With the recent release (and surprising popularity) of Kenneth Branagh's version of Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie -- the author of the novel upon which the movie is based -- is now back in the public eye.
Having long been a fan of Christie's works, I thought it a good time to finally choose my Top 10 favorite works by her. It wasn't easy, as I familiar with so much of her output, but the following list is a good representation of why I've liked Agatha Christie so much, for so long.
Here we go:
1. Nemesis (1971)
One of her later works (Christie died in 1976), this story nevertheless presents an old mystery with a new mystery, a garden bus tour, suspicious characters, and the deceptively sharp sleuth Miss Marple. Thoroughly enjoyable.
2. A Murder is Announced (1950)
Another Miss Marple story, this time set in the English village of Chipping Cleghorn. After reading a notice in the local paper, people show up to someone's house expecting to play a fictitious game of murder, only to have a real one occur. Never a dull moment.
3. Lord Edgware Dies (1933)
Here we have classic Poirot (Christie's Belgian detective). Deception rules the day in this one, so readers will need to be on their toes and keep themselves guessing if they want to keep up!
4. At Bertram's Hotel (1965)
5. The Moving Finger (1943)
This is an enjoyable story about poison pen letters in a small English village, and how Miss Marple susses-out who's behind them. And, of course, there's murder. I've always liked the explanation of how it was deduced which letters were false. A good example of Christie's perceptiveness of human nature.
6. Sad Cypress (1940)
A Poirot story that doesn't feature Poirot very much, I quite like the build-up for this tale of inheritance, murder and misdirection. The courtroom scenes are gripping, and the detail that gets the killer caught is superb.
7. A Caribbean Mystery (1964)
A nice change of scenery for Miss Marple lands her in a tropical paradise where she befriends an old man, only to find him suddenly die. She believes there was something sinister about his death, and uncovers a great deal of unsettling undercurrents on the island. This story also ties-in to her later novel (and our # 1), Nemesis.
8. Murder at the Vicarage (1930)
The novel that introduces us to Miss Marple, this one is like a blueprint of the cozy English village mysteries. A cast of curious characters befuddles us as the story goes along, including a clever bit of deception that Christie also used in her short story The Love Detectives. It works better here.
9. Peril at End House (1932)
Not to give anything away, but once I knew the how this story unfolded, every time I've experienced it since is like watching an episode of Columbo. It's almost better the second (and third, and fourth) time.
10. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
Not Christie's first novel (it was her sixth), but perhaps the first to to really make a splash. Not unlike Murder on the Orient Express, the murderer's reveal has a big twist, but this story has a much better plot and overall structure.
Those are my Top 10 favorite Christie stories. If there could be a 'runner's up' contingent, let's say another five that are bubbling-under, they would be...
The Sittaford Mystery (1931)
Three Act Tragedy (1935)
And Then There Were None (1939)
Evil Under the Sun (1941)
Mrs. McGinty's Dead (1952)
Of course, there are so many more novels and short stories by Agatha Christie, we're rather spoilt for choice. She's certainly brought me many hours of sleuthing enjoyment throughout the years. That is, in a way, one of the byproducts of successful artistry... the artist attains a certain level of immortality, living on in the hearts and minds of those who continue to enjoy their work.
On that note, be sure to check out Christie's official web site, to learn more about her. And be sure to catch a book, TV show or movie based on one of her works!