Scientists from Warwick and Birmingham claim they have cracked the secret behind the success of all-time best-selling novelist Agatha Christie.
They say they are a step closer to working out a mathematical formula that makes a book "unputdownable".
According to the study, Christie uses literary techniques mirroring those employed by hypnotherapists and psychologists, which have a mesmeric effect on readers.
Researchers say it could mean the structure of her novels creates physiochemical responses which cause people to read them again and again.
It may finally explain why she ranks as the best-selling novelist of all time, with an estimated two billion copies of her books in print, they claim.
The study was undertaken by linguistics experts at Warwick, Birmingham and London universities and the results are to be revealed in an ITV1 documentary on December 27.
Project leader Dr Roland Kapferer said: "It is extraordinary just how timeless and popular Christie's books remain. I am convinced our research has come a step closer to defining what it means for a book to be unputdownable."