In 1916 a young woman named Madge bet her sister that she couldn’t write a detective novel. Unfortunately, her sister was Agatha Christie so she lost. The novel Madge’s bet inspired was Christie’s debut, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which was first published in serial form in The Times starting this week a century ago.

Few bets have been lost as spectacularly as Madge’s. Christie went on to write 66 detective novels, as well as 14 short-story collections. Two billion copies of her books have been sold, making her the most commercially successful novelist yet. She is the third most widely published author in the world (after Shakespeare and the Bible) with her works appearing in 104 languages. Almost all her books have been adapted for television, radio or film.

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