Agatha Christie and my mystery mission

This is a post about Agatha Christie and her books. Not all of you will know that her books are said to outsell all others except the Bible and Shakespeare. She wrote approximately 83 books, thirty-nine of them featuring her Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, fourteen starring elderly spinster and amateur investigator Miss Marple and five about her amusing, enthusiastic, mystery-solving couple Tommy and Tuppence. I haven’t included her other novels, written as Mary Westmacott, her plays or her autobiographical works in this tally. I have included short story collections.

Of these books, I have read all of the Poirot, a feat I discuss in more detail elsewhere on this blog. For several years now I have planned to complete reading the rest. This year I hope to do so. 

In pursuit of  this quest I have read four books so far this year by the Queen of Crime. 


I started with two volumes of shorts stories: The Mysterious Mr Quin and The Listerdale Mystery. Of the two, the latter is more typical as volumes of Christie’s short stories go. The problem being that it is hard to set up a mystery, introduce a hero or heroine or adversary (or both) and have them solve the mystery in the space of only twenty or so pages. I love Agatha’s style but I definitely prefer it when she gives herself a novel to showcase her storytelling talent. Many of her short stories are simply too short, although a few in this collection were still perfectly formed and gave me good entertainment. The Mysterious Mr Quin, however, stands apart from her other volumes of short stories. 7/10. In these stories, a man named Mr Satterthwaite keeps encountering the eponymous Harley Quin. He always seems to meet him when there is some sort of mystery to be solved or some lovers to be helped. Each of these stories are carefully detailed and have lovely twists in the tales. These are unusual for Agatha Christie, but are characteristic of her great talent, and her underrated ability to turn her hand to anything.

I’ve given The Listerdale Mystery 7/10 as well. It was very light reading in places but some stories had brilliant twists. The worst of the stories was probably ‘The Manhood of Edward Robinson’. The best three (and worth checking out) were ‘Philomel Cottage’, ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’ and ‘Accident’.

Next, I read By the Pricking of My Thumbs, a Tommy and Tuppence novel. This is one of their best mysteries and has a somewhat supernatural element to it. It was such a page-turner that I read it in a day, while on holiday. I’ve been reading the Tommy and Tuppence books in chronological order: these are the only Christie books I have done this with. 7/10.

The Pale Horse also has a supernatural element to it with people dying from a distance, seemingly without explanation. I had been looking forward to this one for a while, and my copy is a first edition, given to me by my husband for. Our ‘paper’ wedding anniversary. It’s a brilliant mystery but what I expected from the premise did not completely deliver. In places it was spooky, intriguing and mysterious; in others slightly dragging and a little far-fetched. Still, it was Agatha and it was a good read. 7/10.

So, we are less than halfway through the year and I am currently reading a fifth Christie: Passenger to Frankfurt.


Only time will tell whether I complete my challenge in 2016. I still have three Miss Marple books to go: At Bertram’s Hotel, Nemesis and Miss Marple’s Final Cases; one Tommy and Tuppence: Postern of Fate; and three others: Death Comes as the End, They Came to Bagdad and While the Light Lasts. It sounds very do-able. 

My love of Agatha Christie’s brilliant body of work will go on long after all these books are finished. I’d like to think I may reread some eventually once I’ve repressed the twists and solutions a bit more. Once the challenge is complete I also intend to read Agatha’s Autobiography, the Mary Westmacott novels (which are much harder to get hold of: so far I own one out of six) and Christie’s published plays. I will keep you updated. In the meantime, if you’ve yet to pick up an Agatha Christie book, go out and get yourself a couple and settle in for a  really good time.

Book 10: The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side by Agatha Christie

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I’ve finally finished reading another book! It must be the Easter holidays! Joking aside, I’m shocked that I haven’t read a book to the end since February. Luckily, I’ve finished off two that have been on the go since then, and read a third, in the space of one weekend! They were all Agatha Christie related.

So, first up, The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side. This has one of my favourite titles of a Christie. It refers to The Lady of Shalott, a poem by Tennyson that my mum used to read us because it was King Arthur and Camelot related and we were very into that at the time. As a title, I think I only prefer Why Didn’t they Ask Evans? as far as Dame Agatha’s titles themselves go. [Although, on reflection there are a lot of good ones, for example Sparkling Cyanide, Towards Zero, Ordeal by Innocence, Dead Man’s Folly, Crooked House.]

Anyway, the downside is that Miss Marple is the star of this book. As any followers will know, I am Team Poirot, if there is such a thing. Miss Marple usually annoys me with her old busybody ways. Somehow I ended up quite liking her in this one, but I was mainly drawn in by the plot, which didn’t involve her much. Basically, a vaguely irritating but good person drops dead at a party. Poisoned. (Of course!) Lots of people were there, but it’s hard to find a suspect. In fact, the police believe that the film star actress whose party it was must have been the target. After all, the poison was in her drink that she gave to the victim.

I don’t wish to include spoilers, so let’s move on. Marple investigates from her armchair, fed information by Superintendant Craddock. After much to-ing and fro-ing and more deaths, she comes to a conclusion first. After the juicy nature of the plot, I was somewhat let down by the abruptness and lack of direction in the ending. However, overall this was a good book, a great read and a whodunit that I wasn’t able to solve!

I give The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side 7/10.

Next up, Spiders Web, adapted by Charles Osborne from Agatha Christie’s play.

Book 2: Poirot and Me by David Suchet

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Poirot and Me was a Christmas present from my husband. I had requested it straight after watching the final episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot and the accompanying documentary Being Poirot. It did not disappoint.

Let me start with a warning: Don’t read this if you’re after a really gripping exciting read. It does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a book in which Suchet, who has now played Hercule Poirot in all the adventures Agatha Christie wrote (apart from The Lemesurier Inheritance- I’m not certain why?), describes how he got the job of being Poirot. He then takes us through the twenty-five years he spent playing the Belgian detective. He also elaborates on projects he took on in between. And that is about it.

So if you love Poirot, love Agatha Christie or love David Suchet, then this book is perfect for you. If you aren’t the slightest bit interested in these three then give it a miss. Simple.

I love two of those three, and like the latter enough, so I really enjoyed this book. It has some lovely photos in it too. I give Poirot and Me 7 out of 10. Sad that there are no more Poirot books or episodes left though.

Book 42: Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case by Agatha Christie

For those of you following this blog, you will know I am a massive fan of Christie. This year I’ve read far more of her books than I intended and evolved into a huge Agatha Christie geek (at least I’m not ashamed to admit it!). Poirot was my first Christie love. I read my first of the books featuring him back in 2007 and read about 7 more of his adventures that month alone. I’ve tried Marple, and we have a bit of a love/hate relationship. This year, with only three Poirot books left to read, I seemed at times to be wandering off and trying lots of Agatha’s stand alone novels. I’ve already said this elsewhere so let me move on.

I read Curtain in a day. I couldn’t help myself. I had to read and read and read it even though I knew that by the end I would have read every Poirot book and would have none left to read. I read it into the night. I read it when my husband asked me to put the lights out with a promise that I wouldn’t be long. I could not stop. I couldn’t look away at the vital moment. I couldn’t stop while tears welled up. Yes I’m a geek. In conclusion, I ended up finished and crying in my bed at 2am for a fictional man, whose cases I’ve read on and off for 7 years. He was part of my life over those years, and we’ve been through a lot together. I was reading a Poirot when I started teacher training, when I moved to a new town and was lonely with no job but supply teaching, and I continued to read his adventures as I grew up into a teacher, bought my first house and married my husband. A lot happens in 7 years but Poirot has always been at hand. I think in part the tears were a product of that sentiment. The feeling that I had finished a massive series of books and there will never be another. But also, without giving away the plot to those who haven’t read or seen it, it’s actually a very moving ending. Hastings really does pull on your heartstrings for a fictional narrator. I must applaud Agatha Christie. She may have disliked Poirot and become annoyed with her creation, but she still writes what can only be described as a love letter to him. Trust me, the TV series, good as they made the episode, didn’t come close to the emotion here. Maybe that’s just me though, the product of a long time reading and enjoying 39 books featuring the mustachioed detective.

I give Curtain 9/10 even though it left me sad.

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Book 41: Poirot’s Early Cases by Agatha Christie

This will be a very short review as I have so many still to post. I’m not sure quite going to manage 52 books this year (one per week) as I had hoped but I’m so close! I have 3 books currently on the go and aim to finish one of those before 2013 draws to a close. As it stands I’ve read 48, and am slightly annoyed with myself for coming so close and yet not finishing the Readarama! However, it was Penguin books that encouraged me in this venture and they seem to have abandoned the challenge mid-year! Also, it is way better than my pitiful tally last year!

On with the review! This was my second to last Poirot book, and I read it in order to read Curtain: Poirot’s last case before it came on TV. Ever since starting on Poirot books in 2007, I had vowed to save the last book for last. The rest I read in a random order. Anyway, this wasn’t the best Poirot, nor was it the worst. I prefer the full length adventures to the short stories, but the stories in Poirot’s Early Cases were nonetheless very good reads.

I give this book of short stories 7/10.

Book 37 and Book 39 Dead Man’s Folly (Marek) and Hallowe’en Party (Chandre) Graphic Novels – Agatha Christie

What? Not one, but two graphic novels?! That’s right. This year I have read my first, then my second, graphic novel. Both based on the novels of none other than Dame Agatha Christie!

Dead Man’s Folly, drawn by Marek was the first. I got this as an anniversary (paper) present from my husband. It was a brilliant choice. The artist has used Greenway as inspiration and it looks just like it did in reality on our holiday, so I loved it. Ariadne Oliver even seemed to have been drawn to resemble Agatha herself. Poirot was exactly as I imagine him. It’s also a very good story to be turned into a comic strip. Having watched ITV’s adaptation last night, I think both do the original text justice, with nothing lost in translation. If you want a super easy way in to reading Agatha Christie, this could be the way to go.

I would give the graphic novel version of Dead Man’s Folly 8/10 (the pictures of Greenway are just beautiful).

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Which brings me to the highly topical Hallowe’en Party, drawn by Chandre. I remember reading the book of this several years ago. It was one of the Poirot books I’d always been drawn to (death by murder at a Halloween Party just seemed such a good idea) and I remain fond of it so I assume it must not have disappointed.

I’m afraid the graphic novel had none of the appeal, and none of the beauty of the drawings of Dead Man’s Folly. Here was a different Poirot and a very different Ariadne Oliver, neither looking as I imagined, nor I would think, as Christie wrote them. Poirot has hair! Lots of hair, almost like curtains! Why? I think a lot of my disappointment was because I liked the other comic so much. I treated myself to this one, from the internet. The problem being, you can’t see the style of drawing beforehand and it really wasn’t to my taste. That isn’t to say this is a bad book, the storyline is great and it’s clear a lot of effort has gone into the comic drawings. I just didn’t like them. And if you don’t like the drawing style in a comic it really distracts from the plot. I found it hard to read because I just wasn’t enjoying the illustrations.

So, a lesson in contrast. I give the Hallowe’en Party graphic novel 5/10.

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Book 36: Problem at Pollensa Bay by Agatha Christie

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Geek alert! I was so overexcited in the gift shop at Greenway house (holiday home of one Agatha Christie, run by the National trust)! Not only did I buy two books, this one and Death Comes as the End but when I reached the counter they asked me (to my geeky delight) “would you like the Greenway stamp in it?”. Hence the second picture above, featuring the Greenway stamp and my two new Agatha Christie bookmarks. The blue is from Greenway, the green from Torquay museum.

Enough geekery I hear you saying, what about the book? Problem at Pollensa Bay is a short story collection. I chose it at Greenway because The Regatta Mystery, one of its key stories is set in Dartmouth, where I’d been that day! Anyway, what I loved about it is that it is a brilliant blend of stories. If I remember correctly, two feature Poirot, two Mr Parker Pyne, two Harley Quin and Mr Satterthwaite. All were well worth a read. Highly recommended mysterious stuff from Christie. As with many of her short story collections you could dip in and out if you wished to do so.

I give Problem at Pollensa Bay another high 8/10.