The Agatha Christie Challenge – The Final Analysis!

Agatha ChristieSo there we have it, gentle reader, the Agatha Christie Challenge is all but over! But we need to have some final thoughts about her themes, her characters, and also which are the best and which are the worst of her works – my opinion only, of course! So let’s start with…

Regular themes:

Looking back over her works, these are the themes and bugbears that Christie frequently gets her teeth into.

Primarily, questions of class. Almost every book is seen from a middle-class perspective, with the opportunity to both look up to the upper classes and aristocracy, and down on the working classes, servants and general layabouts.

There’s a considerable mistrust of foreigners; this can certainly be related to both World Wars, but you also sense it’s ingrained. There are lots of instances of xenophobia and some (perhaps not as many as one would expect) instances of downright racism. It’s difficult to criticise the use of language when words and phrases that we would never use today were commonplace throughout Christie’s career.

Politics: Christie is naturally conservative (small C) in outlook; most of her characters dislike “progress” – whether it be in housing, social awareness, fashion or political thought. She hates high taxation, and many characters take to the page to complain about how much the state is taking off them. There is a lot of distrust of Socialism and Communism; and Christie has a love/hate relationship with the idea of feminism – mainly she hates it, but occasionally she voices in its favour (possibly because she just thinks she should!)

Mental Illness and The Criminal Mind: there’s much adherence to the thought that to be a murderer, you must be insane. There’s also the notion that insanity is hereditary, which damns people before they have a chance to prove themselves.

She’s definitely anti-divorce, which must be a throwback to her experience with Archie.

From the mid-1940s on, there are many reflections of wartime and post-war austerity, and in her later years, the inevitable concerns about how older people will be looked after – either by the state or by their families.

And she’s always fascinated by both archaeology and archaeologists!

Now, just for a bit of fun…

Kings of the Cops

We all know all about Poirot, Miss Marple and the rest, but what about the happy band of Police Inspectors, without whom there’d be no justice? Each of these detectives appeared at least twice in Christie novels and stories – let’s appreciate them!

Inspector Neele in A Pocket Full of Rye, promoted to Chief Inspector Neele in Third Girl. Typical Neele: (on David Baker) “he’s one of the usual mob. Riff-raff – go about in gangs and break up night clubs. Live on purple hearts – heroin – coke – girls go mad about them.”

Chief Constable Colonel Weston in Peril at End House, and Evil Under the Sun. Typical Weston: “If Vyse is the chap, well, we’ll have our work cut out. He’s a cautious man and a sound lawyer. He’ll not give himself away. The woman – well, there would be more hope there. Ten to one she’ll try again. Women have no patience.”

Chief Constable Colonel Melrose and Inspector Raglan, both in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Seven Dials Mystery. Typical Raglan (on Poirot) : “Then a grin overspread [Raglan’s] weaselly countenance and he tapped his forehead gently. “Bit gone here,” he said.”

Chief Constable Colonel Melchett and Inspector Slack, both in The Murder at the Vicarage and The Body in the Library; Melchett also in the short story, Death by Drowning (The Thirteen Problems) and Slack also in the short stories Tape Measure Murder, and The Case of the Perfect Maid (Miss Marple’s Final Cases). Typical Melchett (talking to Lawrence Redding) : “”We want to ask you a few questions – here, on the spot,” he said. Lawrence sneered slightly. “Isn’t that a French idea? Reconstruction of the crime?” “My dear boy,” said Colonel Melchett, “don’t take that tone with us.” Typical Slack: “She’s a woman, and women act in that silly way. I’m not saying she did it for a moment. She heard he was accused and she trumped up a story. I’m used to that sort of game. You wouldn’t believe the fool things I’ve known women do.”

Inspector Craddock in A Murder is Announced, promoted to Detective Inspector Craddock in 4.50 from Paddington and to Chief Inspector Craddock in The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (although he’ll always be just Dermot to Miss Marple!) Typical Craddock: (about Mitzi) “I think the foreign girl knows more than she lets on. But that may be just prejudice on my part”.

Superintendent Spence in Taken at the Flood, Mrs McGinty’s Dead, and retired in both Hallowe’en Party and Elephants Can Remember. Typical Spence: “I should never think of myself as a distinguished man”, but Poirot corrects him, “I think of you as such.”

Superintendent Battle in The Secret of Chimneys, The Seven Dials Mystery, Cards on the Table, Murder is Easy and Towards Zero. Typical Battle: ““Detective stories are mostly bunkum,” said Battle unemotionally. “But they amuse people.””

And the BIG DADDY of them all, Inspector Japp in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and The Big Four; then promoted to Chief Inspector in Peril at End House, Lord Edgware Dies, Death in the Clouds, The ABC Murders and One Two Buckle My Shoe. He also appears in three stories in Poirot Investigates, three in The Labours of Hercules, four in Poirot’s Early Cases, and one in While the Light Lasts. Truly a credit to the police profession! Typical Japp (on Poirot’s mental dexterity) : “”When we got back here I started to question him. He waved his arms, seized his hat and rushed out again.” We looked at it each other. Japp tapped his forehead significantly. “Must be”, he said.”

Five Christie novels that break all the rules (but, of course, I’m not going to tell you why)!

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Murder on the Orient Express

And Then There Were None

Crooked House

Endless Night

Now let’s look at her characters – starting with the main man himself!

Hercule Poirot

Poirot in his own words. Here are some of Poirot’s finest comments – about himself, about crime, about life:

“I am like the prima donna!” (The ABC Murders)

“Alas, I suffer the penalties of greatness!” (The Million Dollar Bond Robbery, Poirot Investigates)

“”And his mistake?” I asked, although I suspected the answer. “Mon ami, he overlooked the little grey cells of Hercule Poirot.” Poirot has his virtues, but modesty is not one of them.”” (The Big Four)

“My name is Hercule Poirot […] and I am probably the greatest detective in the world.” (The Mystery of the Blue Train)

“You have seen the gentle, the calm Hercule Poirot; but there is another Hercule Poirot. I go now to bully, to threaten, to strike terror into the hearts of those who listen to me.” (The Mystery of the Blue Train)

“They say of me: “That is Hercule Poirot! – The great – the unique! – There was never any one like him, there never will be!” Eh bien – I am satisfied. I ask no more. I am modest.” (Peril at End House)

“As a boy, I was poor. There were many of us. We had to get on in the world I entered the Police Force. I worked hard. Slowly I rose in that Force. I began to make a name for myself. I made a name for myself. I began to acquire an international reputation. At last, I was due to retire. There came the War. I was injured. I came, a sad and weary refugee, to England.” (Three Act Tragedy)

“We know the kind of murder that has been committed, the way it was committed. If we have a person who from the psychological point of view could not have committed that particular type of murder, then we can dismiss that person from our calculations.” (Cards on the Table)

“Until you know exactly what sort of a person the victim was, you cannot begin to see the circumstances of a crime clearly.” (Five Little Pigs)

“I am in my own line a celebrated person – I may say a most celebrated person. My gifts, in fact, are unequalled!” (After the Funeral)

“It is necessary to tell a woman at least once a week, and preferably three or four times, that we love her; and that it also wise to bring her a few flowers, to pay her a few compliments, to tell her that she looks well in her new dress or her new hat.” (Dead Man’s Folly)

“If I mistake not, there is on my new grey suit the spot of grease – only the unique spot, but it is sufficient to trouble me.” (The Adventure of the Clapham Cook, Poirot’s Early Cases)

Poirot in the words of others:

“A very famous detective…a marvellous little fellow…a funny little man, a great dandy, but wonderfully clever” (Capt. Hastings in The Mysterious Affair at Styles)

“He was hardly more than five feet, four inches, but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. The neatness of his attire was almost incredible. I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound.” (Capt. Hastings in The Mysterious Affair at Styles)

“I had learned, with Poirot, that the less dangerous he looked, the more dangerous he was.” (Capt. Hastings in The Murder on the Links)

“”You have made a hit, Poirot. The fair Lady Edgware can hardly take her eyes off you.” “Doubtless she has been informed of my identity,“ said Poirot, trying to look modest and failing. “I think it is the famous moustaches,” I said. “She is carried away by their beauty.” Poirot caressed them surreptitiously. “It is true that they are unique,” he admitted.” (Capt. Hastings in Lord Edgware Dies)

“A ridiculous-looking little man. The sort of little man one could never take seriously.” (Miss Debenham in Murder on the Orient Express)

“Mr Satterthwaite had recalled himself to M. Hercule Poirot’s memory. The little man had been very affable. Mr Satterthwaite suspected him of deliberately exaggerating his foreign mannerisms. His small twinkly eyes seemed to say, “You expect me to be the buffoon? To play the comedy for you? Bien – it shall be as you wish!”” (Three Act Tragedy)

“I found later that there wasn’t anything – no small scrap of insignificant gossip – in which he wasn’t interested. Men aren’t usually so gossipy.” (Amy Leatheran in Murder in Mesopotamia)

“Of course, I knew he was a foreigner, but I hadn’t expected him to be quite as foreign as he was, if you know what I mean.” (Amy Leatheran in Murder in Mesopotamia)

“That old mountebank? He won’t find out anything. He’s all talk and moustaches.” (Tim Allerton in Death on the Nile)

“About as dangerous as a black mamba and a she-leopard” (Superintendent Battle in Towards Zero)

“You’d describe him probably as a scream […] Kind of music hall parody of a Frenchman, but actually he’s a Belgian. But in spite of his absurdities, he’s got brains.” (Inspector Bland in Dead Man’s Folly)

“You’re too old. Nobody told me you were so old.  I really don’t want to be rude but – there it is. You’re too old. I’m really very sorry.” (Norma Restarick in Third Girl)

““The trouble with you is,“ said Mrs Oliver […] “that you insist on being smart. You mind more about your clothes and your moustaches and how you look and what you wear than comfort. Now comfort is really the great thing. Once you’ve passed, say, fifty, comfort is the only thing that matters […] if not, you will suffer a great deal and it will be worse year after year.”” (Mrs Oliver in Hallowe’en Party)

“Order and Method are his gods. He goes so far as to attribute all his success to them.” (Capt. Hastings in The King of Clubs, Poirot’s Early Cases)

Poirot, according to Christie:

“Hercule Poirot shrugged his shoulders. He was at his most foreign today. He was out to be despised but patronised.” (Five Little Pigs)

“Hercule Poirot sat in a square chair in front of the square fireplace in the square room of his London flat. In front of him were various objects that were not square: that were instead violently and almost impossibly curved. Each of them, studied separately, looked as if they could not have any conceivable function in a sane world. They appeared improbable, irresponsible, and wholly fortuitous […] Assembled in their proper place in their particular universe, they not only made sense, they made a picture. In other words, Hercule Poirot was doing a jigsaw puzzle.” (Dead Man’s Folly)

“Poirot had the capacity to attract confidences. It was as though when people were talking to him they hardly realised who it was they were talking to.” (Third Girl)

“His mind, magnificent as it was (for he had never doubted that fact) required stimulation from outside sources. He had never been of a philosophic cast of mind. There were times when he almost regretted that he had not taken to the study of theology instead of going into the police force in his early days. The number of angels who could dance on the point of a needle; it would be interesting to feel that that mattered and to argue passionately on the point with one’s colleagues.” (Hallowe’en Party)

“He was a man who thought first always of justice. He was suspicious, had always been suspicious, of mercy – too much mercy, that is to say. Too much mercy, as he knew from former experience both in Belgium and this country, often resulted in further crimes which were fatal to innocent victims who need not have been victims if justice had been put first and mercy second.” (Hallowe’en Party)

Miss Marple

Miss Marple in her own words:

“I’m afraid that observing human nature for as long as I have done, one gets not to expect very much from it. I dare say the idle tittle-tattle is very wrong and unkind, but it is so often true, isn’t it?” (The Murder at the Vicarage)

“Living alone, as I do, in a rather out-of-the-way part of the world, one has to have a hobby […] my hobby is – and always has been – Human Nature. So varied, and so very fascinating. And, of course, in a small village, with nothing to distract one, one has such ample opportunity for becoming what I might call proficient in one’s study.” (The Murder at the Vicarage)

“There is a great deal of wickedness in village life.” (The Bloodstained Pavement, The Thirteen Problems)

“I’ve no patience with modern humanitarian scruples about capital punishment.” (A Christmas Tragedy, The Thirteen Problems)

“Women have a lot of sense, you know, when it comes to money matters. Not high finance, of course. No woman can hope to understand that, my dear father said.” (4.50 from Paddington)

“Modern novels” – “so difficult – all about such unpleasant people, doing such very odd things and not, apparently, enjoying them.” (A Caribbean Mystery)

“The depravity of human nature is unbelievable” (Strange Jest, Miss Marple’s Final Cases)

Miss Marple in the words of others:

“Specialised knowledge is her claim”, he says; “we use it in police work. We get a burglary and we usually know pretty well who did it – of the regular crowd, that is. We know the sort of burglar who acts in a particular sort of way. Miss Marple has an interesting, though occasionally trivial, series of parallels from village life.” (Sir Henry Clithering in The Body in the Library)

“That woman knows more about the different kinds of human wickedness than anyone I’ve ever known.” (Mrs Dane Calthrop in The Moving Finger)

Miss Marple, according to Christie:

“Miss Marple wore a black brocade dress, very much pinched in round the waist. Mechlin lace was arranged in a cascade down the front of the bodice. She had on black lace mittens, and a black lace cap surmounted the piled-up masses of her snowy hair.” (The Tuesday Night Club, The Thirteen Problems)

“She seemed indeed very old. She had snow white hair and a pink crinkled face and very soft innocent blue eyes, and she was heavily enmeshed in fleecy wool. Wool round her shoulders in the form of a lacy cape and wool that she was knitting and which turned out to be a baby’s shawl.” (A Murder is Announced)

Captain Hastings

According to Poirot: “Yesterday it was Mademoiselle Daubreuil, today it is Mademoiselle – Cinderella! Decidedly you have the heart of a Turk, Hastings! You should establish a harem!” (The Murder on the Links)

“”Your judgments of character are always profound, my friend…that is to say, when there is no question of a beautiful woman!” I looked at him coldly.” (The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor, Poirot Investigates)

“You are that wholly admirable type of man, honest, credulous, honourable, who is invariably taken in by any scoundrel. You are the type of man who invests in doubtful oil fields, and non-existent gold mines. From hundreds like you, the swindler makes his daily bread.” (Peril at End House)

“Poirot smiled affectionately across the table at me. “My good friend,” he said. “I depend upon you more than you know.” I was confused and delighted by these unexpected words. He had never said anything of the kind to me before.”” (Lord Edgware Dies)

“Go away. You are obstinate and extremely stupid and I wish that there were someone else whom I could trust, but I suppose I shall have to put up with you and your absurd ideas of fair play.” (Curtain)

According to himself: “Now I am old fashioned. A woman, I consider, should be womanly. I have no patience with the modern neurotic girl who jazzes from morning to night, smokes like a chimney, and uses language which would make a Billingsgate fishwoman blush!” (The Murder on the Links)

“It had always seemed to me extraordinary that a woman should go so far in the scientific world. I should have thought a purely masculine brain was needed for such work.” (The Big Four)

“I’m not much of a fellow. You’ve said I’m stupid – well, in a way it’s true. And I’m only half the man I was.” (Curtain)

According to others: “Rather the case of the cart without the horse, your being here without him, isn’t it?” (Inspector Japp in The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge, Poirot Investigates)

Tommy and Tuppence

Tuppence on Tommy: ““Oh, Tommy, Tommy,” she cried, “I do love you so—and I may never see you again….” At the end of five minutes Tuppence sat up, blew her nose, and pushed back her hair. “That’s that,” she observed sternly. “Let’s look facts in the face. I seem to have fallen in love—with an idiot of a boy who probably doesn’t care two straws about me.”” (The Secret Adversary)

Tommy on Tuppence: “I LOVED her. I’d have given the soul out of my body to save her from harm […] Tuppence is my girl! I’ve always loved her, from the time we played together as kids. We grew up and it was just the same. I shall never forget when I was in hospital, and she came in in that ridiculous cap and apron! It was like a miracle to see the girl I loved turn up in a nurse’s kit——” (The Secret Adversary)

Tommy ““worried about Tuppence. Tuppence was one of those people you had to worry about. If you left the house, you gave her last words of wisdom and she gave you last promises of doing exactly what you counselled her to do: No, she would not be going out except just to buy half a pound of butter, and after all you couldn’t call that dangerous, could you?” “It could be dangerous if you went out to buy half a pound of butter,” said Tommy.”” (Postern of Fate)

Tuppence on herself: “I don’t mind lying in the least. To be quite honest, I get a lot of artistic pleasure out of my lies.” (N or M?)

Ariadne Oliver

A writer of “forty-six successful works of fiction, all best sellers in England and America, and freely translated into French, German, Italian, Hungarian, Finnish, Japanese and Abyssinian.” (The Case of the Middle Aged Wife, Parker Pyne Investigates)

“I mean, what can you say about how you write books? What I mean is, first you’ve got to think of something, and when you’ve thought of it you’ve got to force yourself to sit down and write it. That’s all. It would have taken me just three minutes to explain that, and then the Talk would have been ended and everyone would have been very fed up. I can’t imagine why everybody is always so keen for authors to talk about writing. I should have thought it was an author’s business to write, not talk.” (Dead Man’s Folly)

“I’m too busy writing or rather worrying because I can’t write. That’s really the most tiresome thing about writing – though everything is tiresome really, except the one moment when you get what you think is going to be a wonderful idea, and can hardly wait to begin.” (The Pale Horse)

““It is a pity,” he murmured to himself, “that she is so scatty. And yet, she has originality of mind. It could be that I am going to enjoy what she is coming to tell me. It could be – “ he reflected a minute “- that it may take a great deal of the evening and that it will all be excessively foolish. Eh bien, one must take one’s risks in life.”” (Poirot in Hallowe’en Party)

Mr Satterthwaite

“Mr Satterthwaite is a dried-up elderly little man who has never known romance or adventure himself.” (The Coming of Mr Quin, The Mysterious Mr Quin)

Satterthwaite “knew far more of feminine secrets than it is good for any man to know”. (The Soul of the Croupier, The Mysterious Mr Quin)

“He felt suddenly rather old and out of things, a little dried-up wizened old fogey of a man.” (Harlequin’s Lane, The Mysterious Mr Quin)

Parker Pyne

“He was large, not to say fat; he had a bald head of noble proportions, strong glasses and little twinkling eyes.” (The Case of the Middle Aged Wife, Parker Pyne Investigates)

Miss Lemon

“A forbidding-looking young woman with spectacles” (The Case of the Middle Aged Wife, Parker Pyne Investigates)

“Unbelievably ugly” (The Capture of Cerberus, The Labours of Hercules)

“On questions of surmise, she was lost.” (Hickory Dickory Dock)

“She asked no questions and she displayed no curiosity. She did not tell Poirot how she would occupy her time whilst he was away. She did not need to tell him. She always knew what she was going to do and she was always right in what she did.” (Third Girl)

Let’s also pay tribute to the quirky narrators, cameo appearances, dubious witnesses, amateur sleuths and wicked criminals who make Christie’s books the fun to read that they are.

Here are a few to recollect with fondness:

Julius P Hersheimmer (The Secret Adversary)

Monsieur Giraud of the Sureté (The Murder on the Links)

Anne Beddingfield and Sir Eustace Pedler (The Man in the Brown Suit)

Anthony Cade (The Secret of Chimneys)

Philip and Caroline Sheppard (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd)

Bundle Brent (The Seven Dials Mystery)

Mrs Belling (The Sittaford Mystery)

Nick Buckley (Peril at End House)

Princess Dragomiroff, Mrs Hubbard, Colonel Arbuthnot and everyone on board (Murder on the Orient Express)

Bobby Jones and Frankie Derwent (Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?)

Amy Leatheran (Murder in Mesopotamia)

Emily Arundell and Miss Peabody (Dumb Witness)

Mrs Otterbourne (Death on the Nile)

Mrs Boynton and Lady Westholme (Appointment with Death)

Lavinia Pinkerton, Major Horton and Luke Fitzwilliam (Murder is Easy)

Mr Pye and Partridge the maid (The Moving Finger)

Renisenb, Nofret, Esa, and Henet (Death Comes as the End)

Lady Angkatell (The Hollow)

Victoria Jones (They Came to Baghdad)

Lucy Eyelesbarrow and Luther Crackenthorpe (4.50 from Paddington)

Mark Easterbrook and Ginger (The Pale Horse)

Marina Gregg (The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side)

Jason Rafiel (A Caribbean Mystery)

Michael Rogers (Endless Night)

and finally…

Big Charlotte (Passenger to Frankfurt)

Congratulations, celebrations and jubilations to you all for the joy you have brought me and millions of others!

And it would be remiss of me not to give a big up to the one and only Colonel Race, who played a vital part in The Man in the Brown Suit, Cards on the Table, Death on the Nile and Sparkling Cyanide!

And now…

As a finale, here’s my assessment of her works, in order of their excellence, starting with what I think is her worst book…..

In 81st placePostern of Fate Postern of Fate

While Tuppence is sorting through some old books, she discovers a code in one of them that she deciphers as the message: “Mary Jordan did not die naturally. It was one of us. I think I know which one.” But who was Mary Jordan, and who killed her?

It’s very unsatisfactory. It’s a toss-up between whether this is better or worse than Passenger to Frankfurt; there’s not a lot in it. That book is more preposterous and ridiculous, but at least has quite an exciting ending. This book is just blancmange. 1/10.

In 80th placePassenger to Frankfurt Passenger to Frankfurt

Sir Stafford Nye is approached at Frankfurt Airport by a woman who asks him to lend her his passport, his cloak and his flight ticket, as her life is in danger. Feeling like he could do with some excitement in his life, he agrees. What happens next?

Pure conspiracy theory fantasy that infuriates the reader with its ridiculousness. 2/10.

In 79th placeN or M N or M?

Tommy and Tuppence are frustrated by the fact that no one wants them to help with the war effort, until a trusted contact comes along and offers Tommy a position he can’t resist. Tuppence isn’t to know about it, but of course she finds out and accompanies him. Can they identify the Fifth Columnist working undercover in an English seaside town?

Despite a few positive aspects, I generally did not enjoy this book at all, and if it had been the first Christie I ever picked up, I doubt I would have ever read another. 3/10.

In 78th placeThe Mystery of the Blue Train The Mystery of the Blue Train

Katherine Grey, the recent recipient of a fine inheritance, seeks a change from her modest life in St Mary Mead by taking the Blue Train to stay with well-to-do cousins in France; but en route becomes entangled with a plot to steal rubies and murder an heiress.

It takes a long time to get started, and the characters just go nowhere at the end. Definitely a book that ends with a whimper rather than a bang. 4/10.

In 77th placeDestination Unknown Destination Unknown

Hilary Craven, suicidal after the loss of her child and abandoned by her husband, is offered an adventure which may prove fatal – so what has she to lose? All she has to do is impersonate the wife of a missing scientist. What could possibly go wrong?

Despite a pacy start and some nicely written early passages, Christie quickly gives up on the narrative and I couldn’t wait for it to end. Utter balderdash and complete nonsense. 5/10.

In 76th placeSeven Dials Mystery The Seven Dials Mystery

A return to the grand country mansion of Chimneys, with “Bundle” Brent, that typical Christie bold adventuress who, with her friends, helps to expose the activities of the secret “Seven Dials” society, uncover the identity of its head, the mysterious No. 7, and in so doing discovers a murderer.

Not all bad by any means – with some exciting passages, a good surprise ending and some enjoyable characterisation. It’s just a bit boring. 5/10.

In 75th placeThe Big Four The Big Four

Hastings returns to England to be reunited with his old pal Hercule Poirot, and together they uncover the identities and crimes of an international group of four evil megalomaniacs aiming for world domination, and eventually put a stop to their wicked ways.

It’s entertaining tosh, but nonsense. 5/10.

In 74th placeThe Hound of Death The Hound of Death

Twelve short stories, all apparently unrelated, that aren’t murder mysteries but tales of the supernatural. It is notable for the fact that it contains one of Christie’s best known short stories, Witness for the Prosecution.

Whilst there are a few excellent and memorable stories – for example Witness for the Prosecution and The Gipsy – there are also more than enough that really bring it down. 5/10.

In 73rd placeThe Mysterious Affair at Styles The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Hercule Poirot solves the murder of a wealthy re-married widow by strychnine poisoning, wading through an inordinate number of clues and red herrings before finally coming to the truth.

A clever book, and a challenging book, but I think it’s one of the least satisfying to read as a piece of detective escapism. 5/10.

In 72nd placeOrdeal by Innocence Ordeal by Innocence

Jacko Argyle is found guilty of the murder of his mother Rachel and dies in prison before Dr Arthur Calgary can come forward and gives him a cast-iron alibi for the time the crime was committed. The other household members aren’t happy to discover that it wasn’t Jacko who killed Rachel – as it means one of them must have!

A good, mysterious start and an exciting, if frantic ending. You don’t find whodunit until the final pages, and the story does actually hang together quite convincingly. It’s such a shame, then, that the vast majority of the book is made up of tedious conversations, waiting around for something to happen. 6/10.

In 71st placeElephants Can Remember Elephants Can Remember

Ariadne Oliver is contacted by the prospective mother-in-law of her goddaughter Celia Ravenscroft, to ask if she knew anything of the circumstances of the apparent double suicide of Celia’s parents. Curious, she shares the information with Poirot, and they decide to see what people remember about their tragic death. Will the testimony of these “elephants” explain the deaths?

It’s not that well written, most of the solution is telegraphed a mile off, and it’s rather repetitive. Yet it does retain a certain charm. 6/10.

In 70th placeProblem at Pollensa Bay Problem at Pollensa Bay

Eight short stories, comprising two with Hercule Poirot, two with Parker Pyne, two with Harley Quin and two other tales. None of the stories had been published in book form in the UK before.

Despite a couple of stronger stories, they’re overall rather disappointing and slight. 6/10.

In 69th placeAdventure of the Christmas Pudding The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding

Six short stories, five with Hercule Poirot and one with Miss Marple, solving a miscellany of crimes.

The decision to group these short stories together in one volume must have largely derived from most of them sharing the same plot elements, which makes for an overall disappointing read. 6/10.

In 68th placeThe Labours of Hercules The Labours of Hercules

Poirot, following an idea planted in his brain by his friend Dr Burton, decides to sniff out and solve twelve cases that mirror the ancient classical labours of Hercules.

At times fun, at others incredibly stodgy and unrewarding, not to mention laborious. 6/10.

In 67th placePartners in Crime Partners in Crime

Tommy and Tuppence, now six years into their happy ever after marriage, are installed by their old friend Mr Carter in Blunt’s Brilliant Detectives Detective Agency, where they solve a number of varied crimes.

It starts well, but I got bored. Still, it’s a clever concept. 6/10.

In 66th placeSparkling Cyanide Sparkling Cyanide

Rosemary Barton, a rather reckless young heiress, dies from cyanide poisoning whilst dining at a posh restaurant. A year later, a very similar fate befalls another member of that same dining party. It takes Colonel Race to work out exactly what happened to both victims.

There are a few passages where the writing is highly entertaining, and the detective investigations are highly readable. But it’s also very slow to start and is spoiled by its stupid resolution. 6/10.

In 65th placeThird Girl Third Girl

Poirot’s breakfast is disturbed by the arrival of a young lady who confesses that she might have committed a murder – but, then again, she might not! Poirot decides to find out more about this strange confession – but when the girl goes to ground, what can he usefully find out? Mrs Oliver knows the family, and she assists by trailing suspects around London, but will Poirot discover whether a murder has been committed, and if so, by whom?

The book starts promisingly, with an intriguing character presenting an intriguing case, but then it quickly turns into a Hunt the Lady game, which kind of goes nowhere, and gets quite dull in parts. 6/10.

In 64th placeMurder in Mesopotamia Murder in Mesopotamia

Poirot encounters an archaeological dig in Iraq, only to discover that the wife of the leader of the dig has been murdered in a seemingly impossible manner. There’s a motley crew of archaeologists and assistants working there – and one of them must have done it!

Interesting to see Poirot operating in a different environment. but this isn’t an overly successful book. 7/10.

In 63rd placeThe Mysterious Mr Quin The Mysterious Mr Quin

Mr Harley Quin, enigmatic representative of the Commedia dell’Arte, drifts in and out of Mr Satterthwaite’s life, as a catalyst for solving crimes and saving lives, the responsibility for which he hands over to Mr Satterthwaite, giving the old man a final purpose in life.

It’s very enjoyable, but the short story format doesn’t work as well for me as the “proper novel”. And there’s a supernatural element and a number of untied loose ends that don’t really work. But the characterisation is fascinating! 7/10.

In 62nd placeSad Cypress Sad Cypress

Elinor Carlisle is on trial for the murder of Mary Gerrard. All the evidence is stacked up against her, but is Hercule Poirot convinced?

A curate’s egg. Slow to start, few if any Poirotisms, and a drippy and irritating character in the form of Roddy. That said, it’s a strong surprise revelation, and the courtroom scenes have their own buzzy life about them. 7/10.

In 61st placeSleeping Murder Sleeping Murder

Gwenda Reed has a vision that she witnessed a murder when she was a child, and Miss Marple helps her and her husband Giles to investigate if she really did see the crime – and if so, who was the murderer?

It’s not bad and it’s not great. An entertaining enough read, but it’s a shame the identity of the murderer is so obvious. 7/10.

In 60th placeA Caribbean Mystery A Caribbean Mystery

On a rest holiday to the Caribbean island of St Honoré, Miss Marple is cornered by an old bore named Major Palgrave, who tells her a story about a murder and offers to show her a photo of the murderer; however, at the last minute he thinks better of it. Nevertheless, murders follow, and Miss Marple is up for the challenge to find out the culprit is and prevent more deaths.

A good start and a good end but it sags in the middle; and you also feel Miss Marple isn’t depicted in quite the same way that she has been before, which feels disappointing. 7/10.

In 59th placeTaken at the Flood Taken at the Flood

Young Rosaleen Cloade becomes a very wealthy widow a second time, much to the annoyance of the rest of her late husband Gordon’s family, who were counting on his generosity to keep them in the manner to which they have been accustomed. If only they could prove that her late first husband Underhay is still alive, once again they would be rich. But is he alive?

A clever, inventive story; but slow to start, with an unbelievable element, some very unpleasant racism and a not entirely satisfactory ending. 7/10,

In 58th placeListerdale Mystery The Listerdale Mystery

Twelve short tales of intrigue, a comparatively light confection of fun rather than a big detective work-out.

Three excellent stories and another three that aren’t half bad; that’s not a bad hit rate for a selection of Christie short stories. It’s a quick and easy read, and not remotely challenging. 7/10.

In 57th placeDead Man's Folly Dead Man’s Folly

Mrs Oliver is called in to organise a Murder Hunt at a village fete but she suspects all is not as it should be and so asks Hercule Poirot to make sense of her suspicions. All seems well at first until an unexpected murder takes place in the boathouse!

A complex plot, full of smoke and mirrors, and impossible to guess; it has a dull middle part where nothing much happens, and the characters and story aren’t particularly memorable. 7/10.

In 56th placeThe Secret Adversary The Secret Adversary

Tommy and Tuppence form The Young Adventurers Ltd and through a combination of hard work and good luck prevent the evil Mr Brown from capturing secret documents that could cause a world war.

I miss the traditional “murder mystery/whodunit” aspect in this book and find it a little over-frantic. But there’s much to enjoy and the characterisations of Tommy and Tuppence themselves make it worth reading alone. 7/10.

In 55th placeThe Thirteen Problems The Thirteen Problems

Miss Marple, her detective-fiction writing nephew Raymond West and four friends set up the Tuesday Night Club where each one would tell a story of an unsolved crime and the companions would have a think and come up with the identity of the criminal. Naturally, Miss Marple always works out what happened and whodunit.

The portentous loose ends of a few of the stories never get resolved, which is rather disappointing, and you very much get the feeling that this is a combination of previously published magazine stories rather than a whole, individual work. That said, a number of the stories are very enjoyable, and I think I only solved the case before Miss Marple on one occasion – so that makes it quite exciting. 7/10.

In 54th placePoirot's Early Cases Poirot’s Early Cases

Eighteen early cases solved by Hercule Poirot, in many of which he is helped or hindered by his old pal Hastings.

Many of these stories are not bad at all, and the good ones outweigh the bad ones considerably. 7/10.

In 53rd placeThe Hollow The Hollow

John Christow is found dead by the swimming pool, with his wife Gerda holding a gun in her hand. An open and shut case, surely? But as investigations start to take shape, it’s a much murkier affair than first thought.

Clever, believable, and once it gets going it’s very exciting. However, it is dull to start, and the latent racism is unpleasant. Structurally, it also feels strangely anti-climactic. 7/10.

In 52nd placeWhile the Light Lasts While the Light Lasts

Nine short stories, never previously published in book form in the UK, including two featuring Hercule Poirot.

A couple of rather lightweight stories are balanced with some meaty good reads. 7/10.

In 51st placeWhy Didn’t They Ask Evans? Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?

Bobby Jones discovers a man who has fallen from a cliff and who asks Why didn’t they ask Evans? before he promptly dies; a tragic accident perhaps, but when someone tries to poison Jones and he almost dies, he reckons there’s more to this than meets the eye. Who is the dead man, and who is Evans?

It’s fun but it’s foolish; it’s pacey but it’s problematic. 7/10.

In 50th placeA Pocket Full of Rye A Pocket Full of Rye

Miss Marple solves the murders of a rather hectoring boss and father, and other members of his family and domestic household. A goldmine, a prodigal son, a nursery rhyme, a vengeful family and an unseen boyfriend all play a part.

The crime and the Sing-a-song-of-sixpence theme dovetail nicely. 7/10.

In 49th placeDumb Witness Dumb Witness

Poirot receives a commission from a Miss Emily Arundell, only to discover she had died a couple of months earlier. He and Hastings examine the circumstances of her death and conclude it was not as natural as the doctor had presumed. Miss Arundell had recently changed her will but had her scheming relatives known this?

An enjoyable story that lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. 7/10.

In 48th place

Miss Marple's Final Cases Miss Marple’s Final Cases

Six short stories featuring Miss Marple, plus two other supernatural stories, none of which had been published in the UK before in book form.

On the whole, they’re very high quality! 8/10.

In 47th placeFive Little Pigs Five Little Pigs

Poirot is asked to consider a case that took place sixteen years earlier, where Caroline Crale was found guilty of the murder of her husband Amyas. But her daughter is convinced that her mother was innocent, and wants to reassure her fiancé of that fact. Poirot exercises his little grey cells and proves that you can solve a murder just by thinking.

Very clever plotting, an unusual structure, and a good ending. On the other hand, it’s very repetitive. 8/10.

In 46th placeBy the Pricking of my Thumbs By the Pricking of my Thumbs

Tommy and Tuppence are on the hunt for a missing old lady, Mrs Lancaster, who lived in the same old people’s home as Tommy’s Aunt Ada, and had given her a painting of an attractive old house. But when Aunt Ada dies, T & T are at a loss as to how to get the picture back to Mrs Lancaster. Cue a search by Tuppence which ends up getting her deep in trouble.

A very suspenseful and surprising ending, but there are a lot of coincidences and untied up loose ends. 8/10.

In 45th placeEvil under the Sun Evil Under the Sun

Poirot is enjoying a quiet holiday in a discreet island off the coast of Devon, when one of his fellow holidaymakers is found strangled on a beach. Naturally the local police ask Poirot to assist – and just before they call in Scotland Yard his little grey cells come to the rescue.

A very good read, and the crime is very satisfactory, from the reader’s point of view; but some of the characters are rather boring, and the ending is disappointing. 8/10.

In 44th placeNemesis Nemesis

Miss Marple is contacted via a solicitor’s letter by the late Mr Rafiel, who asks her to investigate a crime but gives no other indication of what it is or how she should do it. This results in Miss Marple taking a coach tour of Famous Houses and Gardens of Great Britain. But are all the other passengers genuine, and what crime will Miss Marple stumble upon?

Not without its faults but it’s a pretty satisfying book overall and I enjoyed reading it enormously! 8/10.

In 43rd placeMurder at the Vicarage The Murder at the Vicarage

Miss Jane Marple, busybody spinster of St Mary Mead, and close neighbour of the Reverend Leonard Clement, works out a solution for who committed a murder in the Reverend’s study.

A very enjoyable read but the ending could be just a little more riveting. 8/10.

In 42nd placeOne Two Buckle My Shoe One Two Buckle My Shoe

Poirot unwillingly attends an appointment at the dentists, only to find out that a murder takes place at the dental surgery later on the same day. Soon Poirot is immersed in a web of political intrigue and activists – but is it a crime of passion or of politics?

A cracking yarn; very pacey, full of surprises and a tough one for the little grey cells. However, for some reason, it’s not particularly memorable. 8/10.

In 41st placeThe Man in the Brown Suit The Man in the Brown Suit

Anne Beddingfeld, orphaned and inquisitive adventuress, witnesses the death of a man at Hyde Park Corner tube station and subsequently gets caught up in a realm of intrigue which takes her from London to Marlow to South Africa, on the hunt for the mystery man named “the Colonel”.

Despite its ridiculous coincidences, tendency to stray into travelogue, and an awful lot of romantic nonsense, it has some extremely good characters, rather witty conversations and creates an old-fashioned “rattling good read”. 8/10.

In 40th placePoirot Investigates Poirot Investigates

Poirot and Hastings set about solving eleven cases, from Egypt to Brighton, through the medium of the short story.

Entertaining selection. 8/10.

In 39th placeSecret of Chimneys The Secret of Chimneys

Chancer and adventurer Anthony Cade helps Scotland Yard solve the mysteries of identifying both jewel thief “King Victor” and a royal assassin.

A very exciting read, and with some great characterisation, and full of twisty turns in the plot. 8/10.

In 38th placeParker Pyne Investigates Parker Pyne Investigates

Parker Pyne places advertisements in newspapers seeking clients who are unhappy, in the promise of making them happy again. In the first six stories we see him at work in London; in the second he’s on holiday in Europe and the Middle East but clients keep throwing themselves at him.

A very enjoyable read, written so that you can almost take it as a novel. 8/10.

In 37th placeHercule Poirot's Christmas Hercule Poirot’s Christmas

Poirot’s plans for a cosy Christmas Eve as guest of Colonel Johnson, Chief Constable of Middleshire, go awry when local bigwig Simeon Lee is found murdered in his locked bedroom that evening. Poirot joins Johnson and local Superintendent Sugden to work out which of the Lee family Christmas visitors did the heinous deed.

On the plus side, it’s an exciting read, with an excellent denouement and a suitably surprising solution to the crime. On the negative side, Poirot isn’t himself; there are no references to little grey cells, no moments of breathtaking vanity. 8/10.

In 36th placeMrs McGinty's Dead Mrs McGinty’s Dead

Superintendent Spence is not satisfied that James Bentley is guilty of the murder of charwoman Mrs McGinty, and asks Poirot to discover the real culprit. Poirot unearths the real murderer and saves Bentley from the gallows.

A little chewy occasionally, but with a very exciting second half and a banger of a denouement. 8/10.

In 35th placeHalloween Party Hallowe’en Party

Mrs Oliver is present at a children’s Hallowe’en party that ends in a grotesque death involving apples, which puts her off her favourite fruit for life. Poirot speaks to everyone involved with setting up the party, but it’s not until another tragedy takes place that he’s able to identify the murderer.

A very enjoyable and entertaining read – a few untied loose ends. 8/10.

In 34th placeThe Sittaford Mystery The Sittaford Mystery

Young Emily Trefusis is determined to prove the innocence of her fiancé Jim for the murder of Captain Trevelyan. With the help of the busybodying news reporter Charles Enderby and the thoroughly decent Inspector Narracott, she does a fine job!

A very easy and fast read, one that you don’t want to put down because you’re thoroughly involved in the plot and investigation. 8/10.

In 33rd placeAppointment with Death Appointment with Death

The Boynton family suffer under the malign and cruel tyranny of their matriarch, so that it comes as no surprise that one afternoon the wretched woman is found dead as a dodo. Poirot promises the local military chief in charge of police that he will solve the crime in a mere twenty-four hours, simply by interviewing the suspects and employing the little grey cells.

Almost a Classic Christie – but not quite. 8/10.

In 32nd placeAt Bertram's Hotel At Bertram’s Hotel

Miss Marple assists the police in solving the assault of a forgetful cleric, discovering the mastermind of a sequence of high value robberies and identifying the true identity of the murderer of a hotel employee, all in a seemingly respectable and old-fashioned London hotel.

A complete flight of fantasy; eccentric, unlikely and rather weird. However, the characters are largely believable and it’s a very good read. 8/10.

In 31st placeThe Mirror Crack'd The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side

Garrulous busybody Heather Badcock corners movie star Marina Gregg at a reception party, boring her to tears; and the next minute, she’s dead! But did the murderer intend the harmless Heather as the victim, or the wealthy and influential Marina? Miss Marple has all the necessary access to the facts to crack the case.

A very enjoyable book, with a good story, and I really like the way Christie uses it to reassess the character of Miss Marple with her passing years, and how old and new lifestyles can (or cannot) co-exist. 9/10.

In 30th placeThe Clocks The Clocks

Colin Lamb is tasked to unearth an espionage hub, at the same time that he accompanies his pal Inspector Hardcastle in solving the mystery of the murder of an unidentified man found in someone else’s house, surrounded by clocks! Colin enlists the help of his old friend Hercule Poirot – and without his help, Hardcastle would have been lost.

An excellent read, but the final solution is both a little overcomplicated and under-delivering. 9/10.

In 29th placeThey do it with Mirrors They Do It With Mirrors

Miss Marple visits her old friend Carrie-Louise at her home Stonygates, which is also used as an educational institution for delinquent youths, to prepare them for an honest life in the world outside. Carrie-Louise’s sister Ruth knows that something is wrong at Stonygates, but can’t put her finger on what. Will Miss Marple see through the trick of mirrors?

Despite its faults – the lapses in characterisation, and a lack of classic denouement, it’s an incredibly entertaining read and a very intriguing crime. 9/10.

In 28th placeLord Edgware Dies Lord Edgware Dies

The talented, beautiful but spoilt actress Jane Wilkinson, aka Lady Edgware, challenges Poirot to help her “get rid of my husband”, shortly after which Lord Edgware Dies.

A strong exciting story, with fascinating characters, very nicely written and with a solution that ticks all the boxes. 9/10.

In 27th placeThe Murder on the Links The Murder on the Links

Poirot receives a desperate plea for help from M. Paul Renauld in France, but by the time he and Hastings rush to his aid, he has been murdered. Poirot works with the local magistrate to discover precisely what happened whilst engaging in duels of wit with the local officer of the Sûreté.

The constant twists and turns lead you up and down garden paths and everywhere but the truth, and are really entertaining. An undervalued little gem of a book. 9/10.

In 26th placeThree Act Tragedy Three Act Tragedy

Dashing actor Sir Charles Cartwright falls for the lovely young Miss Hermione Lytton Gore and together they amateur sleuth their way through a series of deaths, aided by the redoubtable Mr Satterthwaite and one Hercule Poirot.

Despite a few ragged edges, a very entertaining and exciting read, and I found the second half of it un-put-downable. 9/10.

In 25th place4.50 From Paddington 4.50 From Paddington

Mrs McGillicuddy witnesses a murder from her train window as another train overtakes and she sees the back of a man strangling a woman. However, no murders or missing women have been reported. Is this the result of her overactive imagination? Miss Marple doesn’t think so.

The good sides outweigh the downsides, and the twists are very entertaining. 9/10.

In 24th placeThey Came to Baghdad They Came to Baghdad

Victoria Jones bumps into Edward in a park in London and falls in love with him in an instant. He’s going to Baghdad to help open a bookshop for his boss and she decides to chuck everything in and follow him to Baghdad. But many other important political and influential people are also travelling to Baghdad, and Victoria gets caught up in a spot of espionage because she’s that kind of girl.

Thoroughly enjoyable escapist nonsense. 9/10.

In 23rd placeThe Body in the Library The Body in the Library

The body of an unknown young woman is found in the library of Arthur and Dolly Bantry’s home, so, naturally, Mrs Bantry doesn’t hesitate to tell her old friend Miss Jane Marple who, as always, follows her unique suspicions to get to the truth.

Good characters, good story-telling, a believable (albeit contorted) plotline and a humdinger of an ending. 9/10.

In 22nd placeThe Pale Horse The Pale Horse

Historian and writer Mark Easterbrook witnesses a fight between two girls in a coffee bar – which leads him into a mystic underworld of seances, black magic and the surprise deaths of unwanted relatives. And what connection can an old converted pub, The Pale Horse, have with these deaths?

An excellent book, extremely well-written and one of Christie’s more un-put-downable works. 9/10.

In 21st placeA Murder is Announced A Murder is Announced

Lettie Blacklock discovers that a murder has been announced in the classified ads of the local paper, and it would take place at her house on Friday October 29th. Unsurprisingly all the local gossips drop in to see what will happen… and a murder does indeed take place! Fortunately Miss Marple is on hand to give valuable assistance.

An enormously entertaining read. 9/10.

In 20th placeDeath on the Nile Death on the Nile

Wealthy socialite Linnet Ridgeway marries Simon Doyle, the fiancé of her best friend Jacqueline de Bellefort, much to the latter’s fury. Miss de Bellefort stalks the newly married couple all round Egypt on holiday, but Hercule Poirot refuses a commission from the new Mrs Doyle to “do something about it”. However, when one member of the love triangle is found murdered, it is up to Poirot to solve the case.

Very nearly a Classic, but not quite. 9/10.

In 19th placePeril at End House Peril at End House

Poirot and Hastings are reunited on holiday at the Cornish coast and meet Miss Nick Buckley, who has survived several accidents, any or all of which could have been fatal. Whilst Poirot is in conversation with her a bullet whizzes past and makes a hole in her hat!

A brilliant read – very exciting, and very hard to guess whodunit. 9/10.

In 18th placeMurder is Easy Murder is Easy

Ex-Police Officer Luke Fitzwilliam finds himself at the heart of a village where a number of people have recently died – and maybe not by natural causes. He goes undercover researching for a make-believe book and, as murder becomes more and more obvious, he eventually stumbles into discovering who really killed all these people.

An extremely enjoyable read; pure whodunit escapism, with quite a lot of humour and some memorable characters. And a lot of deaths often lifts a whodunit, in a ghoulish sort of way! 9/10.

In 17th placeThree Blind Mice Three Blind Mice (short story)

A murderous plot in London, where the murderer whistles Three Blind Mice as his signature tune, resumes at Molly and Giles’ remote country guesthouse, Monkswell Manor, whilst they are cut off due to an immense snowfall. Will the police prevent a second death?

The forerunner to The Mousetrap, this is a terrifically exciting read and, if you’re one of those people who still don’t know whodunit, the denouement will knock you sideways. 10/10.

In 16th placeTowards Zero Towards Zero

Tennis star Nevile Strange takes his new wife Kay to stay with his late guardian’s widow, Lady Tressilian, when his first wife, Audrey, is also visiting. Tempers flare, old flames are kindled, and old scores are settled. Two deaths later, Superintendent Battle questions the suspects and gets to the bottom of what actually happened.

The tension grows deliciously! 10/10.

In 15th placeMurder in the Mews Murder in the Mews

Hercule Poirot takes us on four cases, novella length, where he solves a range of crimes from an apparent suicide to a deathly love triangle.

Each of the four stories is excellently written, full of characterisation, with surprising storylines and unguessable denouements. 10/10.

In 14th placeCurtain Curtain

Poirot and Hastings are reunited for one final time – back at Styles, which is now a guest house, where Poirot is a resident. Poirot confides to Hastings that one of the guests is a serial murderer; but there’s just one main problem. Poirot won’t tell Hastings who the murderer is!

One of Christie’s undoubted best – no wonder she kept it in a drawer for when it was needed! 10/10

In 13th placeCrooked House Crooked House

Sophie Leonides decides she can’t marry Charles until the identity of her grandfather’s murderer is discovered. Charles’ father is the Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, who agrees that Charles can sit in on the investigations as his unique position of trust, bridging the gap between the family and the police, could be useful.

Excellent on all counts! 10/10.

In 12th placeAfter The Funeral After the Funeral

Solicitor Mr Entwhistle enlists the help of his friend Poirot to get to the bottom of the death of one of the late Richard Abernethie’s relatives shortly after the family meet to attend Abernethie’s funeral. Who killed the relative, and was Abernethie’s death murder too?

A terrific read. 10/10.

In 11th placeHickory Dickory Dock Hickory Dickory Dock

Poirot is brought into make sense of some strange thefts and minor acts of vandalism at a students’ hostel managed by his secretary, Miss Lemon,’s sister, Mrs Hubbard. But when the thefts turn into deaths, his job is to discover who is behind a series of very serious crimes and prevent more murders from taking place.

Despite the unusual denouement and the uncomfortable language, this is a pure favourite! 10/10.

In 10th placeThe Moving Finger The Moving Finger

Brother and sister Jerry and Joanna Burton move to the tranquil country town of Lymstock to help with his recovery after a flying accident. But instead of quiet rural life they become embroiled in a hunt for a poison-pen letter writer who appears to have driven one poor resident to suicide. But then another body is discovered.

Despite a couple of tiny rankles this is such a good read. 10/10.

In 9th placeDeath in the Clouds Death in the Clouds

Poirot travels on board an aeroplane, where one of his fellow passengers is murdered in plain sight of everyone else. With the help of Inspector Japp and contributions from fellow passengers Jane Grey and Norman Gale, Poirot uncovers the truth of this extremely bold murder.

Christie achieves a truly fluid and entertaining writing style in this book, and Poirot has never been so manipulative. 10/10.

In 8th placeCards on the Table Cards on the Table

Four detectives including Hercule Poirot play bridge in one room of Mr Shaitana’s house whilst four other guests play bridge in another, where Mr Shaitana sits by the fire and watches; and when they get up to go home at the end of the evening, one of the four has murdered their host. No one else is implicated in the crime; and Poirot identifies the murderer through psychological examination of the characters involved.

An excellent read. 10/10.

In 7th placeEndless Night Endless Night

Michael Rogers narrates his own tale of acquiring a property at Gipsy’s Acre, despite the warnings of local people that the property and land is cursed; and how he meets the girl of his dreams. They build a fabulous architect-designed house on the land; but do they live happy ever after, or does the gipsy curse ruin their lives ahead?

Absolutely gripping. 10/10.

In 6th placeAnd then there were None And Then There Were None

Ten strangers receive a summon to visit a rocky island off the coast of Devon, expecting either a holiday, a reunion or an offer of work; and then one by one each of them is murdered by the mysterious U. N. Owen.

A brilliant read. Fast, exciting, suspenseful, and totally impossible to solve. 10/10.

In 5th placeDeath Comes as the End Death Comes as the End

Renisenb, a young widow from an ancient Egyptian family of 4,000 years ago, returns to her home, having buried her young husband, and hoping everything will be as it once was. However, she finds herself at the heart of a family torn apart by bitter jealousy, rivalry, tyranny, and, eventually, murder.

A riveting read that gets under your skin. 10/10.

In 4th placeCat Among the Pigeons Cat Among the Pigeons

Murder comes to the exclusive girls’ school Meadowbank, run by the redoubtable Miss Bulstrode, and Middle Eastern espionage clashes with young ladies’ tennis practice. The police don’t seem to have much of an idea until one of the girls escapes to London to ask the help of family friend Hercule Poirot.

Despite all its flaws I am a huge fan of this book and it’s one of the most accessible, understandable and exciting of all her works. 10/10.

In 3rd placeThe ABC Murders The ABC Murders

Poirot is challenged by a serial murderer to solve apparently random killings in an alphabetical sequence, the only clue being that an ABC railway guide is always found near the body.

A true Christie Classic! 10/10.

In 2nd placeMurder on the Orient Express Murder on the Orient Express

Poirot travels on the Simplon-Orient Express from Istanbul to Paris but the train is caught in a snowdrift near Vincovci, and when Poirot wakes the next morning, he discovers that one of his fellow passengers has been murdered. Who is he, and who has killed him?

An absolute gem of a classic! 10/10.

In 1st placeThe Murder of Roger Ackroyd The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Let’s keep it simple. Poirot solves the murder of Roger Ackroyd, as narrated by Dr Sheppard.

Everything fits very believably into place, and although it’s a bold and ambitious crime, Christie fairly presents us with all the clues. The Classic Classic! 10/10.

Agree or disagree with my rankings? Please let me know!

Thanks again for sticking with me over the last eight years of this Labour of Love. I’m grateful for all the comments, suggestions, questions and opinions about these terrific books – and just because I’ve reached the end of my personal challenge, doesn’t mean to say you should stop too! So keep the comments coming!

Now that I have finished my Agatha Christie Challenge, it will give me more time to turn my attention to my other challenges currently “on the go” – and start to make better progress with them. If you haven’t already checked them out, I’m working my way through all George Orwell’s essays and books (The George Orwell Challenge), all the children’s novels by French writer Paul Berna (The Paul Berna Challenge), all the short stories in a fascinating anthology entitled Points of View (The Points of View Challenge) and all the James Bond films (The James Bond Challenge). These have taken a back seat whilst I have been trying to complete the Christie challenge – but now it’s time for me to look at those again. And, knowing me, I wouldn’t be surprised if I start a couple more challenges soon!

Having said all that, it has been suggested to me that I might like to add Agatha Christie’s plays to my Challenge. It wasn’t something I had intended to do, but I can see that there could be merit in it! I don’t think there would be a lot of point in reading and writing about those plays that are directly adapted from her own books, but that does still leave a number (14, I think) of stage and radio plays written over the years. Let’s just say I’m thinking about it!



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