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Black Sheep, Red Herrings, and Blue Murder

The Proverbial Agatha Christie

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Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was an inveterate user of proverbs in her fictional writings, the sales of which number in excess of one billion. An active writer for fifty-four years, Christie used proverbs in a manner that both reflected and shaped contemporary British speech. This lexicographical book examines 3,290 proverbs and proverbial sayings uttered by 785 characters in sixty-six novels, 142 short stories, seventeen dramas, and six romances. The author's premise is that Christie modeled all her fictional works on the well-made play formula and that proverbs are employed not in isolation, but as a function of plot, character, and thought. In addition to an introductory essay, the book contains a list of the distribution of Christie's proverbs according to title, a keyword index with citations of standard authorities, and an appendix containing six statistical tables.