Anyone who loves a good detective story or suspenseful crime thriller has surely heard of the name, Agatha Christie. Popularly known as the Queen of Mystery, Christie is not only a famous mystery writer, she is also the bestselling novelist that ever list with more than two billion copies of her books sold and a huge fandom that continues long after she died.
Christie wrote from the 1920s through the 1970s and has 60 novels and 14 short story collections to her name. Almost all her books feature British upper class characters, and are fondly called British cozy mysteries.
These mysteries are not quite police procedurals and do not feature a diverse group of characters. Christie’s stories focus more on plot and dialogue and are great if you want to read something that will keep you at the edge of your seat throughout and throw you off the chair at the very end; the kind of books you keep thinking about long after you’ve finished reading them.
Navigating through her works can be a daunting task, so I have compiled the five best Agatha Christie novels for you to read. These works have had the most lasting cultural impacts and are filled with ingenious plot twists and mind blowing endings that are so memorable that they’re still widely read nearly a century after publication.
Let’s dive in!
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
This is the story of a wealthy widower, Roger Ackroyd, who was found stabbed in his locked study less than a day after his fiance commits suicide. The detective, Hercule Poirot, has retired to the small village of King’s Abbot to cultivate marrows, but when he hears of Ackroyd’s sinister murder, he decides to investigate a list of ever-increasing suspects.
As Poirot discovers, Roger Ackroyd has many friends, servants and relatives who have reasons to wish him dead.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a classic detective fiction. Although it seems like a typical village murder mystery, this Agatha Christie classic will leave you reeling at its last chapter. When you find out who the culprit is and begin to retrace the details of the story, looking for clues you missed, you’ll realize just how witty Christie really is.
Murder on the Orient Express (1933)
When he receives an urgent telegram in Istanbul urging him to go back to London, Hercule Poirot boards the luxurious Orient Express. The glamorous train stops on the second night of the journey, blocked by heavy snowdrifts, and Poirot (and the other travellers) are stuck.
The next morning, a passenger named Mr. Ratchett is found stabbed to death in his compartment. The unmarred snow outside shows that the killer is still on board and Poirot has to investigate.
In the beginning of Poirot’s investigation, every passenger aboard the train has an alibi. As the investigation continues, however, Poirot finds evidence that connects all the passengers, including the dead Mr. Ratchett, to a kidnapping and murder that happened years before. It is now up to Poirot to connect all the pieces of information, unveil hidden identities and expost the culprit…and he has to do all this while trapped in the train with a murderer.
Murder on the Orient Express is the most famous of all Agatha Christie’s detective stories featuring the enigmatic detective, Hercule Poirot. Even if you think the novel is predictable, the story will grip you hard and drive you to one of the most surprising endings in crime fiction.
Since its publication in 1933, this novel has been adapted for television, film, radio, and even as a computer game many times.
Death on the Nile (1937)
Wealthy socialite, Linnet Ridgeway, has it all: looks, money, and a husband her peers would kill to have. But while on a luxe Nile cruise with her new husband, Linnet is found dead from a gunshot wound to the head.
Enigmatic detective, Hercule Poirot, is on this cruise on a vacation, but when he hears of Linnet’s murder, he is forced to investigate. Just as in Murder on the Orient Express, none of the passengers aboard the steamer are who they seem to be. It is up to Poirot to unravel their true identities and their reasons for coming to Egypt.
The pressure to find Linnet’s murderer increases as more people aboard the ship turn up dead. Before long, Poirot is embroiled in a dangerous love triangle amongst a group of very suspicious passengers.
Drawing inspiration from her own journeys to Egypt with her husband and daughter, Christie expertly crafts a sweeping story of love, money, jealousy and betrayal. Death on the Nile is an exquisite literary brainteaser that has been adapted into a graphic novel, radio and television.
And Then There Were None (1939)
Eight people are invited to a tiny island off the coast of Devon for the weekend at the request of a mysterious U.N. Owen. Upon their arrival, they find two servants but no host. Their host is nowhere to be found.
Although all of them have secrets, they don’t suspect anything until one of them is found dead. And then another one. And yet another one. Panic ensues when the group realizes that someone amongst them is the killer and they grow distrustful and paranoid of one another.
But the problem isn’t whether people will keep dying–it is how they will be murdered, and why.
And Then There Were None is probably the most expertly written locked-room mystery ever. A perfect combination of detective story and crime thriller, this novel ratchets up so much suspense that it is widely thought to be Agatha Christie’s greatest achievement.
Five Little Pigs (1942)
Sixteen years after Caroline Crale was sentenced to life imprisonment for poisoning her husband, she writes a letter to her daughter, Carla, saying that she is, in fact, innocent of the crime.
After her mother’s death in prison, Carla reaches out to Hercule Poirot and asks him to investigate the situation to help her find out what really happened the day her father was killed.
Unlike other times when Poirot has access to the body, the crime scenes, and fresh witness statements, he must now solve this case without any of them. So he approaches the other five suspects who were present at the Crales’ house the day Carla’s father was murdered and tries to figure out who really killed the man.
The problem is that each of the suspects has a different take on the death of this man, but Poirot feels that none of them are disclosing the whole truth. Sifting through nearly two decades-old memories and putting together pieces of information, Poirot navigates the most challenging case in his career as a detective to reveal the shocking truth behind the murder.
Five Little Pigs is a sublime piece of the ingenious storytelling that Christie was popularly known for. It is one of Christie’s greatest achievements.
While these books are not the only good Agatha Christie novels (far from it!), they are the ones that have left the most cultural ages and have the most fans that have endured throughout the years. Other examples of Ms. Christie’s masterpieces include, but are no limited to:
- The Murder at the Vicarage
- The A.B.C. Murders
- The Mysterious Affair at Styles
- A Murder at the House
- Peril at End House