Meeting Agatha Christie by Anna Killick


Write Your Own Christie winner Anna Killick has written a touching article on her experience of visiting Greenway and meeting Agatha Christie's grandson, Mathew Prichard.

Everyone has an Agatha. Someone they long to meet, sit down and have a good chat with, a hero or heroine. Mine is the world's best-selling author, Agatha Christie. She is, I soon found out, the heroine of many others.

In 2014 I came across an international competition called Write Your Own Christie sponsored by Agatha Christie Limited and HarperCollins. It was a collaborative novel where by using the previous chapter winner's clues, you wrote the next. I'd never tried my hand at a Christie-esque piece and to my utter delight, I won two chapters, gaining me, and several other winners, a place at her table, at her house, with her Grandson, Mathew Prichard, and David Brawn from Harper Collins, her publisher of 20 years.

I remember my world changed when I was 14. Somehow I had got my hands on a copy of one of her many murder novels and I was absolutely enchanted. Here was a world so far from my own: one of clip-clopping Mary Janes on cobbled streets in small villages, fluffy old ladies who knew all the town secrets, and in one one case, an island where everyone died one by one. Who could the murderer be? It was this question that led me to read nearly all of her 66 detective novels and 147 short stories – more than once.

Her protagonists became friends. The Belgian detective M. Hercule Poirot was my mentor and helped me to remember to use my 'little grey cells'. Miss Marple was more of a super cool grandmother – the type who'd knit you a scarf, take the time to listen to you and most importantly, solve crimes that baffled even the most famous policemen. A lot was going in my life at that time; I was being bullied at school, my mother became very ill and so my sister and I plunged ourselves into imaginary worlds where we were revered and rich. Cut to 1997 and some of these same people had voted for me to be their Head Girl. Suddenly, I felt responsible, even popular. But Agatha remained the same. She remained my refuge after 14 hour days and packed weekends. She was a blessing even then, drawing me out of my closeted room into the world of the beautiful whodunit.

I could harp on all day about England and Torquay but the most important aspect of this trip was our group meeting Agatha.

She was there as we went in taxis up tiny, winding hedgerow lanes towards Greenway, her Torquay holiday home. She was there as we set our feet on her pebbled driveway. She was resplendent in the sun's last rays falling across her beautiful holiday home and landing on the river below. Mathew, himself, took us through a rare guided tour of the house, retelling beloved memories. We saw her sitting at the piano where only she was allowed to be when playing and singing, we saw her sitting around the fireplace in her 'special chair' test-reading her books with her family gathered around. We heard her berating her second husband, Sir Max, as he guessed the murderer correctly after having been asleep during the entire thing. We saw her laying in her bed of a Saturday morning with Mathew running in to snuggle with 'Nima' – his favourite memory. I actually saw myself rifling through her stunning vintage wardrobe and taking home a few choice pieces to gallivant around in.

The actual dinner was spectacular. The dining room was large, elegant and had a huge formal table which took up most of the room. Not only were we served a five course Michelin Star-worthy dinner but four of the other winners and their partners took the time to get to know one another. They were an accomplished, intelligent and friendly group who all shared a mutual admiration for Christie and her work.

The pinnacle of the evening was when Mathew told us, very humbly, that this would be one of the Agatha Christie-themed events that his grandmother would have approved of the most. I felt a tear in my eye. It was incredibly surreal. Was I really sitting here, experiencing Agatha Christie as I had only dreamed? Was I really shooting the breeze with her grandson, Mathew? He asked us to each, in turn, say what his grandmother meant to each of us and why we had entered the competition. Some told of how the previous few family generations had got them hooked on Christie's stories – the conclusion was the same – we loved her. When it came to my turn, I fought back the tears. I told Mathew my story and I told him that his grandmother had changed my life. It was his turn to have a tear in his eye.

The most simple, yet memorable story, Mathew told was of Sir Max bringing back a solid brass snake from one of his many travels. This was the bane of Agatha's existence. Each time she would enter the dining room where it was used as a doorstop, she would rip her tights or scratch herself on its sharp tongue. In the end, she was so frustrated, a champagne cork was shoved onto its tongue – and it remains there until this very day.

Perhaps, we didn't meet Agatha personally but we certainly met her in some way I cannot fully explain. Was it her presence? Was it through her grandson? Was it through writing in her style? Whatever it was, we all met her in some form. I came away with a renewed enthusiasm for writing and embarked on my very own mystery adventure. It's definitely my own style but maybe, just maybe, one day, we will meet just a little bit of Agatha again.

Sign up to the newsletter to receive The World of Agatha Christie: 1920s magazine