iSchool Professor Brings Her Academic Expertise to the Work of Agatha Christie

Dr. Michelle Kazmer, Professor in the School of Information, is more than just a fan of famed author Agatha Christie. She is also a key part of a growing academic community which studies Christie’s many works.

Known informally as “Agathologists”, this group began to form several years ago at a conference at the University of Exeter. The conference, which was themed around Agatha Christie, received such an overwhelming international and interdisciplinary response that it helped spawn an entire community which actively meets and collaborates in research on Christie’s work.

Dr. Michelle Kazmer holding The Bloomsbury Handbook to Agatha Christie, which she contributed a chapter to.

“The community of scholars with whom I have the joy to work on crime fiction in general and Agatha Christie in particular is a stunningly brilliant and generous group of people, and I’m very lucky to be among them,” said Kazmer.

Though the academics among the Agathologists work primarily in humanities disciplines, Kazmer proves that the field of information science is just as relevant for studying the genre of crime fiction.

“Detection is an information behavior,” says Kazmer. “You are seeking information, figuring out what to keep and what to get rid of, organizing what you keep, and then drawing a conclusion. In the case of these stories, the detectives use information to determine who committed the crime and why.”

Agathologists have warmly welcomed  Kazmer’s unique academic lens in the field of Christie-focused research. She was recently invited to contribute a chapter to The Bloomsbury Handbook to Agatha Christie, edited by Mary Anna Evans and J. C. Bernthal. Her chapter, titled “Christie’s Clues as Information”, explores how clues manifest themselves as information objects. She is excited to share that the book has been nominated for a 2023 Edgar Award in the category “Best Critical/Biographical” and for an Agatha Award (not limited to books by or about Christie!) in the category “Best Non-Fiction.”

In addition to many other book chapters and conference papers, Kazmer discussed Agatha Christie on the BBC World Service in January, 2022, on a panel with Mark Aldridge of Solent University Southampton and Agatha Christie’s great-grandson, James Prichard. She was also featured in December on All About Agatha, a podcast which explores each of Christie’s sixty-six crime novels. Together, she and host Kemper Donovan explored the Parker Pyne (and Hercule Poirot) short story “The Regatta Mystery”.

When asked about the significance of Christie’s work all these years later, Kazmer explains, “Most of the things we think of as typical tropes in detective fiction, Agatha either did it first or did it best. She is eminently readable and re-readable, and her work has been translated into more than 100 languages and adapted into every communication and entertainment medium from stage plays to video games. New audiences are continually discovering and loving the work of the Queen of Crime.”