My Top Ten Agatha Christie Mysteries

The right title for this post should be “Top Ten Christie’s Mysteries So Far”. Agatha Christie published around 80 mystery novels and many more short story collections during her lifetime and I haven’t read all of them… yet.

Mystery is definitely one of my favourite genres, and one I think few writers manage to master in the way Agatha Christie did. I believe that, along with Conan Doyle and Poe, she redefined crime novels, narratively and structurally. So, without further ado and because I’m the mood for mystery, I present to you my 10 favourite Christies (so far!).

Sparkling Cyanide

This was my first Christie! I still remember how thrilled I was to read this one, and how surprised I was at the end. No Poirot or Miss Marple here, but we have Colonel Race, a much quieter and traditional detective that appears in a couple of books. In Sparkling Cyanide*, the handsome, clever and rich Rosemary Barton sits at a table among her friends and family. The lights go out for a moment and, when they’re turned back on, she’s dead. Curiously enough, everybody at the table had at least one reason to want her dead, so who killed her?

And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie was the queen of mystery, but also the queen of ruining nursery songs. “First there were ten”, ten strangers invited to a private island, each of them suspecting (but not knowing) who their host is or why they were invited. Each of them hiding something. And then they start disappearing, one by one… And Then There Were None* is easily the creepiest book by Agatha Christie I have read.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Umberto Eco praised this book for the impressive and innovative narrative style, and it’s really just awesome how Christie manages to pull this off. Do you ever read the ending of a mystery and then go back and double-check if everything makes sense? I almost always do, but when I did that with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd*, I was mindblown. Also, this is one of Hercule Poirot’s first cases.

Five Little Pigs

On this one, Hercule Poirot has to solve a crime that happened sixteen years before, and for which someone has already been committed. After the murder of her husband, Caroline Crale was declared guilty and sent to prison, but now her granddaughter is convinced of her innocence and hires Poirot to prove it. There were five people, “five little pigs”, with the Crales the day of the murder, can Poirot gather any evidence to suspect any of them? Five Little Pigs* will ruin another nursery rhyme for you, too.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The first Poirot mystery! This is a locked-door mystery in which an old woman is poisoned in her mansion, Styles. There are plenty of suspects, among them Hastings and Poirot, who happen to be staying there at the time. I think The Mysterious Affair at Styles* sets a pattern in Poirot Mysteries: mansions and elderly, rich women who happen to be murdered.

Murder at the Vicarage

The first Miss Marple! How can an elderly lady solve the murder of Colonel Protheroe, shot through the head at the local vicarage, almost without leaving her home? Mostly gossip and an exacerbated ability to read people, really.

The Body in the Library

A young and eccentric woman is found dead in the library of wealthy Colonel Bantry. Miss Marple joins forces with police officers to solve this one, and seems like Bantry has much more to hide. The Body in the Library* shows a Miss Marple ready for action, much bolder than the one from Murder at the Vicarage*.

Peril at End House

A young heiress hires Poirot to protect her after various almost-fatal accidents: she thinks someone’s trying to kill her. This leads to Poirot staying at Peril House, a creepy mansion on the Cornish shore. I like Peril at End House* because the crime has not yet happened when Poirot starts to investigate, and the constant danger makes it more thrilling.

At Bertram’s Hotel

I honestly think Miss Marple is my favourite detective, and her powers of observation are displayed to their full extent in this novel. This one was my first Miss Marple, and I just loved the atmosphere and detail of the novel. Here, Miss Marple takes a holiday at Bertram’s Hotel in London just when a series of bloody events start taking place. At Bertram’s Hotel* is different from other Miss Marple novels because it dwells more with the mafia and money-related crimes than with murders. How Jane Marple finds herself involved in all these sinister events is amazingly entertaining.

Dead Man’s Folly

This one is just delightful. There’s a recurrent character in Agatha Christie’s novels that is a crime novelist: Adriane Oliver. She’s friends with Poirot and in this book she’s invited to a mock murder hunt but, you guessed it, the murder happens for real. Dead Man’s Folly* is so sinister and fun, it’s like a night of playing Clue gone wrong.

Have you read any of these? What are your favourite Christies? I am currently reading and loving The Luminaries* by Eleanor Catton and I am definitely in the mood for more mystery books, do you have any suggestions?

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*Disclaimer: If you do buy any of the books mentioned through these links, I will receive a commission. This does not affect the prices whatsoever.

8 Books to Get Into the Christmas Spirit

December is already here, which means it’s time to get cosy by the Christmas tree and grab a book. Christmas is definitely my favourite time of the year and it’s usually when I read the most; everything during this season seems to me inviting to stay inside and read: warm beverages, comfort food, blankets, cold weather, twinkle lights. So this year I chose for you some of the books that never fail to make me feel christmassy.

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8. The Trick is to Keep Breathing, Janice Galloway

“No matter how often I think I can’t stand it anymore, I always do. There is no alternative. I don’t fall, I don’t foam at the mouth, faint, collapse or die. It’s the same for all of us. You can’t get out of the inside of your own head. Something keeps you going. Something always does.”

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This is Galloway’s first novel, published in 1989. It tells the struggles of 27-year-old Joy Stone, a drama teacher who lives in Irvine, Scotland. This is a very bleak yet surprisingly hopeful book. After the death of her lover Michael, a married man, Joy struggles with her mental health and basically has a really rough time. Told with mastery in a stream-of-consciousness style, this book is both a social critique and the story of a young woman trying to find the trick for surviving pain and loss. Spoiler alert, the trick is to keep breathing.

7. The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick

“Life is not a PG feel-good movie. Real life often ends badly. Literature tries to document this reality, while showing us it is still possible for us to endure nobly.”

9781447291480_lYou’ve probably seen the movie (and if you haven’t, you should). Pat Peoples has moved back with his parents after some years at a psychiatric institution following the separation from his wife. The only thing in his mind is getting back together with her, but along the way he meets Tiffany, whose husband recently died. Now, Tiffany and Pat couldn’t be more opposite, but together they devise a plan to get Pat and his wife back together… through a dancing competition that is to take place at Christmas. This book is funny, heartbreaking and heartwarming, filled with unique, quirky and complex characters throughout.

 

6. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”

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This one doesn’t even need an introduction. Ghosts, desolated moors, jinxed lovers, revenge and forgiveness—that’s the stuff of Christmas right there.

 

 

 

 

5. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, Agatha Christie

“There is at Christmas time a great deal of hypocrisy, honourable hypocrisy, hypocrisy undertaken pour le bon motif, c’est entendu, but nevertheless hypocrisy!”

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Agatha Christie has a book for every season, situation and setting you can imagine. In this one, a millionaire named Simeon Lee invites his four stranged sons and their wives back home for Christmas. His intentions are, however, not christmassy at all— he just wants to tell them he’s cutting off their allowances. But before he can act, he’s murdered, and his four sons are the main suspects. Enter Hercule Poirot.

 

 

4. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

“Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying,
and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault.”

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Another classic that needs no introduction. Get ready to cry though.

 

 

 

 

 

3. The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman

“One moment several things are possible, the next moment only one happens, and the rest don’t exist. Except that other worlds have sprung into being, on which they did happen.”

A1gACmqyxSLThis book is just amazing. Everything Pullman has written is definitely good, but the first one of His Dark Materials trilogy is simply extraordinary. This book is set in Oxford, not our Oxford, but a similar one. Lyra Belacqua has grown up at Jordan College, being told her parents died when she was just a baby. But Lyra has seen someone trying to poison his only relative, her uncle Lord Asriel, and starts suspecting it has something to do with her. At the same time, children in Oxford have begun disappearing, including her best friend. Lyra’s curiosity and stubbornness take her on an adventure wilder than anything she could have imagined. From a boat ride with gypsies to the inhospitable regions of Svalvard, this book is simply otherworldly, both complex and engaging. One of my favourite books of all time, with lots of snow and polar bears.

 

2. The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden

“All my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come.’ I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me.”

61quFkzBe5L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_This is a recent discovery. Set in Northern Russia, where it is winter for most of the year, it tells the story of another stubborn girl (honestly, stubborn girls make the best characters), Vasya, who is soon to be married. But these are hard times for everybody in Russia: the political situation is unstable, the winter is specially cold and famine is on its way. And Vasya is the only one who seems to know what is happening. Something is changing, ancient spirits whisper things in the depths of the woods. The wonders and terrors of fairy tales come together during the religious revolution that began to swept the Russian wilderness in the 17th century. This is a delightful read.

 

1. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”

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Dickens at his best. Young Pip lives with his sister and her husband, a blacksmith, before being adopted by a rich spinster, Miss Havisham, who has “great expectations” for him. This turn of fate will not only alter Pip’s future, but also reveal many things about his past. As it happens with most of Dickens’ novels, every detail in the narrative comes to play a major role at the end of Great Expectations. A wonderful novel about love, rejection, good fortune, loyalty and temptation.