Agatha Christie’s Most Memorable Victims and Villains

With a post title such as this, it is inevitable that spoilers will be abounding in this post. But to give you a heads up in this order the following titles are mentioned: (Victims) Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, Murder on the Orient Express, The Body in the Library, Towards Zero, (Killers) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, And Then There Were None, Death on the Nile, Curtain, Nemesis and Crooked House.

I was drawn to writing to this post, as I recently reviewed Cards on the Table (1936) and I found myself thinking how unusually memorable Mr Shaitana is as a murder victim, as with some golden age detective novels, the victim is no more than a starting point for an investigation which focuses much more on the suspects or the ‘how’ element of the crime. I’m not quite sure what made Mr Shaitana such a memorable victim for me, perhaps it is the sinister aura given to him or the way that he is set up as a challenge to Poirot, only to die shortly afterwards. You can certainly say he has presence. Of course this left me wondering which of Christie’s other victims were memorable and then naturally my mind turned to her killers. So in short I decided to do a post looking at just that.

Memorable Victims

  1. Simeon Lee in Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1939)

Like Mr Shaitana I think the reason why Lee stuck in my head was because of his unpleasant nature, though it is probably unpleasant in a different way, more traditionally tyrannical.

Hercule Poirot's Christmas

2. Samuel Ratchett in Murder on the Orient Express (1934)

I remember Ratchett more for the overall mystery he is a part of rather than being remembered for his own sake. Although his back story of abducting and killing a child does make him an apt choice for murder victim.

Murder on the Orient Express

3. Pamela Reeves and Ruby Keene in The Body in the Library (1942)

What impressed me when reading this book for the first time was the killers’ notion of swapping the bodies of the two victims around and it was interesting to see how interchangeable people can become. Moreover it is engaging to see Miss Marple giving the victims time and attention, attention which reveals the tell-tale signs of the swap.

The Body in the Library

4. Audrey Strange in Towards Zero (1944)

Some may think this is an odd choice as to be technically correct Audrey is an intended victim rather than an actual one, as the mystery is solved correctly before she is wrongfully arrested for murder. But I’d still like to include her for that very fact, the fact that although there is already one dead body, it is only there are part of a much more elaborate plan to bump off Audrey. Audrey is also a really interesting character to watch in the story as her behaviour is deliberately ambiguous and it makes her hard to read, which all adds into the mystery of the book.

Towards Zero 4

Memorable Killers

  1. Doctor Sheppard in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)

This is probably not a surprising choice, but no less deserving a one nevertheless. To have your murderer narrate the story and hide this fact so well is genius and I think it is this fact which makes Doctor Sheppard a memorable killer for me.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

 

2. Justice Wargrave in And Then There Were None (1939)

Wargrave’s inventiveness as a killer and his twisted sense of justice are both key reasons for why he is a memorable murderer. Moreover, the way he sets about bumping his victims off and the dramatic way he eliminates suspicion from himself are two further things which make this book one of Christie’s most loved mysteries.

And Then There Were None

3. Simon Doyle and Jacqueline de Belleforte in Death on the Nile (1937)

Again, like Justice Wargrave, Doyle and de Belleforte are memorable for the murder method they construct, which is elaborate to say the least. Perhaps also because of the David Suchet TV adaptation of this book, I find there is a certain poignancy surrounding this murderous couple, as their greed and desire for wealth leads them to their own annihilation and permanent separation from one another. Though of course one wonders whether they could have been poor and happy.

Death on the Nile

4. Stephen Norton and Hercule Poirot in Curtain (1975)

What makes Norton so memorable is how he doesn’t get physically involved in murdering people, but through psychological influence and manipulation he causes others to do this and there is something very sinister and frightening about that sort of a person. I have also read a novel this year where there is a similar type of deviant and again this is a person who is hard to forget as a character and also one that makes you feel uncomfortable. I can’t of course not mention Poirot. How can anyone forget a fictional sleuth of his magnitude taking on the role of the murderer? But also what a finish! Christie certainly ends his career in a much more dramatic way than she does for Miss Marple. Then again I can’t really see Miss Marple taking Colonel Mustard out with a lead pipe. Maybe a poison tipped knitting needle?

Curtains

5. Clotilde Bradbury-Scott in Nemesis (1971)

Unlike her medieval namesake, Clotilde is anything but nice and I think one of the reasons she has stuck in my head is due to the Joan Hickson adaptation of this novel and the memorable showdown between Clotilde and Miss Marple. Furthermore, Clotilde is a perfect example of how love can be become twisted and violent, all the while being encased in a person who appears perfectly respectable and normal.

Nemesis

6. Josephine Leonides in Crooked House (1949)

I don’t have as strong memories about this final character and in truth this is another book which should be added to my mental list of books I need to re-read. Yet the two things which did stick in my mind were her young age (is she Christie’s youngest killer?) and also her end, which is dramatically taken out of her hands.

Crooked House

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About armchairreviewer

Qualified English teacher, with a passion for literature and crime fiction. On a random note I also own pygmy goats and chickens with afros (it doesn't get any cooler than that).
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11 Responses to Agatha Christie’s Most Memorable Victims and Villains

  1. Interesting post, Kate. I’d add in the killer from Peril At End House, as a suitably bonkers murderer.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Brad says:

    I feel a personal post coming on!!!!!!!! Hmmmm . . . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • haha look forward to reading about your own choices

      Like

      • Brad says:

        I decided to write about something else, but I did want to say that I love your choices, and I will be so presumptuous as to add one of my own favorites to each list.

        1. Victim: Mrs. Boynton in APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH. She appeared back to back with Simeon Lee, and in a way they are birds of a feather. What I like about both of them is that the key to finding their killers is to really understand the psychology of the victim. Simeon is presented as someone who was so immoral – and proud of it – that Poirot figured the killer must be part of that disreputable past the victim enjoyed so. And the key to understanding Mrs. Boynton was to know that she was a thriving sadist. Poirot figured she had gone on this most unusual family trip in search of new victims, which led him to the actual killer.

        2. Murderer: I’m fond of Superintendent Sugden in HERCULE POIROT’S CHRISTMAS. Most of the motives in Christie’s mysteries stem from either greed or love. This is the only case I can think of featuring good old fashioned vengeance as a motive. I also get the giggles when I sift through the clues that lead to Sugden, most of them based on the most faulty concepts of inheritance. (Like a person would be born with the habit of throwing back his head and laughing just like his dad and brothers! I mean, come on!!!)

        Great work, Kate!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks. You’ve got some great choices yourself.

        Like

  3. JFW says:

    I enjoyed the villain in ‘Man in Brown Suit’ – even after bits and pieces of the story fell away from my memory-sieve, his/ her humour still sticks…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now you mention it, Mr Brown, is a good choice for villain, but I honestly don’t remember anything about them, which seems shame if as you say they are quite witty. Another one to add to the re-read pile I guess.

      Like

  4. JJ says:

    This has caused me to reflect on Murder on the Orient Express which, while it has a very interesting solution in terms of form, doesn’t really have an interesting killer. I can remember one aspect of the guilt party (wow, am I still trying to protect the most famous murder solution in history from spoilers?!) but he/she/they are not an interesting person/people/you know what I mean.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: AGATHA CHRISTIE AND THE DEADLY DUO | ahsweetmysteryblog

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