The Play

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In the dark theater, before the curtain rises, the audience hears the tune of “Three Blind Mice.” This music yields to a shrill whistling of the same song as the curtain rises on a dark stage. A woman screams; other voices shout, “My God, what’s that?” Police whistles sound; then a moment of silence is followed by a radio voice announcing a murder. The stage lights now disclose the Great Hall of Monkswell Manor. Outside, snow is falling heavily. First to appear is Mollie Ralston, who has just come in from the outdoors. Her husband soon joins her, and shortly afterward five guests arrive. Four have been expected; the fifth, Mr. Paravicini, a foreigner, claims that his car overturned in a snowbank and that he has happened on the Ralston house.

Cut off as they are by the blizzard, the Ralstons nevertheless receive one more visitor in the next scene, which is set the following afternoon. Detective Sergeant Trotter claims that the person who murdered Mrs. Maureen Lyons left a notebook behind and that in it were two addresses. One was that of the victim; the other is Monkswell Manor. He has therefore skied over to protect the occupants. Trotter wonders whether anyone might know the deceased, whose real name was Stanning. More than a decade earlier, three Corrigan children—two boys and a girl—were sent to the Stannings at Longridge Farm, not far from Monkswell Manor. The foster parents abused the children, one of whom, Jimmy, died before they could be removed and the Stannings imprisoned. Mr. Stanning died in jail; Mrs. Stanning survived until someone, probably a Corrigan, killed her.

In the notebook left with the body of Mrs. Stanning, below the address of Monkswell Manor were written the words “Three Blind Mice.” The murderer also left a piece of paper with the message: “This is the First.” Trotter fears that the other intended victims are trapped in the guest house. Still, no one admits to any connection with Longridge Farm. While Trotter goes outside to investigate the phone’s suddenly going dead, the various guests and their hosts disperse. Then a hand turns off the light in the Great Hall, a scuffle ensues, and Mrs. Boyle falls to the floor, strangled to death like Mrs. Stanning.

In the second and concluding act, Trotter attempts to discover the murderer. No one has an alibi, since each person was alone when Mrs. Boyle was killed. Moreover, both Ralstons had secretly gone to London the previous day, and both have coats and scarves liked those Mrs. Stanning’s murderer was seen wearing. Christopher is the right age to be Jimmy’s brother, George, and is behaving very strangely; George supposedly is mad. Paravicini has disguised himself to look older than he is, and he enjoys playing “Three Blind Mice” on the piano. Katherine Casewell, who has just returned to England from abroad, refuses to explain why she is in the country and why she has chosen to stay at the remote manor. Even Major Metcalf is not above suspicion, for he is the correct age and occupation to be the Corrigans’ father.

Then Trotter’s skis disappear. Presumably, someone in the house has hidden them. Christopher, who has spoken of fleeing, is suspected of having taken them. Or perhaps there is a concealed person on the property, which as a former monastery has many crypts and curious passageways. For the moment, Trotter puts aside this matter to concentrate on Mrs. Boyle’s murder. He wants to re-create the scene to test each person’s story, but he asks people to go to different places where they claimed...

(This entire section contains 824 words.)

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they were at the time of the killing. Thus, Christopher Wren is sent to the kitchen, where Mrs. Ralston said she was, Major Metcalf goes to Mr. Ralston’s bedroom, where Giles had been checking the extension phone, Miss Casewell descends to the cellar, where the major maintained he was exploring the cupboards, and Mr. Ralston leaves the house, as Trotter had, to check on the telephone line. Mrs. Ralston takes Paravicini’s place at the piano, since she, too, knows the fatal song, and he goes up to Christopher’s room. Trotter, meanwhile, remains in the hall.

After Mollie plays “Three Blind Mice,” Trotter calls her back, and at last the audience discovers the murderer’s identity. Trotter is in fact George Corrigan, and Mollie was Jimmy’s teacher. Jimmy had written to her to ask for help, but the letter arrived the day she became bedridden with pneumonia. By the time she read the plea, Jimmy was dead. Trotter does not accept illness as an excuse and is about to strangle the third “mouse” when Katherine Casewell and Major Metcalf appear. Katherine, George’s sister, takes him away and sedates him. Before the curtain falls, the audience learns why the Ralstons had stolen away to London—simply to buy each other anniversary gifts.

Dramatic Devices

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The traditional mystery relies heavily on dramatic techniques of dialogue, action, and setting; hence the success of theatrical, television, and film versions of the Sherlock Holmes stories and Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie novels. A number of Christie’s own plays began as novels: Ten Little Indians, produced in 1943, is based on Ten Little Niggers (1939; also as And Then There Were None); The Hollow, which opened in 1951, had appeared as a novel five years earlier; Towards Zero, published in 1944, became a play in 1956. Such transformations from one medium to another provide both advantages and challenges to the writer.

Special effects heighten the sense of impending disaster. The darkness, screams, shouts, and police whistles that introduce The Mousetrap put audiences on the edge of their seats. What would require dispassionate reporting in a novel becomes immediate on the stage. Similarly, the murder of Mrs. Boyle affects the spectators deeply because they actually see the disembodied hand moving toward the light switch, and they, like the victim, are then plunged into darkness. The confined world of the stage also increases tension, for whenever a character exits to the kitchen or the cellar, one wonders whether that person will ever reappear. On the page the absent are likely to be forgotten, but in the theater absence is as noticeable as presence. Though the guests occasionally speak of the snow, the isolation of the house requires no comment because the drifts constantly appear through the windows.

Clues, both real and false, are more evident on the stage. As soon as Mollie Ralston appears, she hides a package; later in the opening scene her husband does, too. What is one to make of such suspicious actions? Having used the radio to describe the coat, scarf, and hat of the murderer of Mrs. Stanning, Christie need say no more about the matter, since the audience will see that a number of people at Monkswell Manor arrive in suspicious attire. Paravinici’s resemblance to Hercule Poirot, a coincidence that Christie ingenuously observes “may give a wrong impression,” is clearly intended to add to the confusion. Indeed, the makeup that the actors use serves as disguise; Christie calls attention to this theatrical element in the discussions of characters’ efforts to conceal their age.

The major drawback to staging a mystery is the possible distancing effect of the theater. Alone with a book, one can easily lose oneself in the action, but surrounded by others in the balcony or straining to hear and see the actors, one will not experience the same effect. Fortunately, The Mousetrap was originally produced in small New York theaters—the Ambassadors, seating 450, and St. Martin’s, seating 550. In such intimate space, each member of the audience can imagine himself (or herself) as much a guest of the Ralstons as Christopher Wren or Mrs. Boyle. In a larger hall one might still feel concern for the characters, but one’s own participation in the drama—and hence the enjoyment of a threatening situation that is finally safe, as in the thrill of a roller-coaster ride—would be lost.

Form and Content

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Beginning with its title, which suggests a trap but puckishly allows the audience to make the wrong assumptions about the identity of the “mouse,” The Mousetrap is a typical Christie mystery, transported by the author’s peculiar genius to the theater—not an easy task for a writer of prose whodunits. Repeatedly certified by the reading public as the first lady—indeed, the first person—of prose crime fiction, Christie shows here a deftness in use of dialogue and stage directions which transfers not only a similar plot but also a similar atmosphere to the stage.

The opening, offstage sounds of alarm after the discovery of the Culver Street murder are followed immediately by a radio report of the incident, which—at Mollie’s entrance—changes to a description of the winter storm that is rapidly making local roads impassable. Giles’s entrance and the ensuing dialogue introduce Mollie, the pleasant and efficient wife, and Giles, the somewhat less efficient and complacent husband. The radio voice intrudes once again at Giles’s exit, describing the Culver Street strangler’s scarf, overcoat, and hat. As each item is mentioned, Mollie—apparently oblivious—picks up each matching item just left behind by Giles and exits. At the end of the second and concluding scene of act 1, Mrs. Boyle turns the radio on again, and the audience hears a discussant on a radio program describing the “mechanics of fear” and giving as an example a person who is alone in a room when the lights go out. The lights do go out, and Mrs. Boyle is murdered.

In the time framed by the radio announcements, the oddly assorted guests arrive: Christopher Wren, awkwardly enthusiastic and, one suspects, smitten by Mollie; Mrs. Boyle, complaining as she enters about lack of transport; Major Metcalf, friendly and guileless; Miss Casewell, not quite satisfactorily feminine and—like Christopher and Giles—of a build and wearing outer clothes that suggest the reported appearance of the Culver Street strangler; and, finally, the specious Trotter, who arrives on skis and enters through the window. He is the only physical match to the strangler who is not described as wearing matching clothes. Indeed, in a first act bristling with stage directions about physical appearance and movements, Christie leaves this detail to the director.

After arranging conditions and people to make it possible for him to murder Mrs. Boyle in act 1, Trotter spends the second act attempting to isolate and kill the teacher who, he believes, abandoned him and his sisters to their fate. The presence of Giles, Christopher, and Miss Casewell continues to misdirect the audience, Major Metcalf bumbles about, and even the eccentrically irritating Paravicini attracts some suspicion by dropping a poker at a crucial moment.

The conclusion, like the gathering of persons who are concealing or misrepresenting their identities—even Christopher Wren is not really named Christopher Wren—is typical of Christie’s whimsical sleight-of-hand. As Trotter, having isolated Mollie, is on the point of murder, the rest of the cast appears, Miss Casewell reveals herself as Trotter’s long-lost sister, and Metcalf proves to be the true policeman. The denouement is just long enough to accommodate an exchange of anniversary presents between Mollie and Giles, and Mollie’s amusing dash to the kitchen to save her burning pie.

Places Discussed

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Monkswell Manor

Monkswell Manor. Guest house located thirty miles west of London, in Berkshire County, in which the play is set. The stage is set as one large room with tall windows. A door and two arched openings lead off to numerous other rooms, hidden spaces beneath staircases, and a basement, which was perhaps once a crypt. Snowbound, the owners and guests feel cut off from the world; even the telephone stops working. Detective Sergeant Trotter startles them when he raps on the big window. A murder was committed the previous day in Paddington, an area of London, and he says two more intended victims may be at Monkswell Manor. Soon the lights in the room go out, and one of the guests is found strangled to death.

Constant entrances and exits from the room enhance the confusion about where passages lead and what other characters are doing. “Suspect everybody” was a dictum of mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie’s contemporary, and Christie makes it credible that even husband and wife suspect each other. The representative British character types, such as the naïve young couple on their first day as guest house managers or the aging woman who demands her creature comforts, are familiar types anywhere. However, appearances deceive. Everyone is a stranger, isolated in separate pasts and self-interests. Literally located together in this communal room, the characters also inhabit, along with the audience, the realm of the imagination, where suspicions and fears know no boundaries.


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Mollie Ralston is an ordinarily attractive, level-headed young woman with a perfectly reasonable and achievable goal: the development of Monkswell Manor into a pleasant livelihood for herself and her husband. What makes her the heroine of this mystery is an instinct for truth which is shaken only slightly and momentarily when she discovers that Giles was in London at the time of the murder—buying, as the audience learns later, an anniversary present. Her liking for Christopher, of whom even the audience has reason to be suspicious, never falters.

Mollie is an old-fashioned, nonfeminist character who instructs the audience in the strengths that even a patriarchal society has found in its women. In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, written twenty-six years before the premiere of The Mousetrap, Hercule Poirot replies to the universal denigration of “woman’s intuition” by suggesting that this apparently irrational process is in fact a typically feminine way of receiving and unconsciously processing facts and perceptions and arriving at an accurate and perfectly rational conclusion. That the “masculine mind”—as foreign to Poirot as to any intuitive female—regards this process as irrational results from an inability to understand the process.

Agatha Christie’s greatest impact on women’s literature has been as one of those women who broke the exclusive male control of detective writing. Her prodigious and unparalleled success is evidenced by the continuing reissue of her books. The phenomenon of The Mousetrap’s longevity—some seventeen years after her death—is evidence of her immense popularity and influence, which elevates her to the level of icon in a once male-dominated genre. Her emphasis here, as elsewhere, on the mind game, invades and conquers the very realm that men had always seen as exclusively their own.

Historical Context

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Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap opens in theatres during a period marked by post-World War II rebuilding, a new monarchy, food shortages, and the threat of communism. The giddiness that greeted the end of the war has been replaced by the realities of rebuilding the country. Whole sections of the nation have been destroyed in the bombings of the war, and London, in particular, is undergoing a rebirth. In England, the king who has guided Great Britain through the war years dies on February 6, 1952. His daughter, Elizabeth, ascends the throne replacing George VI to become only the second Elizabeth to wear the crown. Food is in such short supply in England that 53,000 horses were consumed for food in the previous year to feed a population that now exceeds fifty million people. And in London, a four-day smog kills more than four thousand people. Meanwhile, the threat of communism hangs over everyone. The war that humbled Germany has loosed the threat of communism on the world, and this is particularly noticeable in the United States where congressional inquiries into the ' 'Red Threat'' continue for a third year.

In contrast to the difficult realities outside the theatre's door, inside the Ambassadors Theatre the atmosphere is decidedly different. On stage, the only concern about food is that caused by the snow storm, and Giles is confident that if the store of tins in the cupboards should prove inadequate, the hens in the outbuilding will meet any need. No one will go hungry, and indeed, the conversation frequently focuses on food, the preparation of meals, and the guests satisfaction with what is offered at the table. Monkswell Manor is entirely satisfactory according to at least one guest. The house is untouched by the bombing that destroyed London only thirty miles away. The furniture is comfortable and stylish and although the house is difficult and expensive to heat (a universal complaint about British homes), Giles keeps piling on the coal.

Of course a short distance away in London all that burning coal added to the growing problem with automobile emissions is causing smog that endangers the health of its urban population. Nevertheless, at Monkswell Manor smog is not a problem. A snow storm that has reached blizzard proportions may prove to be more of a danger to those inside the house than the smog that exists in London.

In fact, the stage setting of The Mousetrap effectively removes the audience from the real world outside. Christie creates an escape from the problems that plague England. At a time when other writers are lamenting the lost innocence of a world and creating a literary tradition that reflects the ruins of London, Christie is still offering an escapist literary journey for her fans. In a discussion that examines a new post-war literary tradition, Andrew Sanders maintains that Christie's play "tells us something about the resilience of certain theatrical conventions and styles." These conventions, Sanders argues, "have been selected so as not to offend the sensibilities of audiences happy with a pattern of light-hearted banter." Theatre patrons who want to escape the troubles that plague the country will keep Christie's play on the London stage long after John Osborne' s Look Back in Anger has completed its run.

Literary Style

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The Mousetrap is a two-act play written in the mystery genre. The play employs a remote, isolated location in which a group of suspicious people have gathered. It becomes readily apparent that some are not who they seem to be and that most have something they are hiding.

Act A major division in a drama. In Greek plays the sections of the drama were signified by the appearance of the chorus and were usually divided into five acts. This is the formula for most serious drama from the Greeks to Elizabethan playwrights like William Shakespeare. The five acts denote the structure of dramatic action. They are exposition, complication, climax, falling action, and catastrophe. The five-act structure was followed until the nineteenth century, when Ibsen combined some of the acts. The Mousetrap is a two-act play. The exposition, complication, and climax are combined in the first act with the story of the child's murder and the murder in London and in the final minutes of act one when Mrs. Boyle is murdered. The falling action and catastrophe are combined in the second act with the realization that a murderer is in the house and that Trotter is Georgie.

Catharsis Catharsis is the release of emotions, usually fear and pity. The term was first used by Aristotle in his Poetics to refer to the desired effect of tragedy on the audience. Many critics cite The Mousetrap as cathartic because Christie subverts the mystery genre by making the detective the murderer. The unexpected ending provides an exciting release for the audience, who think they have the murders solved only to discover how wrong they have been.

Character A character is a person in a dramatic work. The actions of each character are what constitute the story. Character can also include the idea of a particular individual's morality. Characters can range from simple stereotypical figures to more complex multi-faceted ones. Characters may also be defined by personality traits, such as the rogue or the damsel in distress. "Characterization" is the process of creating a lifelike person from an author's imagination. To accomplish this the author provides the character with personality traits that help define who she will be and how she will behave in a given situation. For instance, Trotter is likable and represents authority. But in the play's conclusion the audience learns that Trotter does not represent authority—he represents insanity.

Genre Genre is a term for the categorization of literature. Genre is a French word that means ' 'kind'' or "type," Genre can refer to both the content of literary work—such as tragedy, comedy, or pastoral—and to the forms of literature, such as drama, novel, or short story. This term can also refer to types of literature such as mystery, science fiction, or romance. The Mousetrap is a drama, but it is also a mystery.

Plot The pattern of events in a narrative. Generally plots should have a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion, but they may also sometimes be a series of episodes connected together. Basically, the plot provides the author with the means to explore primary themes. Students are often confused between the two terms; but themes explore ideas, and plots simply relate what happens in a very obvious manner. Thus the plot of The Mousetrap is a snow storm that isolates a group of people, one of whom is a murderer. But the themes are those of insanity and revenge.

Scene Scenes are subdivisions of an act. A scene may change when all of the main characters either enter or exit the stage. But a change of scene may also indicate a change of time. In The Mousetrap, the second scene of Act I occurs the next afternoon and thus indicates the passage of time in the play.

Setting The time, place, and culture in which the action of the play takes place is called the setting. The elements of setting may include geographic location, physical or mental environments, prevailing cultural attitudes, or the historical time in which the action takes place. The location for The Mousetrap is Monkswell Manor, a small guest house thirty miles from London. The action begins in the late afternoon and concludes the following afternoon; both acts take place in the Great Hall of the Manor.

Suspense Quite simply, suspense is the anticipation of an action occurring. It is a major device in mystery since suspense is what keeps the audience interested in the resolution of the action. In a play such as The Mousetrap, suspense is more than curiosity, since members of the audience may already be familiar with the play's resolution. Suspense heightens the audience's reaction to characters, either sympathetic or not. It also provides the audience with an opportunity to prove their analytical skills superior to the author's. Dissecting the clues is an important ritual for theatre-goers for whom solving the mystery is the whole purpose of seeing the play.

Compare and Contrast

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1952: Elizabeth II succeeds her father George VI to the throne. During her reign the British Empire will decline from forty nations to no more than twelve with Elizabeth having a voice only in England.

Today: Elizabeth II is celebrating twenty-five years as England's queen. For the monarch, the scandals of her royal children have caused many of her subjects to question the expense of maintaining a royal household.

1952: Britain tests an atomic bomb on October 2, thus joining the United States and the Soviet Union as a nuclear power.

Today: Testing of nuclear weapons has been banned by most developed countries, and a greater awareness of the ecological damage and health risks inherent in testing leads to increasing pressure on the remaining nations who still test nuclear bombs to cease their testing.

1952: Jonas Edward Salk tests a vaccine designed to combat the epidemic of polio. Salk's live virus vaccine will eventually be replaced by Albert Bruce Sabin's oral vaccine.

Today: Polio has been almost completely eradicated in first-world countries such as Britain and the United States. Now the controversy focuses on whether to continue with a vaccine that has the potential of causing the disease in a small number of recipients of the vaccine.

1952:Singing in the Rain is the big Hollywood musical released this year. It spoofs Hollywood in the twenties and provides a musical score that will be nominated for an Academy Award.

Today: Hollywood releases few large musicals. Disney Studio's animated film musicals have largely replaced big-budget productions. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita is a notable exception but has only moderate box office success.

1952: Playwright Lillian Hellman defies the congressional committee investigating communism and refuses to supply information that might lead to further "witch hunts."

Today: A movie version of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, written as a condemnation of the communist witch hunts, is a box office failure. Reviewers argue that the topic appears dated.

Media Adaptations

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Although a number of Christie's plays and novels have been adapted for film and television and even by other playwrights, The Mousetrap has never been adapted in any other format. Although the play is based on a radio script (Three Blind Mice, broadcast by the BBC) there is no tape of that broadcast known to exist. Students wishing to explore Christie's work on film might consider Public Broadcasting's series Mystery, which has adapted several of the Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple mysteries for television. A large number of these PBS films are now syndicated on the Arts & Entertainment (A & E) channel.

Ten Little Indians, based on Christie's novel Ten Little Niggers, has been filmed at least three times. It was first produced in 1965 by Associated British & Pathe Films. The play was filmed again in 1975 and in 1989. The latter two productions are available on video.

Christie's Death on the Nile was filmed by Paramount in 1978. The film offered an all-star cast of Hollywood actors and won several awards for costume design. Hercule Poirot was played by Peter Ustinov.

Witness for the Prosecution has been filmed twice. The theatrical release was filmed by United Artists in 1957 and is considered the best of the Christie film adaptations. The film, staring Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power, and Elsa Lanchester, won several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Billy Wilder), and Best Actor (Laughton).

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Further Reading Blain, Virginia, Isobel Grundy, and Patricia Clements, editors. The Feminist Companion to Literature in English, Yale University Press, 1990, pp 207-8. This reference work provides an encapsulated biographies of major women writers, noting their contribution to women's literature.

Carlson, Marvin "Is There a Real Inspector Hound? Mousetraps, Deathtraps, and the Disappearing Detective" in Modern Drama, Vol. 36, no. 3, September, 1993, pp 431-42. This article notes the influence of Christie's play on later theatrical parodies Carlson compares The Mousetrap to Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound (1968), Ira Levin's Deathtrap (1978), and Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth (1970).

Fitzgibbon, Russell H. The Agatha Christie Companion, Bowling Green University Press, 1980. Fitzgibben's work is considered by many to be one of the most complete resources assembled on Christie. The text includes a detailed biography, a discussion of Christie's work, and critical reviews.

Funk, Lewis "Mousetrap Arrives," in the New York Times, November 7, I960, p. 46. Funk's review provides an enthusiastic recommendation for the first New York City performance of Christie's play.

Gilbert, Michael. "A Very English Lady" in Agatha Christie: First Lady of Crime, edited by H. R. F. Keating, Weidenfeld &Nicolson,1977,pp 51-78. Gilbert offers readers an easy-to-read biography of Christie that is gossipy in tone and focuses on many of the writer's private moments The article is accompanied by photographs and newspaper duplications that add authenticity to the text.

Grossvogel, David I. "Death Deferred: The Long Life, Splendid Afterlife, and Mysterious Workings of Agatha Christie" in Art in Crime Writing: Essays on Detective Fiction, edited by Bernard Benstock, St Martin's Press, 1983, pp. 1-17. Grossvogel argues that Christie is the one author who has done the most to shape detective fiction as the public knows it, focusing on Hercule Porrot as a model for the ideal detective.

Knepper, Marty S. "Agatha Christie: Feminist" in The Armchair Detective, Vol. 16, no. 4, Winter, 1983, pp. 398-406. Knepper argues that Christie should be included in a list of feminist writers by attempting to answer the questions: “What are the characteristics of a feminist writer?" and "What are the characteristics of an anti-feminist writer?"

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature, Clarendon Press, 1994. Sanders offers a look at the social and political climate of postwar England. He observes that theatre patrons weary of the rebuilding of their nation after the end of World War II sought out Christie's play as escapist entertainment.

Times of London, November 26,1952, p 12. Uncredited, enthusiastic review of the opening of The Mousetrap at Ambassadors Theatre on November 25,1952

Times of London, July 31,1991, p 13. This unnamed writer ponders the longevity of Christie's play and concludes that the play has become a "national challenge."

Trewin, J C. "A Midas Gift to the Theatre" in Agatha Christie- First Lady of Crime, edited by H R F Keating, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1977, pp. 131-54. Trewin examines several of Christie's plays and provides a knowledgeable insight into their construction.

Vipond, M. "Agatha Christie's Women" in International Fiction Review, Vol. 8, no 2, Summer, 1981, pp. 116-23. Vipond argues that Christie's women possess strong qualities that identify them as bright and competent

Young, Robin. "Fresh Blood as Mousetrap Enters its 40th Year'' in the Times of London, November 25,1991, p 7. This article, which appears on the thirty-ninth anniversary of the play's debut, celebrates Christie's work as an institution that has now become a tourist attraction


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Bargainnier, Earl F. The Gentle Art of Murder: The Detective Fiction of Agatha Christie. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Press, 1980. Written by someone who clearly enjoys the mystery genre and Christie’s works, this book takes an affectionate but clear-eyed look at Christie’s faults and fortes. Especially interesting are Bargainnier’s discussions of passages that parody the detective fiction of Christie and others and of Christie’s indirect comments on the contemporary sociological situation.

Christie, Agatha. Agatha Christie: An Autobiography. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1977. Charmingly written memoir in which the author discusses her life and her attitudes about writing. Includes descriptions of incidents that inspired The Mousetrap and brief evaluations of characters, as well as insight into methods of plot development.

Gill, Gillian. Agatha Christie: The Woman and Her Mysteries. New York: Free Press, 1990. A sympathetic portrait of Christie that treats her life and works synchronously. The author is at pains to portray a writer who, in her opinion, has unfairly been made the object of condescension by both friendly and unfriendly academic critics.

Keating, H. R. F., ed. Agatha Christie: First Lady of Crime. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1977. A diverse collection of essays, including Keating’s own. As much is said about The Mousetrap in drama critic J. C. Trewin’s essay as is said in any other source.

Mann, Jessica. Deadlier than the Male: An Investigation into Feminine Crime Writing. Devon, England: Down & Charles, 1981. A book written by one of the scholars styled an “unfriendly academic critic” by Gillian Gill. One of the highlights of the chapter on Christie is Mann’s analysis of the autobiographical 1934 novel Unfinished Portrait to deduce the reasons behind Christie’s famous, unexplained, eleven-day disappearance in 1926.

Murdoch, Derrick. The Agatha Christie Mystery. Toronto: Pagurian Press, 1976. In a “life-followed-by-works” arrangement, this book discusses the royal impetus that led to the radio play Three Blind Mice and the Shakespearean source of the new title The Mousetrap. It offers a final summing up of critical judgments by the author and others.

Osborne, Charles. The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1982. Provides literary evaluations of Christie’s fiction. Includes a discussion of the development and production of The Mousetrap, as well as interesting statistics. Helpful bibliography of Christie’s fiction identifies her writing by type and by detective.

Robyns, Gwen. The Mystery of Agatha Christie. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1978. Informative biography that provides literary and theatrical evaluation. Includes details about the staging of The Mousetrap and interviews with individuals involved in the production.

Wagoner, Mary. Agatha Christie. Boston: Twayne, 1986. An extremely helpful beginner’s source and the most comprehensive literary analysis of Christie’s fiction. Also provides insight into the rules and traditions of the classic detective story. Classifies Christie’s main writing styles and humorous analyses of manners. Includes helpful annotated bibliography.


Critical Essays


Teaching Guide