Agatha Christie was born in Torquay, Devon, on 15th September 1890. Her father, Frederick Miller, a rich American stockbroker, died when she was eleven years old. Her mother, Clarissa Boehmer, taught her at home. In 1906 Agatha attended Mrs Dryden's finishing school in Paris to study singing and piano.
In 1914 Agatha married Archibald Christie, an officer in the Royal Flying Corps. During the First World War Christie worked at a hospital and then a pharmacy. It was as a result of this work that she became very interested in poisons.
Agatha Christie first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was published in 1920. This book featured the detective Hercule Poirot. This Was followed by The Secret Adversary (1922), The Murder on the Links (1923), The Man in the Brown Suit (1924), The Secret of Chimneys (1925) and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926).
On 8th December 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for ten days. Her car was found in a chalk pit in Newland's Corner, Surrey. She was eventually found staying at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate under the name of the woman with whom Archibald Christie had recently admitted to having an affair. She claimed to have suffered a nervous breakdown and a fugue state caused by the death of her mother and her husband's infidelity. The couple were divorced in 1928.
After recovering from her nervous breakdown Agatha Christie returned to writing novels. This included The Big Four (1927), The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928) and The Seven Dials Mystery (1929). Her next book, The Murder at the Vicarage (1930), was the first one to feature Miss Jane Marple.
In 1930, Agatha Christie married the archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan. The couple did a lot of travelling and this gave her plenty of material for her detective stories. In 1931 Christie published The Sittaford Mystery (1931). This was followed by Peril at End House (1932), Lord Edgware Dies (1933), Murder on the Orient Express (1934), Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (1934), Three Act Tragedy (1935), Death in the Clouds (1935), The A.B.C. Murders (1936), Murder in Mesopotamia (1936), Cards on the Table (1936), Dumb Witness (1937), Death on the Nile (1937), Appointment with Death (1938), Hercule Poirot's Christmas (1938), Murder is Easy (1939) and And Then There Were None (1939).
The Second World War did not reduce Christie's productivity. During the war she published Sad Cypress (1940), One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (1940), Evil Under the Sun (1941), N or M? (1941), The Body in the Library (1942), Five Little Pigs (1942), The Moving Finger (1942), Towards Zero (1944), Death Comes as the End (1945) and Sparkling Cyanide (1945).
After the war Christie continued to publish novels about the murder investigations of Hercule Poirot, Miss Marble, Colonel Race, Ariadne Oliver, Tommy Beresford and Tuppence Cowley. This included The Hollow (1946), Taken at the Flood (1948), Crooked House (1949), A Murder is Announced (1950), They Came to Baghdad (1951), Mrs McGinty's Dead (1952) and They Do It with Mirrors (1952).
Christie also wrote for the theatre. Her stage play, The Mousetrap, opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on 25th November 1952. It is still running after more than 20,000 performances.
Other books by Christie include After the Funeral (1953), A Pocket Full of Rye (1953), Destination Unknown (1954), Hickory Dickory Dock (1955), Dead Man's Folly (1956), 4.50 from Paddington (1957), Ordeal by Innocence (1958), Cat Among the Pigeons (1959), The Pale Horse (1961), The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side (1962), The Clocks (1963), A Caribbean Mystery (1964), At Bertram's Hotel (1965), Third Girl (1966), Endless Night (1967), By the Pricking of My Thumbs (1968), Hallowe'en Party (1969) and Passenger to Frankfurt (1970).
In 1971 Agatha Christie was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Her final books included Nemesis (1971), Elephants Can Remember (1972), Postern of Fate (1973), Curtain (1975) and Sleeping Murder (1976).
Agatha Christie died on 12th January 1976, at Winterbrook House. She is buried in the nearby St Mary's Churchyard in Cholsey. It has been estimated that four billion copies of her novels have been sold. UNESCO claims that she is currently the most translated individual author in the world.