Blog – Posted on Friday, Dec 21
And Then There Were None: The 10 Best Agatha Christie Books
If you're a big fan of mystery novels, you’ll already be familiar with Agatha Christie, the Grand Dame of crime fiction. But if you aren’t, then this article just might change your life.
With more than seventy novels, plays, and short stories to her name, Christie remains one of history’s most prolific and influential writers. As the queen of red herrings and misdirections, she can always be counted on to provide unexpected twists and unforeseen conclusions. Whether you join Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, the elderly but still sharp Miss Marple, or any one of her sundry characters on their journey, you’ll find enthralling yarns that will keep you guessing until the very last page.
With so many books in her oeuvre, where’s a new reader to start? Well, how about here: with our list of the ten best Agatha Christie novels that everyone should read at least once.
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1. The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Recently settled in the quaint village of Styles St. Mary, Belgian refugee (and brilliant detective) Hercule Poirot tackles the case of Emily Inglethorpe, a wealthy heiress found poisoned in her locked bedroom. With few clues to go by, everybody in the family is considered a suspect... and Poirot must get to the true killer, before they get to him.
Published almost exactly 100 years ago, The Mysterious Affair at Styles marked Agatha Christie’s literary debut — which makes it a great starting point if you want to read her works in order. This is also the first time we meet Poirot, Christie's best-known character and a major part of her legacy.
2. And Then There Were None
On a private island off the coast of Devon, ten strangers convene at the request of the mysterious U.N. Owen. Strangely, upon their arrival, they discover their host is nowhere to be found. And to make things worse, when one of them is found dead, the group realizes that there’s a murderer in their midst, and he — or she — is bound to kill again.
In And Then There Were None, Christie uses the “Ten Little Soldiers” rhyme, first introduced in the book as an epigraph, as a way to provide clues about their eventual murders. But with the guests dropping one by one, the question remains: who among them could possibly be responsible?
3. Murder on the Orient Express
Murder on the Orient Express is the most famous of Christie’s detective stories featuring Monsieur Poirot and his formidable "grey cells." Since publication in 1937, it has been adapted many times for radio, film, television, and even as a computer game.
After receiving an urgent telegram in Istanbul prompting him to go back to London, Poirot secures a berth on the luxurious Orient Express. On the second night of the journey, the train is stopped by a heavy snowfall, and Poirot (along his fellow travellers) are stuck without any way through. It is during this time that Samuel Ratchett, one the passengers, is murdered.
But everyone aboard the train has an alibi — at least at first. As Poirot begins his investigation, he finds evidence connecting all the passengers in the train (the deceased included) to a kidnapping and murder that occurred years before. It is now up to the detective to piece together all the information, uncover hidden identities, and reveal the guilty party — all while trapped on a train with a murderer.
4. Death on the Nile
As a wealthy socialite, Linnet Ridgeway has it all: money, looks, and the husband of her dreams. But while on a Nile cruise, the newlyweds' honeymoon takes a turn for the worse when Linnet is found dead from a shot to the head. Forced to cut his own vacation short, Poirot investigates those onboard the steamer, searching for clues regarding Linnet’s murder — with pressure mounting as more deaths occur on the ship.
Drawing inspiration from her own trips to Egypt, Christie expertly weaves together a story of jealousy, love, and betrayal that has become one of her most beloved works. It has been adapted to radio, television, a graphic novel, and will soon return to the big screen as a follow-up to Kenneth Branagh’s 2018 film of Orient Express.
5. The A.B.C. Murders
Alice Ascher was killed in Andover...
Elizabeth “Betty” Barnard was killed in Bexhill...
Sir Carmichael Clarke was killed in Churston...
A killer is on the loose — and looking for a “D” victim.
After being challenged directly by the murderer, our favorite detective Hercule Poirot receives a letter that details the time and place of the next murder. As everything else in the letter begins to come true, the detective must solve the case and trap the killer before the alphabetical death toll grows.
While her previous novels were all written from a third person point of view, Christie uses this story to experiment with changes in perspective, switching between first and third person POV.
Fun fact: The A.B.C. Murders offers us one of the earliest examples of a “serial killer” in literature. In fact, before this book, the term “serial killer” didn’t even exist! You can thank Agatha Christie for that one.
6. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Roger Ackroyd is a a wealthy widower whose fiancée has recently committed suicide after being blackmailed. Then, after receiving a mysterious letter revealing the blackmailer, Ackroyd too is murdered in his locked study.
Enter Poirot. Though he’s now retired in the small village of King's Abbot, he must now investigate a list of suspects that seems ever-increasing. While The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a classic detective story, the absolute jaw-dropper of an ending has led to it being widely regarded as one of Christie's finest.
7. Five Little Pigs
Sixteen years after being convicted for the murder of her husband, Caroline Crale writes a letter to her daughter, Carla, pleading her innocence. After her mother’s death, Carla reaches out to none other than Hercule Poirot — in a desperate attempt to discover what really happened the day her father was killed.
Unlike other mysteries where Poirot has access to the body, the scene of the crime, and fresh witness testimonies, he must now solve the case based on what he can learn from the five witnesses (the titular Five Little Pigs) at the Crales’ house on the day of the murder. Sifting through old memories and piecing together scraps of information, Poirot uncovers decades of old secrets and, as we knew he would, the shocking truth behind the murder.
8. Crooked House
Aristide, the wealthy patriarch of the Leonides family, has been found poisoned with his own eye medicine. And with three generations of his family living in his sprawling mansion, there’s a multitude of suspects with ample motives and opportunities to commit the crime.
Meanwhile, Charles Hayward is a criminologist recently returned from Cairo at the end of the second World War — and his fiancée is Aristide’s granddaughter. Invested in the case through his connection to the family, he sets off to find the true culprit.
Similar to And Then There Were None and Five Little Pigs, the title of the novel makes reference to the nursery rhyme “There Was a Crooked Man,” which is used as an inspiration for the Crooked House. Christie herself also said that this is one of her favorite books she's written.
9. Endless Night
Published toward the end of her career, Endless Night sees Christie moving in a different direction. While retaining her characteristic accessible language and well-placed red herrings, this standalone novel doesn’t reveal a crime until well into the story. That, and it has an even darker and more mysterious twist to it.
Narrator Michael Rogers is a working-class dabbler who marries wealthy heiress Ellie Guteman. Warned by an elderly fortune-teller that she should leave the village or be cursed, Ellie begins to obsess over the dangers that surround her. Eventually, Ellie’s body is found in the woods… and as a series of deaths unravels, the one responsible for the murders must be discovered in order to avenge her.
10. Peril at End House
While on vacation in Cornwall, Poirot comes across Magdala “Nick” Buckley. After a series of misfortunes and accidents, the detective becomes convinced that Nick’s in great danger and that someone is out to get her. Together they go to End House, her country estate, where a death does occur — but not the one Poirot expects. Unexpectedly forced into action, he begins his investigation.
Peril at End House gets more complex as the deaths pile up and motives come to light, all leading a satisfactory and twisting denouement that involves a lost will, drugs, and colossal amounts of money. Really, what could be better than that?
If you love murders and mysteries, try these lists on for size: