Agatha Christie’s ingenuity is unrivaled in the world of crime fiction. Choosing which to regard as the best in the multitude of crafty and suspenseful mystery novels by the iconic writer is no easy task. However, some of her works stand out among others, and this article lists ten of the best books by Agatha Christie.
And Then There Were None (1939)
This is widely considered as Agatha Christie’s best novel and had record-breaking literary and commercial success. It is the world’s best-selling mystery novel. In September 2015, it was voted as “World’s Favourite Christie” in a vote sponsored by Agatha Christie’s estate to mark her 125th posthumous birthday.
In ‘And Then There Were None,’ ten strangers are invited to an island by a mysterious fellow and die one after the other in the pattern of a rhyming song until none is left alive. The story is a complex interplay of crime, guilt, justice, and retribution and continues to stand out as a stellar mystery novel and a classic. Christie herself acknowledges it as the most difficult book for her to write, and the extent of genius and creativity put into the work is very obvious.
The Murder at the Vicarage (1930)
‘The Murder at the Vicarage‘ is the first novel where Agatha Christie introduces the small fictional village of St Mary Mead and the celebrated character Miss Marple. The events in the novel are narrated by the vicar, Reverend Leonard Clement, and takes place in his vicarage.
Reverend Clement’s churchwarden, Colonel Lucius Protheroe, a wealthy but widely disliked magistrate, is found dead in his study. A note by his corpse states a time of death that proves inaccurate from investigations. While the police have their hands full with misleading clues, numerous suspects, and strange occurrences around the town, Miss Marple investigates with her methods that eventually reveal the killers.
Miss Marple quickly became the readers’ favorite after her appearance in this piece. And the novel is praised for its clever plot and Miss Marple’s great insight into humanity and crime despite not being a professional detective.
The A.B.C. Murders (1936)
‘The A.B.C. Murders‘ is a 1936 crime novel by Agatha Christie that features her popular detective Hercule Poirot with his friends Captain Hastings and Chief Inspector Japp. The narration is done in both the first-person and the third-person perspectives. Here, Poirot and his cohorts contend with a serial killer who kills people in alphabetical order of their names and towns and signs off with the name A.B.C.
Arthur Hastings returns to England from Argentina and meets his friend Hercule Poirot. Poirot shows him mysterious letters he has been receiving, which detail murders about to be committed. The sender signs off as A.B.C. Each letter precedes the murder of a victim with alliterative initials: Alice Ascher is killed in her tobacco shop in Andover, Betty Bernard is killed on the beach at Bexhill, and Sir Carmichael Clarke is killed at his home in Churston.
Poirot gathers the relatives of the murder victims to extract information for the investigation. The investigations point to Alexander Bonaparte Cust, a disturbed war veteran who often has memory blackouts, as the lead suspect. When apprehended, Cust admits that he may be guilty, although he does not remember committing any of those crimes. But in his cunning way, Poirot digs deeper into the case, reveals the true killer, and proves Cust’s innocence.
Peril at End House (1932)
‘Peril at End House’ is the sixth Poirot and Hastings novel by Agatha Christie. Hercule Poirot and Captain Arthur Hastings meet Magdala “Nick” Buckley and her friends as they vacation in Cornwall. Nick hosts them all at her home called End House. As Poirot meets with them, he is convinced that someone is trying to kill Nick—this suspicion is fueled when Poirot finds a bullet that Nick thought to be a wasp that flew past her.
In his characteristic manner, Poirot gathers a group of individuals from Nick’s inner circle. This group includes Charles Vyse, Nick’s lawyer cousin who serves as her will executor and solicitor; Ellen, Nick’s housekeeper; George Challenger, who holds affection for Nick; Mr. and Mrs. Croft, an Australian couple leasing the lodge near End House; Freddie Rice, Nick’s best friend, who is an abused wife; and Jim Lazarus, an art dealer who is in love with Freddie. Among them, Charles Vyse and Freddie Rice are the ones who stand to gain something from Nick’s death, as Charles would inherit End House, and Freddie would inherit the rest of the estate. However, neither of them possesses a motive strong enough to warrant murder.
Nick invites her cousin Maggie to spend time with her at End House, and when Maggie arrives, Nick throws a party where everyone is present except for George. Nick gets a telephone call at the party and goes to receive it; after she rejoins the party, they soon find Maggie dead, wearing Nick’s shawl. Many present assume that Maggie had been killed because she was mistaken for Nick.
Poirot plots a ruse with Nick’s participation and tells everyone that Nick is dead. This ruse reveals the greed and debauchery of some of those in Nick’s circle, but an interesting twist of events reveals the killer to be someone that would hardly have been suspected.
The Moving Finger (1942)
‘The Moving Finger‘ is a 1942 Miss Marple mystery novel by Agatha Christie. Jerry Burton and his sister Joanna Burton move from London to take up residence in the quiet town of Lymstock as Jerry recovers from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash. Shortly after moving into their new house, they receive an anonymous letter falsely accusing them of being lovers and not siblings. Agitated by this letter, they complain to some neighbors and soon learn that many other residents of Lymstock have received such anonymous letters with ridiculous false accusations as well.
A while later, the local solicitor’s wife, Mrs. Symmington, is found dead with an anonymous letter accusing her of cheating on her husband and having her second son for a man other than her husband. Her death is ruled as a suicide because a scrap of paper written ‘’I can’t go on’’ and a glass of potassium cyanide are found at the scene. However, the police begin a hunt for the letter writer and assume the writer must be a middle-aged woman among the prominent residents of Lymstock.
Another death occurs in Lymstock, and with the slow progress of the investigations, the local Reverend’s wife, Mrs. Dane Cathrop, invites Miss Marple to help with the investigation. Miss Marple arrives, gathers the facts of the case, and sets a trap that soon gets the murderer and letter writer caught and arrested.
The title “The Moving Finger” was derived from quatrain 51 of Edward FitzGerald’s translation of Rubayat of Omar Khayyam :
“The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,
Moves on; not all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.”
The poem refers to the Bible story of ’The Writing on the Wall’ in the Book of Daniel.
Death on the Nile (1937)
‘Death on the Nile‘ is set in Egypt, and the action mostly takes place on a cruise ship that tours the River Nile. Hercule Poirot, while on vacation in Egypt, is approached by a young wealthy socialite Linnet Doyle nee Ridgeway, who wants Poirot to protect her from her husband’s ex, who has been stalking them since they got together. The stalker is Jacqueline de Bellefort, Linnet’s former best friend who had been engaged to marry Simon Doyle but was jilted by Simon in favor of Linnet.
On the cruise, Linnet is found dead in her room, and many other deaths quickly follow suit, forcing Poirot to investigate and uncover the truth behind the intriguing events that happen as they float across the River Nile.
This novel is lauded as one of Agatha Christie’s best because it combines emotions, well-dimensioned characters, twists, and humor.
A Pocket Full of Rye (1953)
Like many of Agatha Christie’s works, the title of this novel is gotten from a line from a Nursery Rhyme ‘’Sing a Song of Sixpence.’’ The nursery rhyme is also a significant element in the plot.
Detective Inspector Neele leads an investigation as London businessman Rex Fortescue dies after drinking his morning tea, and a quantity of rye is found in his jacket pocket. An autopsy reveals that Rex’s death was caused by poisoning by taxine—a poisonous substance from the Yew tree. Rex’s wife, Adele, is the prime suspect in the crime.
One of Rex’s sons, Lance, and his wife, Pat, are traveling from Kenya to England at Rex’s invitation, according to Lance. At Paris, Lance wires that he will be home the following day, and the police meet him at the airport. Lance goes to Yewtree Lodge, leaving his wife behind in London. The same day, Adele dies of cyanide poisoning and the housemaid Gladys is found dead in the yard, strangled and with a clothes peg pinned to her nose.
Miss Marple arrives to join the investigation as one of the victims, Gladys, was once her employee. Rex’s sister-in-law Miss Ramsbottom invites Miss Marple to stay, and Inspector Neele agrees to work with Miss Marple in the investigation.
Miss Marple soon draws Inspector Neele’s attention to a connection between the pattern of the murders and a nursery rhyme ‘’Sing a Song of Sixpence.’’ Miss Marple formulates her theories, and the murderer is discovered. Months after Miss Marple returns home to St Mary Mead, she receives a letter. It was sent by Gladys before her death with confessions about her role in the murders, which corresponds with Miss Marple’s theories.
The Murder on the Links (1923)
In ‘The Murder on the Links,’ Hercule Poirot and Arthur Hastings solve a mystery together once again. They travel to Merlinville-sur-Mer, France, to help a man Paul Renauld who has asked for their help. However, Poirot and Hastings are greeted with news of Paul Renauld’s death when they arrive in France.
Paul’s widow Eloise claim masked men had broken into their villa around 2 am, tied her up, and taken Paul away. The French detective assigned to the case, Monsieur Gi’raud of the Surete resents Poirot’s involvement in the investigation and antagonizes him at every chance. However, Poirot still solves the mystery in his brilliant way and reveals that Paul Renauld was a man with a dark past who had changed his identity and tried to lead a different life but had unfortunately been hunted down by his past and killed in the process.
In addition to the crime in the novel, ‘Murder on the Links’ is loved for its subplot where Captain Hastings falls in love with an unlikely match in the person of the dark-haired singer Dulcie Duveen and how they get married and relocate to Argentina.
The Body in the Library (1942)
In this novel, Miss Marple brings her super sleuth ability to work once again to uncover the truth behind a dead body of a young girl found in the library of a wealthy home. As investigations begin for the body in the library, another dead body is found in the trunk of a car, burnt beyond recognition.
Miss Marple, in her characteristic way, devices a scheme that tricks the murderers into attempting to commit another murder. The perpetrators fall for Miss Marple’s trap and are caught and arrested. Miss Marple then explains how she arrived at her inferences, and the murderer’s confessions correspond with Miss Marple’s theories.
‘The Body in the Library‘ got a mostly positive reception after its publication, and only a few other of her titles are rated above it.
This mystery reunites Hercule Poirot with his friend Arthur Hastings and brings them back to Styles, where they solved their first crime together. Here, Poirot is old, frail, and confined to a wheelchair, while Hastings is now widowed and visiting England with one of his daughters Judith.
A series of murders occur at Styles, and the murderers are caught and tried, but Poirot is certain that another unsuspected killer is involved in the deaths. He calls this unsuspected killer X. X manipulates people into killing without realizing they have been manipulated.
Amid more deaths and inquests, Poirot dies of a heart attack. Months after Poirot’s funeral, Hastings receives a letter written by Poirot. In the letter, Poirot Reveals who X is and admits to killing X, stating his reason and the details of the act. Poirot goes further to state that he facilitated his own death by deciding not to take medications for his heart disease. He states that he did not want to live on much longer so that he would not fall prey to the arrogant belief that it was in his place to kill people if he believed they deserved to die.
‘Curtain‘ had a sensational reception when it was published. The novel has a lot of nostalgic elements and some farewell notes— it is the last novel by Agatha Christie to feature Hercule Poirot; the sad event of Poirot’s death occurs in it; readers are taken back to Styles, the setting of Christie’s first novel; and months after its publication, Agatha Christie the creator of Hercule Poirot also died.
How many books did Agatha Christie write?
Agatha Christie had a prolific writing career that makes her one of the most iconic writers of all time. She wrote sixty-six (66) novels, fourteen (14) short story collections, four (4) plays, and an autobiography.
Which Agatha Christie book should one read first?
Agatha Christie’s books can be read in any order. Although her books often have recurring characters, each novel can stand on its own and be enjoyed without reading a previous one.
However, for anyone interested in reading Agatha Christie in the chronological order of publication, then her first novel ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles‘ (1920), is the place to start.
What is Agatha Christie’s best-selling book?
Agatha Christie’s best-selling book is, ‘And Then There Were None‘ (1939). The novel is estimated to have sold over 100 million copies and ranks among the top 10 best-selling titles of all time as well as the best-selling mystery.
What influenced Agatha Christie’s writing?
Agatha Christie’s writing was greatly influenced by her real-life experiences and observations. She often drew inspiration for her plot and characters from her travels, archaeological expeditions, nursing experience, knowledge of poison, popular Nursery rhymes and the people she meets.
Did Agatha Christie write about feminism?
Agatha Christie’s books typically had themes that portrayed women as being more intelligent than men or stories that point out the mistake some people make in underestimating a person solely for being female. For instance, the character Vera Claythorne in ‘And Then There Were None‘ was underestimated by Philip Lombard because of her sex, but she ended up outsmarting him.
However, Christie cannot be called revolutionary in challenging the status quo of gender dynamics in her time, and feminism was not the focus of her writing.