She is the most well known mystery writers ever to write, along with one of the most popular writers in any genre. Agatha Christie’s (Sept 15 1890-June 12 1976) books have been read everywhere from high schools to reading groups all over the world, along with her stories adapted into TV Movies for years, especially on PBS, the BBC, and most recently on The Lifetime Channel.
I first discovered Christie’s writings in college during a Young Adults Literary Class, and within the past few years, I started reading her works again, from my local library and book sales (in fact both my mother and I are big fans of the books). As with any writer, there are some good works and some bad ones in her collection, but even in the bad ones, the reader can find something to like in the novels. Even if some of the stories have a weak plot line, her novels have great character interactions that every aspiring writer should study in my opinion. So in honor of the week of her birthday, I thought I’d list my favorite books that she wrote (at least so far since I’m still diving into her collections). I will not be posting spoilers to these books, so you will not have to worry if something is revealed. The only revealing is my list:
- At Bertram’s Hotel. This Miss Marple story was published in the U.S. in 1965. Marple is on vacation at the hotel, where she visited in her youth. Instead of a peaceful vacation of relaxing, there ends up a mystery. Clergyman Canon Pennyfather ( a great name in my opinion) heads to a conference but arrives a day late. When he returns to the hotel, he disturbs someone in his room. He wakes up 4 days later not remembering anything in a house hours away from London close to where a mall robbery occurs. Several witness claimed to have seen a person around the time of the robbery that is similar to the clergyman. It is up to Marple to determine who was behind the robbery and what happened during the time period Pennyfather cannot remember.
I liked this novel because of the great characters, especially the name of Pennyfather, which sounds very British, and how the book is more of a mystery and just a plain out murder.
- Partners in Crime. This book was a short story collection, published in the U.S. in 1929, and features the characters Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. The couple is asked to take over the “International Detectives Agency” to interrupt spy messages. Even though the agency is a fake agency, the couple ends up getting involved in cases and they try to solve them in the way their favorite detectives would solve. They mimic famous detectives such as Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, and even Hercule Poirot.
Not only are the stories easy to read, it shows how well of a short story writer Christie was, although most just known of her skills as a novelist. The characters remind me of two kids playing on an afternoon pretending to be spies and detectives. I also like how Christie uses her own characters, like Poirot, in the tales, which shows a sense of humor. Even though the name Tuppence is just strange to me, these are lesser known characters that deserve a read.
4.The Mirror Crackd (From Side to Side). This book is also just known as “The Mirror Crackd” in some publications, which was originally published in 1962 in the U.S. The title comes from a Tennyson writing, that is mentioned several times in the novel, which is similar to the references in “And Then There Were None,” and according to Wikipedia, this book is considered the sequel to “The Body in the Library.”
Miss Marple again is called to figure out the murder in this novel. Heather Badcock is murdered at a party after taking a poisoned cocktail, which later is found out to be intended for actress Marina Gregg. Before the murder, Marina is seen with a frozen look on her face, either knowing or seeing something (or someone) that shocks her. What did she see or realize, and who is the murderer? Miss Marple must figure this out. While the police tries to figure out what is going on, there are 2 other murders that occur.
The story is rumored to be taken from real life film actress Gene Tierry’s life. The book also, as mentioned earlier, has a reference to another literary work in the theme of the murders, which literary fans should like as well.
- Three Act Tragedy. This book was published in 1934 in the U.S. and features Hercule Poirot, probably Christie’s most famous character. Also helping in this mystery is Mr. Satterthwaite, who was in previous books with Harley Quin (not the Batman character).
A dinner party thrown by a theater actor ends up with a murder of Reverend Babbington after drinking a cocktail where no poison was found afterwards. A few days later at another party where some of the same guests attend, another murder occurs with Dr. Strange (also not the comic book character) dying from nicotine poisoning. Once Babbington’s body was exhumed, it is found out that he too was murdered the same way. It is up to Poirot and Satterthwaite to find out what is going on and who is the murderer.
I liked this novel because of the tag team help from the main characters, as opposed to the normal theme of having just one person investigate. This novel has been produced on TV, and is also known as “Murder in Three Acts.”
- A Murder is Announced. This was one of the first books I read after deciding to check into Christie’s other writings. Even though it is called a Miss Marple story, she has an overall minor appearance in the novel. Published in the U.S. in 1950, the novel centers around a newspaper ad that is placed stating a murder will occur in Little Baddocks, although the owner, Leticia Blacklock, knows nothing about this. Nevertheless, she prepares to have guests that night and when people are at the party, a masked man with a gun shows up, the lights go out, and shots are heard. When the lights are fixed, the gunman is dead, and Blacklock is bleeding from her ear from a grazed bullet. The gunman is recognized as a friend of Blacklock, named Bunny, who also lives at Paddock.
I like the theme of this story with the murder mystery party theme. Even though it may sound cliché now in the movies and books, the idea of a real murder happens at the party still works (although the book was published a long time ago). Christie’s writing and her characters make the tale enjoyable.
- And Then There Were None. It is probably not surprising this is at the top of my list, because the book is one of the best- selling books of all time in any genre. There have been several movies made of the book, most recently shown in the U.S. as a Lifetime TV Mini Series in 2016, which I could not make it through when watching. The book was first published in the U.S. in 1939 after a name change, and besides “Murder on The Orient Express,” this is probably Christie’s most known book. As I wrote in a previous blog, “The Impact of Books” (https://lancewrites.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/the-impact-of-books/) , this is the book that I was first introduced to Agatha Christie.
The tale involves several people summoned to an island mansion, which each person had been involved in deaths of other people but never convicted. After a gramophone is played declaring the crimes, one by one the guests die. Who is behind the murders, and also more importantly, why did the person(s) do it? This book has you turning page after page in anticipation.
There is no doubt that Agatha Christie is one of the finest writers the literary world has seen. It is a shame that there are still many people who have not read her works or even know who she was, even though she is in the top 5 best-selling authors of all time (several sources have claimed her behind Shakespeare as #2, and some claim “And Then There Were None” is right behind the Bible in sales-it’s hard to find a definite account). Maybe this list will help you search out a great author and dig deeper into her writings.
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