Agatha Christie believed that economy of wording was particularly important in detective stories; that the reader did not want to heard the same thing repeated three or four times.
She also uses very simple everyday language, and repeats it, rather than trying to introduce new words and phrases. She also relies heavily on dialogue throughout her books. In addition, the solution often depends upon the reader’s interpretation of something that a character says. Therefore by keeping her dialogue very simple and straightforward, and not challenging the reader with the vocabulary, she leaves us free to focus on the plot.
The simplicity of the language is one of the key points raised in the debate regarding “The Agatha Christie Code”, an ITV documentary backed by research undertaken by a number of universities.
The research team also analysed each of Christie's books for its word length, frequency and sentence structure. They found that all of her books are very similar in style, using the same number of letters in a word on average, and approximately same number of words in a sentence. This is true for books written at the beginning of her career as well as books at the end of her career; it was as if she found a successful formula which captivated her readers and stuck with it.
The researchers also found that there was a level of repetition of key concepts in her words within a small space. When Agatha is getting a concept across, she repeats key words and words which are similar in meaning in rapid succession and in a condensed space. This theory is also backed up by believers of neurolinguistic programming, which is how language affects the mind and how the words can have an affect on how we think and feel. By repeating words at least 3 times in a paragraph, it enables the reader to become convinced about something.
In addition, the programme claims that a person’s conscious mind has a very limited focus, and can only focus on between five and nine things at one time. Once there are more than nine things to focus on, the conscious mind can’t continue to track them all, and so the person literally goes into a hypnotic trance. The Agatha Christie Code claims that Agatha often uses this by using more than nine characters, and by having more than nine plot lines taking place at any one time. As the reader’s mind gets overloaded, they start to begin really experiencing the book, feeling the book, and getting lost in it. And because feelings are infinitely more memorable than thoughts, people associate the feelings with Agatha Christie’s name and also with her novels.
Finally, the research team discovered that Agatha Christie very precisely controls the speed at which we read her books, by changing the level of descriptive passages. There are more descriptive passages at the beginning of her book than at the end, which has the effect that we read more quickly towards the end of her books... literally we are rushing towards the end to see who did it