Academics Developed a Formula to Solve Agatha Christie’s Mysteries

Now you can figure out whodunnit before the protagonist does.

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Aug 26 2015, 9:00am

Photo: Loz Pycock/Flickr

If you're an avid mystery fan who's good at math, this may count as a spoiler alert.

To celebrate Agatha Christie's upcoming 125th birthday, academics have figured out an algorithm that can help you identify the killer in her famous crime novels—before Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot figure it out for themselves.

The research found that the setting of the novel, the way the victim was murdered, and the main mode of transportation in the book were all key clues to the killer's identity. For instance, if the book was set in a country house, the killer was a woman 75 percent of the time. If the method of murder was strangulation, the killer was male 75 percent of the time.

There were also differences in Christie's language depending on the gender of the perpetrator. Murderesses were described in negative tones, but she used neutral or even positive language for male killers.

Source: Taylor Herring

The research was commissioned for the Agatha Christie Hour, in honor of what would have been the writer's 125th birthday. The special aired earlier this month.

Data analyst Brett Jacob, who participated in the research, says, "By bringing all of these [patterns] together, you can build a picture of the killer's identity and so discount characters from the group of suspects, finally leaving the reader with the most probable identity of the killer."

As someone who came perilously close to flunking advanced calculus, I think I'll just read the books instead.