I love to set myself a reading list each year, and I thought this year, 2019, I would tackle the works of Agatha Christie. A prolific writer, and an interesting woman in her own right, I thought this would be fun, because I love a good mystery. Although, as you can see from the list below, she wrote quite a lot of books, they’re usually quite short, so I think I can do it.
I’ve read quite a few of her books before, but I’ve forgotten “whodunnit” so I’m going to re-read those. There’s loads of her books that I’ve never read, including her romances, which I’m really curious to read, which she published under the name Mary Westmacott.
As I’m reading them, I’m writing a short description and a short opinion on each one, and if I like it, I’ve put an asterisk * at the start of the title. If I loved it, it gets two **. I love her old paperbacks with the funny, dramatic covers, so part of my goal is to only read old, second hand editions. I’d love to hear from you in the comments about which ones you love or hate, or if you disagree with my assessments of any of them, have any interesting facts, … Let me know.
Hercule Poirot Books
- *The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) – With some great twists and double crosses, Christie’s first book and the first novel featuring Poirot was witty and sharp, and a sign of great things to come. It follows the classic form of a wealthy home with an aging matriarch whose death seems inevitable when she is surrounded by her scheming relatives and hangers on. The home featured, Styles Court, would actually also be the site of his final case, written years later.
- The Murder On The Links (1923)
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
- The Big Four (1927) – Poirot takes on a case of international criminal masterminds when a man who approaches him for help suddenly dies. Are the Big Four behind it, and can he stop them from their evil plans for world domination? This book feels a bit like a comic book and is a bit cheesey with some truly far fetched twists, but it’s still quite fun.
- The Mystery Of The Blue Train (1928) – When a millionaires daughter heads to the Riviera with a famous and much desired ruby in her luggage, she takes the Blue Train, and winds up murdered. Was she killed for her priceless ruby or by her desperate husband? His lover? Her lover? Poirot investigates with the help of Katherine Grey, a recent heiress. I liked the exotic location, the money grabbing relatives and lovers, and a side character Lenox who has loads of personality. A nice winding read with international, glamorous flavor.
- *Peril At End House (1932) – On a relaxing trip to Cornwall, Poirot and Hastings stumble upon an attempted murder. Beautiful Nick Buckley refuses at first to believe someone could want her dead, because even though she inherited End House, she has no money and is in debt. Can Poirot figure out who and why, before it’s too late? I loved the way that Christie evokes the devil may care, flippant attitude of the 1939’s smart set in this book. I also think that it has some lovely twists in it. I always love a story that has an interesting house with secrets.
- Lord Edgeware Dies (1933)
- Murder On The Orient Express (1934)
- Three Act Tragedy (1935)
- Death In The Clouds (1935)
- The ABC Murders (1936)
- Murder In Mesopotamia (1936)
- Cards On The Table (1936)
- Dumb Witness (1937) – Called Poirot Loses A Client in North America. When Poirot receives a letter from an elderly women asking for help and finds that she’s been dead for two months, he decides to investigate. The wealthy woman has left her money unexpectedly to her companion rather than her three grasping relatives who expected to inherit, and Poirot suspects foul play. The Dumb Witness of the title is the victim’s dog, who is a lovely thread through the narrative. This book is apparently considered one of Christie’s less masterful works, but it’s a highly entertaining read, all the same.
- Death On The Nile (1937)
- Appointment With Death (1938) – In Jerusalem, Poirot over hears a voice say “You do see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?” The voice turns out to belong to a member of the Boynton family, whose stepmother is a sadistic emotional tyrant. When that step mother turns up dead, Poirot proposes that not only was it murder, but that he can solve the case in 24 hours. This one I felt was slow in parts, but I liked the exotic location, and I felt like the murderer was someone I never would have guessed.
- Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1938)
- One, Two Buckle My Shoe (1940)
- *Sad Cypress (1940) – Set largely in a courtroom, which makes it feel a little different to other Christie novels, this novel opens with Elinor Carlisle accused of murder. She appears unable to defend herself, as all the clues point to her. Following her wealthy Aunt’s death, Elinor stands to inherit a large sum, but she has lost the love of her fiance, who fell in love with a young protegee of their Aunts. And then, that protegee wound up dead. Its a swift, winding mystery and leaves plenty of clues and red herrings. Very enjoyable.
- Evil Under The Sun (1941)
- Five Little Pigs (1942) – Called Murder in Retrospect in North America, Poirot is approached by a young woman who has found out that her mother was convicted of murdering her father 16 years before. Wanting to understand what happened and sure her mother is innocent, she asked the Belgian detective for help. There’s a good murder plot here, but the first part feels slightly rushed, and parts of the middle involve characters re-telling the event in their own words, which is a little tedious. A good read, but not Christie’s best work.
- *The Hollow (1946) – The Hollow is a beautiful country estate where the Angkatell clan live and gather, but alliances are uneasy between cousins, wives and lovers. When Poirot is invited to lunch while the house is full of guests, he arrives to find someone dying by the pool and a variety of suspects arrayed in a tableau. Is this crime what it appears to be? A good winding mystery with a focus more on the other characters than the detective, I really liked the vividly drawn Lady Angkatell, who often made me laugh. A good drama and mystery.
- *Taken At The Flood (1948) – When Gordon Cloade is killed in an air raid in the London Blitz, his young wife of a few weeks is left with his fortune. When Poirot is visited by a relative of the dead man, saying that spirits told her that the young widow’s first husband is still alive, he wonders at her motive, til a notice in the paper makes him decide to get involved. A really good one, where I thought I knew who the killer was once or twice, but was delightfully wrong.
- Mrs McGinty’s Dead (1952) – When Mrs McGinty is murdered, her lodger is charged and it seems like an open and shut case, but the police call on Poirot because they feel like it was all to easy. Can he find out who killed her and why? I liked the reference in this one to well known crime cases that mirrored some true crime I’ve read about. Nice misdirects and plot twists, and Poirot in fine form here. His need for order and perfectionism is made fun of here in a fun way.
- *After The Funeral (1953) – At Richard Lansquenet’s funeral, his sister remarks that she believes he was murdered. Everyone is shocked, until the next day her body is found brutally murdered in her home. Hercule Poirot investigates… I really liked this one. A classic mystery with interesting twists and an end that’s hard to guess.
- Hickory Dickory Dock (1955)
- Dead Man’s Folly (1956)
- Cat Amongst The Pigeons (1959)
- The Clocks (1963)
- Third Girl (1966)
- Hallowe’en Party (1969)
- Elephant’s Can Remember (1972)
- Curtain (1975)
- The Monogram Murders (2014)
Hercule Poirot Short Stories
- Poirot Investigates (1924)
- Murder In The Mews (1937)
- The Labours Of Hercules (1947)
- Poirot’s Early Cases (1974)
Miss Marple Books
- The Murder at the Vicarage (1930)
- The Body In The Library (1942)
- The Moving Finger (1942) – When a man moves to a small village to recover from a flying accident, he takes his sister with him and expects all to be quiet and dull. But poison pen letters set off a chain of events that lead to death… I nicely placed mystery with some fun characters and a snap shot of village life, but sadly Miss Marple only appears to wrap things up and save the day. Could have used more of her, but a good read anyway.
- A Murder Is Announced (1950) – An ad in the paper announces that a murder will take place at a local home and while curious neighbors gather, the inhabitants do not know who placed the ad. And then the lights go out, shots are fired, and a stranger lies dead. But is he really a stranger? And is everyone who they say they are? Miss Marple investigates, and while this is one of the few where I did manage to guess the ending, I really enjoyed the twists along the way and Christie’s ability to lampoon British character types and prejudices.
- They Do It With Mirrors (1952) – Miss Marple is called on to stay with an old childhood friend when something is not right at her large estate where she and her husband help troubled youth. When a murder occurs, is it one of the teenagers or is the real killer using smoke and mirrors to hide himself in plain sight? A fun mystery, but somehow this one seemed to lack urgency to me. The misdirect was quite nice though.
- A Pocket Full Of Rye (1953)
- 4:50 From Paddington (1957) – Titled What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw! in North America, this book is about an older woman who sees a murder from her train window. When no one believes her and no body is found, she enlists her friend Miss Marple to help her out. Teamed up with the remarkable Lucy Eyelesbarrow, the plot thickens nicely and the case takes some interesting turns. Personally, I would have liked a bit more time spent with Marple on this case, but it’s a very entertaining read.
- The Mirror Crack’d (1962)
- A Carribean Mystery (1964)
- At Bertram’s Hotel (1965) – Miss Marple stays at a hotel in London, but something about how “authentic” it is strikes her as odd. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard investigates a series of train robberies, a addle-headed clergyman goes missing, and a young woman wonders if someone is trying to kill her… Sometimes I feel like Miss Marple is too often not the main character in novels when she should be. This one has some nice misdirects and things, but seems to waffle a little. Not a classic murder mystery format.
- Nemesis (1971)
- *Sleeping Murder (1976) – Miss Marple’s last case. When Gwenda is tasked with finding a home for her and her husband, she is delighted by a house she finds. But on moving in, she finds strange memories surface, including an awful terror when she climbs the stairs. Is she going mad or is there some mystery in the house? This one is interesting with it’s themes of old murders and childhood memories. Gwenda is the main focus, more than Miss Marple, and on the whole, it’s a really good plot.
Miss Marple Short Stories
- The Thirteen Problems (1932) – Called The Tuesday Club Murders in North America. A group of six disparate people gather and decide to each tell a tale of an interesting case that has baffled them. One of the six is Miss Marple. The cases all have a nice puzzle to them, and each story teller has a unique voice. It’s a nice variation on a way to tell six short mysteries.
- Miss Marple’s Final Cases (1979)
Tommy & Tuppence Books
- The Secret Adversary (1922)
- N or M? (1941)
- By The Pricking Of My Thumbs (1968)
- Postern Of Fate (1973) – Tommy and Tuppence have retired and bought an old house in a small town, when they find a mysterious coded note in a child’s book. It seems that there was once a murder in the house, and the two find themselves irresistibly drawn to find out what really happened, even though they’re meant to be retired… It’s a good plot, but it seems to end a little abruptly and there are several references to the N or M mystery, which feel a little repetitive.
Tommy & Tuppence Stories
- Partners In Crime (1929)
Superintendent Battle Books
- The Secret Of Chinmeys (1925)
- The Seven Dials Mystery (1929)
- Cards On The Table (1936)
- Murder Is Easy (1939)
- Towards Zero (1944) – This time, Christie looks at the build up to a murder, as opposed to opening on one. We know that someone is going to be killed, when a man heads to the home he grew up in with his wife, knowing that his ex wife will also be there. I like the way it leaves you guessing who and why, though I think having a murder earlier on is a more satisfying format.
- The Man In The Brown Suit (1924)
- The Sittaford Mystery (1931)
- Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1934) – Also sometimes titled The Boomerang Clue, this book is one of Christie’s thriller style mysteries, and borrows a little from Tommy and Tuppence, in some respects. On the golf course, a man whispers the words of the title before dying. It seems like an accident, but Bobby and his aristcratic lady friend Frankie are soon embroiled on the trail of murder. I found this book slightly frustrating because the leads don’t ask the obvious questions or make the obvious connections, but they are a sweet duo.
- And Then There Were None (1939)
- Death Comes At The End (1944)
- Sparkling Cyanide (1945)
- **Crooked House (1949) – A man falls in love in Cairo, but when they’re reunited, her grandfather is murdered. He and his crooked family all live in a crooked house together. But who did it and why? I guessed the killer in this one, which I usually don’t, but I love the sinister nature of the whole book and why the murder was done. Deliciously dark.
- They Came To Baghdad (1951)
- Destination Unknown (1954)
- Ordeal By Innocence (1958)
- **The Pale Horse (1961) – This one has a really different feel than a lot of other Christie books, with it’s themes of witchcraft, mind control and organised crime. It opens with a priest murdered to cover up some kind of conspiracy, and takes us through some locals witches and a series of murders that appear to have been done via some occult means. It’s a bit darker and a bit more swinging 60’s than other books, but still has that Christie charm.
- Endless Night (1967)
- Passenger To Frankfurt (1970) – When a fun loving aristocrat gives his passport and coat to a woman so she can enter the country under his identity, he thinks the spy game sounds like fun. But the rising youth revolution hides a dangerous game of armaments, drugs, and a rising Nazi youth movement that threatens the world. No, really. This is one weird Agatha Christie novel, and for that reason, it’s kind of entertaining, but I never enjoy her spy novels as much as her mysteries and this one is all a bit weird.
Short Stories Collections
- The Mysterious Mr Quin (1930)
- The Hound Of Death (1933)
- The Listerdale Mystery (1934)
- Parker Pyne Investigates (1934)
- The Regetta & Other Stories (1939)
- The Witness For The Prosecution & Other Stories (1948)
- Three Blind Mice & Other Stories (1950)
- The Underdog & Other Stories (1951)
- The Adventure Of The Christmas Pudding (1960)
- Double Sin & Other Stories (1961)
- Star Over Bethlehem & Other Stories (1965)
- The Golden Ball & Other Stories (1974) – It looks like some of these stories appear in other short stories collections, but what’s interesting about this book is that there’s not a murder to be found. The book is full of mysteries about stolen jewels or strange people, and the latter half has quite a few ghosts or supernatural themes. They’re all really good stories, but not a murder to be found here…
- Problem At Pollensa Bay & Other Stories (1991)
- The Harlequin Tea Set (1997)
- While The Light Lasts & Other Stories (1997)
Romance (as Mary Westmacott)
- Giant’s Bread (1930)
- Unfinished Portrait (1934)
- Absent In The Spring (1944)
- The Rose And The Yew Tree (1948)
- A Daughter’s a Daughter (1952)
- The Burden (1956)
- Come, Tell Me How You Live (1946)
- An Autobiography (1977)