This personal project is inspired by the realization that though I still own a large quantity of Agatha Christie’s mystery novels, short story collections, and even most of her romance novels written under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott, I haven’t actually read any of her works for years.
While high school students in the late 1970s, a fellow bookworm friend and I attempted to read all of the Christie mysteries, and though we missed a few, we came close to succeeding in that goal. The AGATHA CHRISTIE PROJECT is my solo revisitation of that ambitious undertaking. This time around, I will be proceeding in CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER (by date of publication), and I will be including the short stories as well as the Westmacott romances.
I will be attempting to keep my reviews fairly condensed, and I promise not to reveal the solutions!
Accompanying me on this journey of rediscovery will be Agatha Christie’s own An Autobiography (1977), and Charles Osborne’s The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie (1982). I suspect this will stretch over a few years, as an unrelieved diet of Dame Agatha’s fare would be rather hard to digest, pleasant though the stories are in isolation from each other.
THE AGATHA CHRISTIE PROJECT
July 2013 to ???
Click on the highlighted titles for longer reviews
THE MYSTERY NOVELS
1. The Mysterious Affair at Styles ~ 1920
- Read & Reviewed: July 2013
- My Rating: 7/10
- Setting: An English country House, Styles Court, Essex. Sometime during the Great War.
- Detection by: HERCULE POIROT, with “assistance” from CAPTAIN HASTINGS (narrator); INSPECTOR JAPP of Scotland Yard is introduced.
- Final Body Count: 1
- Method(s) of Death: POISON – strychnine
- 100 Word Plot Summary: When wealthy Mrs. Inglethorpe succumbs to a dose of strychnine, suspicion immediately falls upon her much younger (and forbiddingly black-bearded) second husband, Albert. But the philandering Albert has an ironclad alibi, as do all of the other members of the Styles Court ménage. Could it be the sweet young pharmacy assistant, with her easy access to poisons? Or either of Mrs. Inglethorpe’s adult sons, hard up for cash and living on their mother? Her daughter-in-law, cool and unemotional? Her lady housekeeper, outspoken and jealously loyal? Or perhaps the sinister German-Jewish doctor, who just happens to be an expert on poisons?
2. The Secret Adversary ~ 1922
- Read & Reviewed: August 2013
- My Rating: 7/10
- Setting: Mostly London, with a few excursions into the countryside; immediately post Great War, 1919.
- Detection by: Thomas Beresford (TOMMY) and Prudence Cowley (a.k.a. TUPPENCE).
- Final Body Count: 2
- Method(s) of Death: POISON – death #1 from an overdose of chloral , and death #2 by cyanide
- 100 Word Plot Summary: Who is Jane Finn, and why has she vanished after escaping from the sinking Lusitania with a secret document entrusted to her by its doomed courier? That paper could have changed the course of the war, but why is the British Secret Service still keen to recover it now, 5 years later? Why the competing hunt by a group of Bolshevik anarchists, led by the mysterious “Mr Brown”? Tommy Beresford and “Tuppence” Cowley, newly demobbed and desperate for jobs, join forces and market their services to Jane Finn’s rich American cousin, whose interest in her seems just a little overenthusiastic…
3. The Murder on the Links ~ 1923
- Read & Reviewed: August 2013
- My Rating: 7.5/10
- Setting: Mostly in the vicinity of Merlinville, France, at the estate of expatriate English millionaire Mr. Renauld.
- Detection by: HERCULE POIROT with continual accompaniment and occasional assistance by CAPTAIN HASTINGS. A fellow detective, MONSIEUR GIRAUD of the Paris Sûreté, is in official charge of the case; he and Poirot despise each other instantly.
- Final Body Count: 2
- Method(s) of Death: STABBING – both times with a paper knife made from airplane wire. (But all may be not as it as first seems.)
- 100 Word Plot Summary: Hercule Poirot receives a panicked letter from an English millionaire living in France: “For God’s sake, come!” Poirot and Hasting hasten to France, but arrive mere hours after Mr. Renauld’s stabbed corpse is found, in a half-dug grave on the unfinished golf course next to his estate. Mrs. Renauld is found bound and gagged in her bedroom; two bearded thugs are the suspects. But why can’t they be tracked? Why was the dead man’s son secretly in the neighbourhood that night? And what is the connection with a number of beautiful women who continually pop up, including Hastings’ latest crush?
4. The Man in the Brown Suit ~ 1924
- Read & Reviewed: September 2013
- My Rating: 8.5/10
- Setting: London; the steamship Kilmorden Castle en route to Africa; South Africa; Rhodesia.
- Detection by: MISS ANNE BEDDINGFELD; the strong, silent and slightly mysterious COLONEL RACE makes a first appearance.
- Final Body Count: 2
- Method(s) of Death: FALLING UNDER A TRAIN; STRANGLING.
- 100 Word Plot Summary: Newly orphaned archaeologist’s daughter Anne Beddingfeld is off to see the world. After witnessing a gruesome and fatal “accident”, following a suspected murderer, and finding a mysterious clue on a scrap of paper, Anne sets sail for South Africa. Sinister happenings ensue, but her newly acquired paternalistic protector, Sir Eustace, will surely see that she comes to no permanent harm. But which of the two masterful men sharing the voyage, Colonel Race and the elusive Man in the Brown Suit, can she trust? Who strangled the dancer Nadina back in England? And what about that film canister of raw diamonds?
5. The Secret of Chimneys ~ 1925
- Read & Reviewed: October 2013
- My Rating: 6/10
- Setting: Briefly in Africa, with most of the action taking place in the stately English country house, “Chimneys”.
- Detection by: SUPERINTENDENT BATTLE of Scotland Yard and various international colleagues; ANTHONY CADE and several aristocratic acquaintances.
- Final Body Count: 3 in this narrative; more in the background story.
- Method(s) of Death: SINGLE PISTOL SHOT x 3.
- 100 Word Plot Summary: Anthony Cade, international adventurer, comes into a double commission to deliver a politically sensitive Herzoslovakian manuscript of memoirs and a bundle of blackmailing letters to England. Both appear to be in high demand and swap hands several times; two men are shot, and the diplomatic and aristocratic guests at stately country home “Chimneys” are embroiled in multiple mysteries. Hidden identities, a violent revolutionary society, an accomplished jewel thief, a fabulous diamond, coded letters, secret passages and misleading clues… Can anyone be trusted? Is anyone really who they appear to be? And who does beautiful young widow Virginia Revel really love?
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd ~ 1926
- The Big Four ~ 1927
- The Mystery of the Blue Train ~ 1928
- The Seven Dials Mystery ~ 1929
- The Murder at the Vicarage ~ 1930
- The Sittaford Mystery, or Murder at Hazelmoor ~ 1931
- Peril at End House ~ 1932
- Lord Edgeware Dies, or Thirteen at Dinner ~ 1933
- Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, or The Boomerang Clue ~ 1934
- Murder on the Orient Express ~1934
- Three-Act Tragedy, or Murder in Three Acts ~ 1935
- Death in the Clouds ~ 1935
- The ABC Murders ~ 1935
- Murder in Mesopotamia ~ 1935
- Cards on the Table ~ 1936
- Death on the Nile ~ 1937
- Dumb Witness, or Poirot Loses a Client ~ 1937
- Appointment with Death ~ 1938
- Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, or Murder for Christmas ~ 1938
- Murder is Easy, or Easy to Kill ~ 1939
- Ten Little Niggers, or Ten Little Indians, or And Then There Were None ~ 1939
- Sad Cypress ~ 1940
- One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, or The Patriotic Murders ~ 1940
- Evil Under the Sun ~ 1941
- N or M? ~ 1941
- The Body in the Library ~ 1942
- The Moving Finger ~ 1942
- Five Little Pigs, or Murder in Retrospect ~ 1943
- Towards Zero, or Come and Be Hanged ~ 1944
- Death Comes as the End ~ 1945
- The Hollow, or Murder After Hours ~ 1946
- Taken at the Flood, or There is a Tide ~ 1948
- Crooked House ~ 1949
- A Murder is Announced ~ 1950
- They Came to Baghdad ~ 1951
- Mrs McGinty’s Dead, or Blood Will Tell ~ 1952
- They Do It With Mirrors, or Murder with Mirrors ~ 1952
- A Pocketful of Rye ~ 1953
- After the Funeral, or Funerals are Fatal ~ 1953
- Destination Unknown, or So Many Steps to Death ~ 1954
- Hickory Dickory Dock, or Hickory Dickory Death ~ 1955
- Dead Man’s Folly ~ 1956
- 4.50 From Paddington, or What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw ~ 1957
- Ordeal by Innocence ~ 1958
- Cat Among the Pigeons ~ 1959
- The Pale Horse ` 1961
- The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side ~ 1962
- The Clocks ~ 1963
- A Caribbean Mystery ~ 1964
- At Bertram’s Hotel ~ 1965
- Third Girl ~ 1966
- Endless Night ~ 1967
- By the Pricking of My Thumbs ~ 1968
- Hallowe’en Party ~ 1969
- Passenger to Frankfurt ~ 1970
- Nemesis ~ 1971
- Elephants Can Remember ~ 1972
- Postern of Fate ~ 1973
- Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case ~ 1975
- Sleeping Murder: Miss Marple’s Last Case ~ 1976
THE SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS
- Poirot Investigates ~ 1924
- Partners in Crime ~ 1929
- The Mysterious Mr Quin ~ 1930
- The Thirteen Problems, or The Tuesday Club Murders ~ 1932
- The Hound of Death ~ 1933
- The Listerdale Mystery ~ 1934
- Parker Pyne Investigates ~ 1934
- Murder in the Mews, or Dead Man’s Mirror ~ 1937
- The Regatta Mystery ~ 1939
- The Labours of Hercules ~ 1947
- Witness for the Prosecution and other stories ~ 1948
- Three Blind Mice and other stories ~ 1950
- The Under Dog and other stories ~ 1951
- The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding ~ 1960
- Double Sin ~ 1961
- Star Over Bethlehem and other stories ~ 1965
- The Golden Ball and other stories ~ 1971
- Poirot’s Early Cases ~ 1974
- Miss Marple’s Final Cases and two other stories ~ 1979
THE ROMANCE NOVELS
- Giants’ Bread ~ Mary Westmacott ~ 1930
- Unfinished Portrait ~ Mary Westmacott ~ 1934
- Absent in the Spring ~ Mary Westmacott ~ 1944
- The Rose and the Yew Tree ~ Mary Westmacott ~ 1947
- A Daughter’s a Daughter ~ Mary Westmacott ~ 1952
- The Burden ~ Mary Westmacott ~ 1956
OTHER RELATED READS
- The Road of Dreams ~ poems ~ 1924
- Black Coffee ~ a play in three acts ~ 1930
- The Floating Admiral ~ in collaboration with The Detection Club ~ 1931
- Akhnaton ~ a play ~ written in 1937, published in 1973
- Come, Tell Me How You Live ~ memoirs ~ 1946
- The Mousetrap ~ a play ~ 1952
- Spider’s Web ~ a play ~ 1954
- Verdict ~ a play ~ 1958
- The Unexpected Guest ~ a play ~1958
- Rule of Three ~ three one-act plays ~ 1962
- Fiddlers Three ~ a play ~ 1972
- Poems ~ a reprint of The Road of Dreams, plus a second volume ~ 1973
- An Autobiography ~ 1977