The Flavour of Murder: Food and Crime in the Novels of Agatha Christie

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Abstract

Food and murder have had a paradoxical relationship ever since the first prehistoric hunter-gatherers put the first morsels of meat into their mouths. On one hand, eating means life: food is absolutely necessary to sustain life. On the other hand, eating means killing. Whether it is the obvious killing of an animal for meat, or the less obvious termination of a plant’s life, one must destroy life in order to eat. It is assumed that this inherent tension between eating/living and eating/dying often informs and shapes crime narratives, not only in the recently invented genre of culinary mystery, produced most famously by Diane Mott Davidson and Joanne Fluke, but also, even if to a lesser extent, in classic detective novels of the 20th century. This article focuses on how the contradictory nature of eating is manifested in the work of Agatha Christie. By combining a traditional structuralist approach to crime fiction as a formula, as advocated by John G. Cawelti, with the methods of the emerging field of food studies, the paper aims to observe a classic, i.e., the classic detective story, from a new perspective

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Prague Journal of English Studies

The Journal of Charles University, Faculty of Education

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