Well, this is embarrassing. Talk about being late to the party, the birthday party, that is. It was in my blogging calendar/expectations to release a “Top 10 Agatha Christie Books” list on the would-be 125th birth date of the great mystery writer. Alas, I was under the impression that the good author’s birthday was the 21st of this month, and not the 15th. So, I guess I am a week behind, but no matter. In all honesty, is there more of an exciting time to get into a thrilling and entrancing new book than the Autumn Season (*Insert nerd snort*)? I thought not. Therefore, to kick off the Fall Season, we might as well look at the very best and exciting books by the acclaimed and beloved mystery writer, Agatha Christie. After all, her absorbing, terrifying, and “just one more chapter” mysteries are the stuff of legend and triumph! On a serious and bland note, I have constructed the summaries of each choice in such a way as to hopefully not give away too much info/mystery. My intent is to give you some recommendations to follow up on, after all. So, without further ado…
- The Mysterious Affair at Styles
While I may not have been totally taken aback by the Affair at Styles, that should by no means diminish the debut by both Christie’s acclaimed career, as well as her most notorious detective, Hercule Poirot. Christie demonstrates to us in this first novel just how magnificent the little crime solver and his “grey cells” are at deducting from the most minor of details. Add in the beloved Hastings, as well as a decently surprising ending (it may not pack the same bunch for those already associated with her other novels, as I was), and you have a real classic!
- The Murder at the Vicarage
I’ll just come out and say it; I am not much for the beloved Ms. Marple. My accomplished reading archives consist of no more than a few of her novels. I don’t consider myself a sexist; I swear I love good books with great heroines. But I’ve just never been able to connect with Dame Marple, nor has her character made much sense. I was quite fortunate, however, to stumble across her mystery debut as well. While she still plays little more than a supporting character, her conception into the literature world is an import piece when it comes to understanding Ms. Marple. Add in a tale of tragic love, scandal, and the death of a less than admired individual, and you have a real winner! (Also, a film adaption would be tragic without Alan Rickman as Leonard Clement, IMO).
- Crooked House
My most recent reading experience, and boy does this story ever stand up to its title! What is actually quite amusing (to my dull sense of humor at least) is that, while the set up to this tale is quite intriguing, the middle portion felt rather Agatha cliché. When the typical murder happens, what seemed to pass was the same routing of investigating each and every underdeveloped character as we inevitably pick one at random as our accursed killer. Not so fast, this is Agatha Christie after all. What came forth in the intense finale to this book was one of the most shocking and even quite disturbing conclusions I had read. Like I said, it really lives up to its name…
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
This is a tricky one. On one hand, this book features a lot of what we have come to expect with the Christi/Poirot duo (the list of suspects, the facts of the crime unveiled bit by bit, etc.). Yet, making this particular case presented to us by essentially one biased witness meant that the facts were only trustworthy to a degree. It is in this singular fact that we find Roger Ackroyd’s charm and charisma demonstrated. Even with Poirot only getting about half the page time as usual, Agatha demonstrated a drift from the norm, and incidentally, shook up our world!
- Death on the Nile
You’ve seen them all before; the type of Hollywood sequels that have to outdo their predecessors. It can be seen in the bigger and better murders, the more exotic destinations (e.g. Egypt?), the greater odds, etc. Well, that is exactly what Poirot’s vacation down the Nile felt to me, but it never gets to Christie’s head. She makes sure all the while to maintain a truly enthralling mystery. This one, while being one of the more complicated conclusions, was one of the most interesting and fun mystery’s I had the privilege of following step by step.
- The Secret Adversary
In short, Agatha’s rendition of the espionage spy-thriller. Quite intriguing, isn’t it? Well I won’t lie to you and say that this contains her most shocking of endings, but I will say this might just be the most fun book in her repertoire. In fact, I can state this with (almost) full assurance thanks to the energetic and captivating characters and relationship by Tommy and Tuppence. They really do make a great team (or partners in crime… *wink wink*), as well as an entertaining, mysterious and thrilling debut book (BTW, I look forward to finally sitting down and checking out BBC’s new series staring this duo)!
- Endless Night
In a word; haunting. What is so unsettling about this particular novel is the lack of thrills throughout. Instead of giving us a crime or victim in the first act, we are given a touching and engrossing romantic tale, supported by equally interesting characters. I believe it is for this reason that the outcome makes for sheer unnerving results. For me, this is the stand alone tale that gets under the skin and lasts. I wasn’t so keen on it at first, and I wouldn’t say I am particularly fond of it now, but there is no denying it’s mesmerizing progression, as well as its twisted sense of love (not one for the kiddies, in short).
- Murder on the Orient Express
“The beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning” as some might put it, as was the very first novel by Ms. Christie I got my hands on. This is possibly her most iconic of mysteries. As it features the picturesque conundrum of the justification of merely killing, a top of his game M. Poirot, and one of the most shocking and obvious grand finales of all time (at the same time). This one will always hold a special place in my little nerdy heart, and will always be the reason I am dying (not literally) to take a extensive train vacation through Europe or Siberia…
- The ABC Murders
We once talked about a specific kind of sequels, right? Well, now we address the particular sequel that I find way superior to all others. The one where the protagonist is completely stumped and petrified by one of the most harsh and vicious of antagonists. That in its simplest form is what is so enthralling about the ABC Murders. This is the finest and most desperate moment by our beloved Hercule Poirot, facing his most trying of times. And that is why this puzzle piece of uncertainty that we and Poirot himself must face, is oh so fantastic!
- And Then There Were None
Have you ever had that book that you just couldn’t keep your mind off? You know, that feeling you get when the characters, mystery, and sublime story telling grab hold of you, and there is no chance you can put it down? Well, that in a nutshell is the masterpiece that we know as And Then There Were None. When 10 strangers, with 10 dirty secrets are all kept hostage by some ruthless and anonymous host, let’s just say the party is just getting started. I denied how much I truly appreciated this flawless mystery for quite some time, thanks to the shocking and unsettling last act. But when you look back and see the most complicated of stories, with the most intriguing of characters, presented in the most ambitious of ways, there is no denying the timeless thriller that we possess today. Might I add, this phenomenal and disturbing tale is 100% Hollywood ready, why they do not have a director at the helm ready to make a modern film of it is beyond me. There is a reason this is widely considered the best that Dame Christie had to offer in a career full of many already engaging mystery novels. It is frankly, the best.
Well, I hope I haven’t given away my inner dweeb too much! But it goes without saying, I am infatuated by her fun and addictive novels! Just when I think I have her method of picking a villain figured out (I hear there is a new way of doing that), she always seems to outsmart me once again. It also goes without saying, I am missing some of the “greats” on this list (both by opinion and by a lack of having read them myself). What are some of your favorites I missed? Please let me know in the comments section! I hope my little project didn’t scare you away for good, but it is probably far less frightening than the infamous mysteries by Ms. Agatha Christie…