Dame Agatha Christie doesn't look easy to surprise. That's probably because the Queen of Crime knows all the tricks. How many of these plot devices (sourced from the Christie Mystery website) do you have in your toolbox?
- Red Herrings. A writer must be fair. Introducing vital information on the last page is just plain mean. But who says you can't mess with a reader's mind a little?
- The Unlikely Suspect. A murderous child? An unreliable narrator? Agatha Christie was a master of using the values and assumptions of the reader to construct some excellent twists.
- The Disguise. Does sticking on a fake moustache fool anyone nowadays? Maybe not, but a change of identity - real or metaphorical - is a crafty way of hiding, and eventually revealing secrets.
- A Closed Setting. The comings and goings of real people in the real world can muddy the character pool, especially in a whodunit. So what do you do? Try sticking the players on a boat, or a train, or in a big house in the country.
- The Trap. It's not easy to prove guilt. It may not be standard criminal procedure, but contriving a scene is a nifty way to expose a phony.
- The Illusion. A suspect may fake his or her own death, or employ a distraction, or frame someone else, or discredit a vital witness. Who's telling the truth? And who's telling big, fat porkies?
- The Alliance. What do we really know about a relationship between two people? Lovers may appear to the world as enemies. Siblings might pretend to be strangers. Two heads can be trickier than one.
- Final Justice. Obviously, nobody told Agatha Christie that bad people must be caught and sent to prison forever. According to Wikipedia, the murderer escapes in six of Agatha Christie's stories, and dies in several others.
So who's your favourite female author, and what is it about her writing or stories that you admire?