I have recently been watching the BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie’s murder mystery novels featuring David Suchet as the renowned fastidious detective, Hercule Poirot. It’s a charming television adaptation of the books. So, thought it was time I spoke of this love of mine.
Agatha Christie wrote over 60 crime fiction novels. Hercule Poirot, the Sherlock Homes like detective penned down by Agatha Christie, is the only known fictional character to have received an obituary, that too on the front page, of New York Times. If you know this, chances are you might have won the tie breaker round in some quiz taking place right this moment in some place.
Ms Marple, a frail old women with a sharp mind and keen eye, is another timeless mystery solver that Agatha Christie had given us. From solving local murders to theft, blackmail and more, in English country sides to various exotic locations, this old lady is a special kind of wit and genius .
“When I re-read those first [detective stories I wrote], I’m amazed at the number of servants drifting about. And nobody is really doing any work, they’re always having tea on the lawn.”
Agatha Christie’s novels are not the usual crime fiction with the repetitive formula of blood, mania and a depressing air to it. Neither are they too boring, where nothing much ever happens. Her novels have a quaint feel to them. A limited number of potential suspects, lots of twists and a few red herrings thrown in for good measure. There will also be a rather endearing love story somewhere in the mix up. Her detectives mostly don’t believe in action (except perhaps her lead pair Tommy and Tuppence) and woud rather use their grey cells and knowledge of human psychology.
You probably already love her books and know all of this. Or hate the idea of such ‘rather childish’ murder mysteries and never plan to read what she wrote. Either way you are sure to enjoy the premise of ingenious murders she planned and executed to perfection, in her writings of course. The setup is always baffling, but the final reveal of the bad guy is always a reasonable explanation.
So, here is a list of my favourite Agatha Christie Murder Mystery setups..
Imagine a charming little village where the morning local newspaper has an add.. A murder is announced and about to take place. All are invited.. Of course curious neighbors have to go to find out what is the funny add about.. The lights go out.. And a woman is killed.. Tada… your murder! Now go solve it.. (A Murder is Announced)
Sixteen years ago a painter was killed. His wife was hanged for the murder. She did not deny having committed the crime except in a letter to her young daughter. Sixteen years later the daughter is a grown up woman needing answers. Who better to find the truth about what happened all those years ago than Hercule Poirot? (Five Little Pigs)
A woman swears she was witness to a gruesome murder; a man strangling another woman. The only caveat, the witness was on a train going in the opposite direction as the train in which the murder was committed. She only got a glimpse through the windows, at the instant the two trains were lined up on the tracks. She goes to the police, but they can’t really help when there is no signs of a dead girl or the remotest possibility of a murder. Ms Marple, however decides on conducting some investigation of her own. (4:50 from Paddington)
Some of her books without the usual detective are also fast paced thrilling reads. From scientific experiments, to political intrigue and world wide rackets. There are jilted lovers and deranged children, all turned murderers. The thrills never seems to end. (A fine example is Destination Unknown)
How about a mystery where a charming magnetic woman floats down the front steps of her apartment? She finds a man distributing flyers outside and hails him to help her. She has a dead body in her study, that she wishes to dispose… He agrees… Ingenious start to a story for sure! (The Secret of Chimneys)
Then, there are all those titles that are based on nursery rhymes. One Two Buckle My Shoe, Hickory Dickory Dock, Pocket Full of Rye to name a few. From serial killers to prodigal sons and drug racketeers, she has tried a plot featuring it all.
“One’s always a little self-conscious over the murderer’s first appearance. He must never come in too late;”
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is another widely stated work of pure brilliance. The concept of an unreliable narrative was explored deftly in this murder mystery. And if I tell you more I will end up disclosing more than I intend.
I could go on, since each book has something unique in the layout of the murder, but I will end with one of my favourites.
And Then There Were None – Ten apparent strangers stranded on an island. They are accused of being instrumental in deaths (though not brought to trial and found guilty in regular court). One by one each start to die, until no one amongst them is left. Noone else is on the island. Whoddunit? You can keep looking for clues, but this is one mystery hard to guess.
If you have missed out any then hope this list made you want to pick up a new book and if I missed any then tell me all your favourites..
indrani robbinsJune 2, 2015 at 6:25 pm
oh that traipse through aggie christie boks was a warm and happy one. thanks, rhea. i used to read her all the time and the big thing was to guess who’s the murderer. the complete paisa wasool feeling was when i got the culprit right. have you read murder on the orient express or seen albert finney do poirot in the movie? i loved. my mother was an avid reader too. in that movie, an older ingrid bergman is the nurse or governess or something and i shall always remember her saying, i was born backward. then there was the mirror cracked… elizabeth taylor in the movie. poirot and his absinthe, creme de menthe (it became important to pronounce it right because hercule p drank it). i totally enjoyed the simple story telling structure of the books. and yes, always littel stories of live and other things in them. miss marple was cute, i could almost imagine her doing the old english lady at with her brain buzzing constantly. she had a nephew, right? also a detective? or am i mixing things up. i have never really read sherlock holmes, just watched jeremy brett’s brilliant holnmes on tv. for me, detective books meant agatha christie and my favourite detective was poirot, although apparently his author started to get tired of him. wish i had a sharper memory… everything is a blur… but i know practically all her books are in there somewhere.
rhea sinhaJune 5, 2015 at 2:31 pm
Oh you a fan too? Thanks Indi di. I can talk hours and hours about the books. I have watched both the movie Orient Express and Mirror Cracked. Another one I liked was Evil Under The Sun. For this post I was concentrating more on the ones where the premise of murder itself was quite unbelievable, not necessarily the best solutions, but the more interesting murder setups, so skipped Orient Express.
Haven’t met a newer detective as entertaining as Poirot though. But for Sherlock Homes I like Benedict Cumberbatch’s new generation portrayal. I think even Kizh is a fan.
indrani robbinsJune 7, 2015 at 5:08 pm
you know, i forget most of the stories, just the fun of them and wondering who could it be. evil under the sun… set in some far off place? death on the nile… must have been egypt? i don’t watch the new sherlock. jeremy brett gets me all happy and moody. or he used to. yeah, poirot a dear one. maybe satyajit ray’s felu da, i have read as a kid, but enjoyed more as portrayed by soumitra in sonar kella and joy babba felunath… yeah, him i liked. classic detectivish things yet fresh.
Ladki KijhyJune 6, 2015 at 2:45 am
How come I missed commenting on this?! I have loved reading all the books you mentioned Rhea. Can’t remember the name of the one where this woman sends nasty letters to people! They were lovely to watch too, the bbc ones. Like Indi di, I’m a big Jeremy Brett fan. I still remember the days when it used to come on sundays on doordarshan! And yes I like Mr. Cumberbatch as the new age Sherlock! 🙂
rhea sinhaJune 8, 2015 at 12:38 am
Anonymous Letters .. must be Moving Fingers.. That was my first Agatha Christie read. That one didn’t have Poirot and I kept asking my mother who had recommended the books why the detective was missing. Anyway in the end it did not matter at all. I was completely hooked onto the series.
By the way reading my first Reginald Hill. Thanks for the suggestion! Am enjoying it.