Tuesday, August 16

Where to start: Agatha Christie | Christie Agatha


WCoupled with the chart-topping success of Richard Osman’s novels and a new series by Reverend Richard Coles due out later this year, cozy crime fiction seems to be having its moment. If you’ve already worked your way through The Thursday Murder Club and The Man Who Died Twice, why not try an original crime queen novel? Janice Hallett, whose best-selling crime novels The Appeal and The Twyford Code have dubbed her “a modern day Agatha Christie,” has put together a helpful list to help you choose which one to pick.


the entry point
Famous in large part for being Miss Marple’s first appearance in a novel, The Murder at the Vicarage sees the downright nasty guy Colonel Protheroe murdered, Cluedo-style, in his library, with a gun. Surrounded by villagers having trouble with Colonel P, Miss M uses her famous nous to eliminate seven suspects. I’ve seen it dismissed as having a bad date, but to me this is a fun, witty, and keenly observed Christie classic.

The the best
The only bad thing about And then there was none is its original title. Otherwise, this dark and menacing tale of attrition is the most brilliant Christie you could hope to read. Ten strangers meet on a windswept island, all seemingly having nothing in common. One by one, they meet their various gruesome deaths in accordance with chillingly accurate predictions… The final denouement is as satisfying as it is shocking.

The one who drops into the dinner conversation.
What better food for a dinner than sparkling cyanide? A group of high-society friends gather for a meal at the same table where exactly one year earlier an heiress died dramatically, apparently by suicide by poison. A lesser known Christie, it is adapted from a Poirot tale called Yellow Iris. When your guests check your glasses, be sure to tell them that cyanide isn’t necessarily detectable by smell.

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Kenneth Branagh as Poirot in the 2017 film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express.
Kenneth Branagh as Poirot in the 2017 film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express. Photograph: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy

The classic
Murder on the Orient Express it has been adapted for the screen no fewer than four times, and for good reason: it is the classic Christie whodunnit in structure, pace, character, and mood. It is also the tenth appearance in a novel by the author’s iconic Belgian detective Poirot. Your job this time is to pick out the culprit from a group of eccentric first class passengers. The witty and unique plot is inspired by two real-life events: the stranding of an Orient Express for six days in Turkey in 1929 and the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in 1932.

The one for armchair travelers
For an author synonymous with cozy English village mysteries, Christie frequently ventured abroad and takes us with her. For example, we can wander through the nooks and crannies of an archaeological dig in 1930s Iraq, thanks to Murder in Mesopotamia. For atmosphere and authenticity, this title is hard to beat: Christie would accompany her husband on his archaeological digs and knew of her fragment from his microlith, even if her plot stretches into credulity.

The odd one out
His distinctly Christie-unlike tone was instantly criticized in the post, but upon reading The mystery of the seven spheres today, we are forced to remember that Christie was a contemporary and mutual admirer of both Evelyn Waugh and PG Wodehouse. His suspects in this hilarious upper-class prank hail from an earlier novel, The Secret of the Chimneys, and caper through a landscape of stately homes, London flats, and exclusive, shady clubs filled with as many corpses as there are champagne corks. .

The dark
A later novel, published in 1958, Calvary for innocence is a tragic and persistent story of missed opportunity, miscarriage of justice, and family mistakes that can never be righted. It’s both a psychological thriller and a murder mystery, with elements that make for an uncomfortable read. Christie herself cited it as one of her favorite titles.

The surprise
If you’re looking for an ending that will shock contemporary readers and still be able to shake the unsuspecting reader today, then sit down with The assassination of Roger Ackroyd. The eponymous victim is a neighbor of Poirot’s and her sudden and violent demise brings the detective out of retirement.

The one who influenced the rest
You are probably familiar with the structure of five little pigs Even if you’ve never read the book. It is a Poirot murder game in which the story of a woman convicted of murdering her artist husband is told several times from the point of view of various characters. The result is a harrowing mystery, perfectly balanced and highly sophisticated. His influence resonates through decades of crime fiction on paper and screen. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Vantage Point, Knives Out… to name just three brilliant 21st century tributes to Christie’s legacy and genius.

And, if you like Christie, what other authors should you try?
Anything by Dorothy L Sayers (especially strong poison), Sophie Hannah’s Hercule Poirot series and The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo.

Janice Hallett’s Twyford Code is published by Profile (£14.99). To support The Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Shipping charges may apply


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