But she always knew how they would end.
Christie lived for more than 30 years after the war. Poirot lived for almost that long. His final mystery, Curtain, the one in which he dies, was published in 1975, about six months before Christie’s death in January 1976. When the book was published, Poirot was given a front-page obituary in the New York Times — the only obituary the Times has ever run of a literary character.
The final Jane Marple mystery, Sleeping Murder, came out a few months after Christie died.
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