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Nothing says fall like a good mystery novel, am I right? So, what better way to celebrate the season than by picking up some tales from the Queen of Mystery herself, Agatha Christie. Agatha Christie wrote dozens of mysteries, complete with quirky detectives, shady characters, and plenty of plot twists. While there are so many stories to choose from, sometimes you just want to stick with the classics. Whether you’re a longtime Agatha Christie fan or haven’t read any of her books, you can’t go wrong delving into these literary staples.
Here are five favorite mystery novels by Agatha Christie.
1. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
First up (chronologically) is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. It’s one of Agatha Christie’s earlier works — her sixth novel and the third to feature her famous detective Hercule Poirot. The book is considered one of her best works and is famous for its unique ending plot twist.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd takes place in a small English town ripe with scandal. It’s narrated by local physician Dr. James Sheppard, who lives with his sister, town busybody Caroline. They also happen to live next door to Monsieur Poirot, who has retired from his life as a detective in favor of growing vegetables.
The story begins with the death of Mrs. Ferrars, the love interest of Roger Ackroyd. The circumstances surrounding her death (and that of her first husband) are murky, and just as Ackroyd begins digging into the details, he’s murdered in his study. The scandals of the town and family unfold — with the help of Poirot, of course — until we reach the tale’s surprising conclusion.
Like many of Agatha Christie’s books, the novel has been featured in several adaptations. The story has been featured stage, radio, television, and film over the years.
Thanks to its cast of characters and unpredictable ending, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is known as one of Agatha Christie’s best.
2. Peril at End House (1932)
That Hercule Poirot just can’t take a break, can he? Every time the poor guy tries to take a vacation or retire, his brilliance is needed instead. This is the case with Peril at End House.
In Peril at End House, we find Hercule Poirot on holiday with his pal Hastings on the Cornish coast. There they meet Magdala “Nick” Buckley, a young pretty girl vacationing with friends. Nick reveals to Poirot that she’s recently survived several accidents that could have killed her. When the detective discovers a bullet hole in her hat, he’s sure these are no accidents. Poirot takes it up as his responsibility to help Nick avoid an untimely death and find out who is responsible.
Peril at End House has also been adapted into everything from a play in 1940 to a graphic novel in 2008.
Peril at End House is a great detective novel, full of twists and turns complete with Christie’s signature style.
3. Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
If you’ve heard of any Agatha Christie novels, you’ve probably heard of Murder on the Orient Express. A classic whodunit, the story is arguably Christie’s most famous.
At the start of the tale, the Orient Express train becomes caught in the snowdrift in the middle of the night, unable to continue its journey. While the train is stopped, a man is found murdered in his compartment. It soon comes to light that several of the man’s enemies are on board the train. With nobody able to get on or off the train, the list of suspects is clear. Here, Poirot gets to work, sifting through the facts to find out who is responsible.
While it seems like everything Agatha Christie ever wrote has been adapted for the stage or screen, Murder on the Orient Express may have the most adaptations. Most recently, a film version was released in 2017 starring Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Dame Judi Dench, and many other notable actors.
Murder on the Orient Express is perhaps the quinessential Christie classic. A crime, a list of suspects, and Poirot’s cleverness take center stage in the entertaining tale.
4. The A.B.C. Murders (1936)
In The A.B.C. Murders, Poirot and Hastings are at it again. This time, the detective and his sidekick are attempting to catch a serial killer.
In this story, the murderer is taunting Poirot by sending him letters with hints of upcoming crimes and signed only as “ABC.” The killer is also playing with the detective in the selection of his victims — first is Mrs. Ascher in Andover, second is Betty Barnard in Bexhill, and third is Sir Carmichael Clarke in Churston. Poirot, Hastings, and the police work to track down the murderer before he can continue his deadly game.
Not to be left out, The A.B.C. Murders has also had its fair share of adaptations, including a BBC miniseries starring John Malkovich and Rupert Grint that premiered in 2018.
The A.B.C Murders is unique in its plot and style among Christie’s other works. With its serial killer on the loose and Poirot as a target, it’s a favorite for its anomalous nature.
5. And Then There Were None (1939)
And Then There Were None was originally published in the late 1930s in the UK and in 1940 in the US and has been known by several different names. These titles were taken from an old nursery rhyme that plays a significant role in the novel and are, let’s say, inappropriate. Nevertheless, the book has been updated and is now known simply as And Then There Were None.
And Then There Were None is one of the greatest mystery novels ever written. It’s also the most popular — the novel is the best-selling mystery of all time, with more than 100 million copies sold. It’s also unique among Christie’s more famous novels because it does not feature any of her usual detectives, like Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple.
At the start of the novel, 10 strangers are invited to a mansion on an island by a mysterious host. They all make their way to the secluded estate, where they are greeted with a recorded message accusing each of them of keeping a terrible secret. During the night, one of them is murdered, and a storm strands the rest of the group at the house. One by one, the guests begin to turn up dead. Will the survivors be able to discover the murdered before none of them remain?
As such a popular book, adaptations of And Then There Were None abound. From radio to stage and around 10 films, the story has been showcased in many different ways over the years.
And Then There Were None is the ultimate mystery novel. With its creepy house, characters with secrets, and murderer hidden in plain sight, it’s a practically unbeatable Christie classic.