High-class advertisers have long known her rule of work: keep the background innocuous if you want your product to stand out.
... nor do we want a description of scenery when the only thing that matters to us is to decide exactly how long it takes us to walk from the boat-house above the mill-race to the gamekeeper's cottage on the other side of the coppice.
...she tells more about what happened to England since the First World War than The Times— either of London or New York. That quick and unerring eye for the homely detail is worth volumes of social history.
Among critics of detective fiction, there is a clear division of thought on setting. One group desires a careful delineation of locale inextricably linked to the action; the other group wants as little physical description as possible. Christie's work has always appealed more to the second group, while being often attacked for its bland backgrounds by the first. In explaining why she gave up attempts to become a sculptor, Christie said, "I had no eye for visual forms.... I realized I couldn't really see things." 1 She was being modest, for she did see things. But certainly descriptions of natural scenery do not play a large part in her work. Her attitude is that of her narrator in The Man in the Brown Suit: 'I guarantee no genuine local color—you know the sort of thing—half a dozen words in italics on every page. I admire it very much, but I can't do it" (107). Nor does she often place her stories in specialized milieus—the lawyer's office, the theatre, the university—where the action is integral to the locale. The major exception is Murder in Mesopotamia, which takes place at an Iraqi archaeological dig, and that was the result of personal experience. Her usual method is to sketch the physical scene quickly, leaving it to the reader to fill in the details as his imagination desires. The setting is never obtrusive; it is not mere decoration or filler, which is allowed to distract from the central action of mystification-detection. She does not attempt, as some other writers do, "to conceal a shaky plot behind a screen of