So, for Christmas last year my mum surprised me with a box set of the 3 most loved Agatha Christie books of all time. This included: And Then There Were None, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and The Murder on the Orient Express. I’ve never read an Agatha Christie before, but I made it my mission to read these three and tell you all what I though and whether it’s worth you guys picking up these too!
And Then There Were None
This was the first Agatha Christie I’ve ever read. I got a box set of 3 of her most loved books for Christmas and I wanted to dive in straight away! It was addictive and atmospheric, I really enjoyed my time reading it.
This story takes crime and mystery right back to the roots. We have 10 people who are summoned to an isolated island under mysterious circumstances that start dying one by one. This creates an atmosphere of tension and fear, both within the characters and the reader that I completely devoured.
There was such a variation in the 10 different characters despite each one having quite limited page time, which was really effective. Giving characters distinct personalities is a hard thing to achieve when you’re playing with such a large cast, especially in only 250, yet they all play off different stereotypes that make them easy to identify and very interesting. I loved seeing how all the characters interacted and changes when faced with fear, suspicion and prejudice. It was so twisty and gripping. It follows the pattern of a rhyme which describes the death of each character, so each death is expected. Somehow, rather than making the story predictable, this creates so much tension and anticipation – complete genius.
This was so different from the stuff I usually pick up, and such a welcome change. I can’t wait to devour more of Agatha Christie’s books!
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
This was book 2 on my quest to read a range of the best Agatha Christie books and get an insight into why she’s one of the most renowned crime writers. I’m starting to get it!
This was so different to And The There Were None – there is clearly no formula that all her works follow, but a real attention to creating crime novels that feel different and exciting. I feel like I really have to tiptoe with what I say about this one, because I really don’t want to spoil anything. A lot of my praise comes from the twists and the ending and I absolutely think it’s best if you go blind into it.
I found the journey of this book to be a little more slow and less gripping than And There Were None, as the style of the crime is so different. It’s more traditional – a terrible murder is committed at the beginning of the book and we spend the rest of the book trying to work out what happened. Though this is a Poirot mystery, we follow the perspective of Dr James Sheppard, a village doctor who gets caught up in the mystery. Through his eyes we see Poirot’s process, but we are not privy to his thoughts. This makes for endless Red Herrings and twists, with a reveal of Poirot’s discoveries towards the end. This formula wasn’t necessarily my favourite going along as I am entertained by continuous action in a mystery, so I found the constant repetition and regoing over of facts to be a little tedious in the middle, however the ending was just so clever that it put all that information in perspective. I already feel like I want to reread it to find all the details and clues I missed!
The Murder on the Orient Express
So, I’d never seen the film of this or anything, so the whole story was totally new to me, and boy was I impressed. This was so clever! It’s packed with clues, red herrings, secrets and it’s almost impossible to sift through it all yourself to come to a conclusion. I did towards the end start to predict the outcome, but I do feel like I discovered it exactly as Christie intended – starting to piece together the puzzle and have suspicions just in time for Poirot to lay it all out.
This is the first Christie I’ve read from Poirot’s perspective (having seen him as a secondary character in Roger Ackroyd) and I really like what he brings to the story. He doesn’t have a great deal of personality himself, other than the occasional witty comment , but more acts as a vessel for the reader to experience the mystery through. He discovers clues and information without passing judgement – we do not get his thoughts, only his actions – which means that whilst we know everything Poirot knows, we still remain in the dark until the big reveal.
Whilst this book is completely packed with racial stereotypes, which I hate to brush off due to the year it was written, I do often feel like Christie is trying to surprise those who believe such stereotypes, and to show that a crime cannot be solved based on prejudices, but instead that human nature is so much more sophisticated than that.
Again, this book also feels unusual as whilst it is a murder mystery and the detective is trying to catch the culprit, as a reader I felt like the victim entirely deserved his fate and that there was a morally grey aura surrounding the murder and the perpetrator. This was such an interesting dynamic that I’d never encountered before and made for an even more exciting investigation!
To conclude, I am totally converted and I really do get why Agatha Christie is so beloved all these years later. I cannot wait to read more, so please let me know if you’ve got any recommendations!