I'm going to try Agatha Christie - need help choosing

I’d like to start reading some classic mysteries, and I believe I’ll commence with Agatha Christie.

So - which character do you recommend? Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple?

Start with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, a Poirot mystery. It’s a great intro to the detective as the book is written in the first person by a 3rd party observer who helps Hercule in solving the case.

I think that the Miss Marple mysteries are the best-written, with the exception of Poirot’s most famous cases: Death on the Nile, Murder on the Orient Express, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (though I could take or leave that one, frankly).

What you want to look at is the date the novel was published, more than anything else. That’s the crucial bit. From 1920-1930 she was trying to find her own style, writing pretty crude imitations of earlier detective stories, and was amateurish about characterization and revealing information. After that first decade, she got better. Her “sweet spot” for mysteries, I think, is 1940-1965. All of these are readable and enjoyable. After that, she begins to get a little senile–the plots get looser, the clues get murkier, and eventually, she stops making any sense at all (cite Passenger to Frankfurt).

I would also avoid the Tommy and Tuppence books, which are not mysteries but adventures. They are, in my opinion, not where her talent lay and not enjoyable to read.

One that is without any particular detective, which I enjoyed enormously, was Murder at Hazelmoor (also titled The Sittaford Mystery).

My favorite Poirot novels are Cards On The Table, Sad Cypress, and Funerals Are Fatal. My favorite Miss Marples are The Body In The Library and A Murder Is Announced.

Some years ago I picked up this. “Murder at the Vicarage” was Miss Marple’s first case, and “Sleeping Murder” was her last.

The contrast between the two stories was very cool - I think it would make an excellent introduction to Dame Agatha!

I inherited like 30 Agatha Christie paperbacks and I just can seem to get motivated to read them I’m convinced without reason that I’m not going to like them, are they really worth reading?

Why don’t you try one and find out? They’re all incredibly quick reads, so it shouldn’t take long to find out if the other 29 will be worth the extended effort.

Sounds like a reasonable plan. I kinda forgot about them before this thread came up. :slight_smile:

They move fast, and they’re pretty much traditional detective style genre, so you don’t get heavily involved with characters (as a rule.) And they’re fun, if you like that genre.

I agree that Roger Acroyd is a good place to start, a nice introduction to Poirot. The best Miss Marple, IMHO, is still the first, Murder at the Vicarage.

Sleeping Murder was published in 1976, but written circa 1940. The last Miss Marple novel written is Nemesis, 1971, and A.C. definitely shows her age in it–less focus, more doddering about.

Although, I’ve never read the book, I did see Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians as a Community Theatre production and enjoyed it, immensely.

Don’t you dare dis my Tuppence and Tommy! I love how she only comes back to them every 10 or 20 years. Ten Little Indians is a great read. It’s funny, I’ve read every Agatha Christie (albeit 30 years ago) so I would just recommend the ones where I can remember who did it. I would think that the ones that stay with you are likely the best.

Therefore, I would recommend:

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
The ABC Murders
Murder on the Orient Express
Ten Little Indians
Cards on the Table

I’d recommend the Poirot novels over the Miss Marple ones. The clueing and logic in the Poirot novels is much better. Some of the better Poirots, in my opinion:

Five Little Pigs
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Murder on the Orient Express
Evil Under the Sun
After the Funeral
Sad Cypress
The ABC Murders

Then there’s possibly Christie’s best known novel (sine detective) Ten Little Niggers.

For the Marples, I’d say the best example is A Murder is Announced.

Try to avoid anything much from the mid 1960s onwards. By that point the standard of Christie’s works had begun to fall off dramatically.

Another Poirot fan here. I’d say start with “Murder on the Orient Express” – it’s my personal Christie favorite, and as good a judge as any of whether or not you’ll like her work. Enjoy!

Her earliest books are the best. Look in the library listings for copyright dates.

I agree wholeheartedly about the poor quality of the later Christies. They’re often just an odd ramble - such as *Elephants Can Remember * and the dreadful Postern of Fate. But *Passenger to Frankfurt * is definitely the worst. I remember reading one critic’s view that “prizes should be offered to any reader who can explain the ending”. It’s actually subtitled “an Extravaganza”. Does anyone know if there’s any truth to the rumour that Christie’s publishers forced her to add the subtitle because the book was so terrible?

If you like classic whodunnits, Christie at her best is unbeatable. I would recommend starting with the stories that stand out for the cleverness of idea, plot, execution (no pun intended) and solution, and where the ‘whodunnit’ aspect it handled in a particularly impressive way (I can’t say more without spoiling things). For my money, the best are:

Ten Little Indians
Orient Express
Roger Ackroyd

Not her best, but a nice challenge is Endless Night, because it only has about three main characters and I still didn’t guess ‘whodunnit’! I also remember thinking that Mrs McGinty’s Dead involved some particularly neat sleight of hand.

I don’t think you can make yor choice based on whether it’s a Poirot or Marple story. There are good and bad in both sets. But I would agree that on balance the Poirot stories have the edge. They tend to feature greater cunning and smarter plotting.

Sound advice from those who suggest that when the story was written is a better guide to quality / enjoyment value than whether it’s a Poirot or Marple story.

I never read a Christie I enjoyed as much as a Marsh. Anyone care to offer a suggestion that might change my mind?

This one was renamed (for obvious reasons of political correctness) Ten Little Indians, which was further renamed And Then There Were None.

Agatha Christie is considered to be the best writer of mysteries by mahy of those readers whose primary interest is the mystery itself—i.e. they like clever puzzles, figuring out whodunit, and the kind of ending that makes you go :smack: . If you’re more interested in things like characterization, suspense, humor, or literary quality, there are much better authors.

I’d echo this, actually. They are the only characters that really age. Christie starts out with Tommy and Tuppence meeting again after WWI, when they were Bright Young Things, and follows them periodically through their lives. Though they are not like Marple or Poirot, they are a great deal of fun, and, in my opinion are the forerunners of what became in t.v. the “light romantic mystery” shows like Remington Steele, and Hart to Hart.

As anyone reading this thread must already suspect, many AC books go under more than one title. Off the top of my head,

They Do It With Mirrors = Murder With Mirrors
Hickory Dickory Dock = Hickory Dickory Death
Sparkling Cyanide = Remembered Death
Murder at Hazelmoor = The Sittaford Mystery
The Patriotic Murders = One Two Buckle My Shoe
Lord Edgware Dies = Thirteen At Dinner
Death In The Clouds = Death In The Air
Poirot Loses A Client = Dumb Witness
Murder In Retrospect = Five Little Pigs
Ten Little Indians = And Then There Were None
After The Funeral = Funerals Are Fatal

I’ve also just remembered that I quite like Five Little Pigs and Peril At End House.