Last week on the 126th Birthday of Agatha Christie I issued a challenge to fellow bloggers and readers of the blog to come up with suggestions for the best novels to introduce new Christie readers to Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, Superintendent Battle, Christie’s Thrillers and Christie’s Standalone Novels. To see the original challenge and my own Christie First choices click here.
Today’s post is taking a look at what other people’s choices were and some of the results were quite surprising – well to me anyways. Before looking at the results here are the links to other bloggers’ Christie Firsts suggestions:
Bev Hankins at My Reader’s Block: Christie Firsts: Where to Start?
Brad Friedman at ah sweet mystery blog: Christie Firsts: Another Blogger’s Take
John at Pretty Sinister: Christie Firsts: There’s Nothing Like a Dame Agatha
Moira at Clothes in Books: Christie Firsts: The Best Introductory Books
Puzzle Doctor at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel: An Introduction to Agatha Christie
I think the biggest surprise for me was the choice of best novel to introduce readers to
Poirot, or rather the fact that out of 6 bloggers, 50% chose the same book, that book being Mrs McGinty’s Dead (1952). In all honesty it was not one that I had even considered when doing my own choices, so I was intrigued by this. So why is this the best Poirot novel to begin with? Moira succinctly puts it as having ‘proper detection’ and as having an ‘excellent setup’. Whilst John says it is ‘one of’ Christie’s ‘funniest books’ with a ‘devilishly clever trick in the plot.’ The Puzzle Doctor also concurs with this in saying that the book is ‘Poirot at his most entertaining’ and the Puzzle Doctor also liked how the ‘mystery is clever and involving and much less gimmicky’ than some of Christie’s other books. Suffice to say this Poirot choice has given me a great deal of thought and I definitely think I will need to give it a reread soon. However, there were also some votes for earlier Christie novels such as Murder on the Orient Express (1934), which Bev chose and Death on the Nile (1937) by Brad. Readers of my blog also suggested Peril at End House (1932) and The Murder on the Links (1923).
When it came to choosing the best novel to introduce Miss Marple there was also a similarity in the choices made by the bloggers, in fact apart from me, everyone picked A Murder Is Announced (1950), though this didn’t surprise me as much. For John this novel is ‘pure Christie’ with ‘brilliant use of misdirection’ and Brad felt it was a ‘wonderful dissertation on how World War II affected British village life’ and that it also ‘showcased Miss Marple’s skills as a more intuitive sleuth than Poirot.’ Bev and Moira liked the novel for similar reasons with Bev enjoying the ‘small village atmosphere’ and ‘the twist,’ whilst Moira noted the ‘great structure’ the ‘large cast of well-defined characters and’ the ‘great conversations and pictures of life.’ Again with readers of my blog there was some divergence from this choice with Murder at the Vicarage (1930) and A Pocket Full of Rye (1953) getting a vote a piece.
The next category of the best novel to introduce new readers to Tommy and Tuppence Beresford is the only one where all bloggers were in agreement with each other and with a resounding 100% vote Partners in Crime (1929) was our choice. I particularly liked John’s comments on the text where he says it showed Christie as a ‘risk taking mystery writer’ and also that it is ‘a lesson in early overlooked fictional detectives.’ Brad also captures the tone of the short story collection well when he says that it is ‘light as air yet great fun.’
However, with the next category there is more variety of choices for which novel to best introduce Superintendent Battle to Christie novices, though there was still a popular choice, with 60% of the vote going to Towards Zero (1944), which Moira thought was ‘clever, well-worked out’ and had a ‘chilling plot.’ Likewise John wrote that the novel has ‘high drama, a good puzzle, some trademark Christie clever misdirection and trenchant observations about a marriage.’ Yet there was also a vote for The Seven Dials’ Mystery (1929) by Bev who was ‘fascinated with’ Battle, ‘”Bundle” Brent, and the secret society involved in the mystery and I do have to admit a soft spot for this book myself. In contrast Brad plumed for Cards on the Table (1936) as his choice, summing it up this book as being ‘as Golden Age as they get!’
Moving on to Christie’s thrillers, another popular choice was The Man in the Brown Suit(1924), which was selected by 3 of the bloggers including myself and was also chosen by readers of my blog. John felt this book ‘works well as both a mystery and as a thriller’ and Moira found it an ‘enjoyable and unexpected book,’ which was ‘funny’ and had ‘wonderful female characters,’ as well as ‘some very clever tricks.’ Other choices for the best Christie thriller to start with, included They Came to Baghdad (1951), as chosen by Bev and she felt it kept her ‘headed on the detective-genre journey that Nancy Drew started [her] on.’ Whilst Brad selected The Pale Horse (1961) which he wrote is ‘actually quite wonderful’ and has the ‘added thrill that it was responsible for the capture of several real life criminals who tried this plan on for size because someone had read this book!’
The final category I had selected for my challenge was the best standalone Christie mystery to start with and it was nice to see a variety of choices, though of course Christie’s most famous standalone mystery was mentioned a few times. Bev and Brad opted for this one, And Then There Were None (1939), with Brad asserting that one should ‘start with the best,’ and Bev saying it ‘knocked’ her ‘for a loop’ and she also writes of giving this book to draw new Christie readers in and the fact that it ‘hasn’t failed to reel them in yet.’ So quite the endorsement! The Pale Horse (1961), was also mentioned by John who said it is a ‘true mystery classic, her masterwork.’ Crooked House (1949) was also chosen by me and another blog reader who concurred that it was ‘memorably shocking.’
So there you have it. Let us know what you think of our choices. Has a great Christie been left out? Hopefully these suggestions will help novice and seasoned Christie readers decide what they should be reading or re-reading next.