Agatha Christie Novel May Reveal Her Alzheimer's

One of her last books shows big decline in language
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2010 4:00 PM CDT
Updated Jun 5, 2010 11:57 AM CDT
Mystery writer Agatha Christie is shown in this 1974 file photo.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – One of Agatha Christie's last novels suggests the author had Alzheimer's, says an English professor who crunched its text in a database and compared it to earlier novels. The number of different words used dropped by an "astounding" 20%, while her use of indefinite words like "thing" or "something" rose, reports NPR. Christie was never diagnosed with Alzheimer's in life, though friends recall her complaining about a lack of concentration.

"I did not want to say what was said in the end," says the University of Toronto professor, who spent 2 years checking his results with other experts. "That yes, the data supported a view that she had developed Alzheimer's." What's more, the book in question was Elephants Can Remember, which revolves around a female novelist with failing memory. Christie may have sensed her own plight but kept writing, which the researcher calls "heroic." (Read more Agatha Christie stories.)

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