Tuesday Night Bloggers: A is for Agatha – What’s Your Favourite?

It’s been a while since I joined in with my fellow bloggers on the Tuesday Night Bloggers – do check out Moira at Clothes In Books for my fellow bloggers posts – but sometimes something comes along that just seems appropriate. Now before you run a mile from yet another “Best Agatha Christie Novel” post, let me explain a little. This is about my (and hopefully your) favourite Christie book. Not the cleverest, most intricately constructed mystery, not the book with the best characterisation but my favourite mystery.

What provoked this was some tweets from Sophie Hannah on Twitter. They read:

“Since 9/2013, I’ve been asked loads ‘What’s your favourite Agatha Christie novel?’ I’ve always answered – disapprove of shirking such Qs…”

“But each time, while saying ‘Orient Express’ or ‘ATTWNone’ or whatev, I’ve secretly thought, ‘But am I sure that’s my top fave?’ Not really.”

“Now, however, all that has changed. Have just reread my true one-and-only fave and realised that that’s what it is – for sure and for ever.”

“And so I am about to tell you which Agatha book it is…”

“Ta-da! The Hollow – I believe this to be Agatha’s best ever book. And it’s deffo my fave.”

And I disagreed. But Twitter wasn’t the place to get into such discussions, not when I’ve got a convenient blog to bang on about this idea. So off we go.

First off, why not The Hollow? Well, probably for the simple reason that I first read it very recently. It was sitting on our bookshelves when I was young and starting to get into Dame Agatha’s works but for some reason, I never got past the first chapter. Honestly can’t remember why, but I never got very far into it. So when I reviewed it six years ago on the blog, that was the first (and only) that I read it, and having read a lot of mysteries, especially Dame Agatha’s, the murderer was to me incredibly obvious. Despite the stronger than normal characterisation (which actually counted against the whodunit element), a mystery where I spot the murderer before the halfway mark is never going to work for me these days…

So what is my favourite? My snap reaction when I replied on Twitter was Mrs McGinty’s Dead, mostly for the relatively light tone and humour, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised this wasn’t the actual answer to the question. It’s a book that I really enjoy, but it’s not my favourite. Certainly The ABC Murders is always near the top of any list of quality Agatha Christie tales, but my favourite is a book that if I’d read it when I read The Hollow, it probably wouldn’t have come close. But I didn’t.

I read Peril At End House early on in my Christie reading. I was… I don’t know, 12 or 13 at the time. Utterly unaware of Dame Agatha’s favourite tricks, it was only my second Agatha Christie novel. Maybe my third. I’d certainly read The ABC Murders and I might have read A Murder Is Announced (which is pretty close to being my favourite*). But the reason Peril… is my favourite is that 12 year old me solved it. Not just guessing who the killer is – let’s face it, Christie plays this trick in more than one book – but getting motive, spotting the clues… basically everything. And I loved it.

It’s one of the books that got me hooked on Dame Agatha and while when I revisited it, it suffered when you know what’s going on – and Poirot does come across as being a bit of a thickie – but I’ve got such fond memories of this one. Definitely my favourite Christie novel because of what it led to for me.

So, over to you. What’s your favourite? I’ve had some responses on Twitter.

@FittenTrim says: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: Plays fair, dark & twisted. I figured it out early, enjoyed the game she played with readers until the reveal.

@Bonastre1 says: My favourite AC is “Five Little Pigs“. I have always loved the multiple narrative perspectives à la Wilkie Collins.

So what’s your favourite, dear reader?

*Oh, A Murder Is Announced is my second favourite for exactly the same reason. Solved that one good and proper too…

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22 comments

  1. I do really like And Then There Were None, but I think I may also have been influenced by film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s books, as some of my favourites are Death on the Nile, Evil Under the Sun and The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side. Five Little Pigs is quite different and more ‘experimental’, so that deserves a shout-out.

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  2. I think Ten Little Niggers is the greatest whodunit novel so I’ll go for this one.

    I also like Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile and The A.B.C. Murders.

    BUT If I have to pick one less known novel I’ll go for Murder in Mesopotamia, a very good locked room (Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is another good one)

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      • In french it’s still “10 petits nègres” (=Ten little Niggers) but if you prefer And then there were none it’s ok, it’s a good song by Exodus 🙂

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      • It’s society that prefers it, not me. I’ve also seen “Ten Little Indians” and “Ten Little Soldiers.”

        Also, “nègres” is not an accurate translation of that word.

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      • I understand this point of view ;-), it is just that there is no new title for this book in French or for the adaptations in movies or television series (like the last one of the BBC withe the “soldiers”).

        On the other hand the novel Halloween Party was first published under the title “the feast of the pumpkin” (la fête du potiron) because nobody, in the early ’70s, knew Halloween in France or Belgium.

        Now that it is well established in our culture the novel has been reissued under the title “the crime of Halloween” (le crime d’Halloween) 😉

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  3. I noticed those tweets from Hannah as well and was surprised shall we say by her choice. As to my own favourite Christie novel I may be able to get back to you in 2117 when I’ve finally made my mind up! Heck if the world depended on me to save it by picking my absolute favourite Christie novel then I would certainly fear for the world’s safety.

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  4. ATTWN was the first I read and Orient Express the second. A Caribbean Mystery was my first Marple. I was 11/12. You don’t get over the influence something like that has on you. Agatha Christie has been in an important influence in my life for many years, and those first books will always remain very special for that reason. Now I have twenty “favorites!”

    But my absolute favorite Christie – if you force me to choose- is After the Funeral.

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  5. I love a lot of her books but, being a “destination” reader rather than a “journey” reader (that is, the effectiveness of the solution is the most important element to me), there are three works the remain more satisfying than all the others, and continually vie for first place in my estimation: And Then There Were None, Death on the Nile, and Five Little Pigs.

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  6. My favorite varies between And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express. ATTWN probably takes honors because I enjoy it so much every time I read it (and it doesn’t matter that I know the solution). I also love that it has been such a good ambassador in making new Christie fans. I’ve recommended it over and over throughout the years (with added enticement that if anyone could honestly say they figured it out before the end of the book I would buy them dinner. I’ve had no winners in 25+ years). MotOE was my very first Christie, so it gets nostalgia points to go along with enjoyment.

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  7. ABC Murders was my first AC book aged 11/12 yrs old & so is my nostalgic favourite (it also had a fair spattering of french which I proudly translated from embryo school french lessons). I also have fond memories of Sparkling Cyanide (possibly my 2nd AC read) because it was my first ‘mistaken victim’ plot, which set me up for spotting that particular device in all future mystery reads. Death on the Nile & any others set abroad are also fondly remembered as providing a bit of exotic interest to a child reading in a very rural English village that did not boast its own Miss Marple. On the other hand, I felt totally cheated by the outcome of Murder on the Orient Express – how was I supposed to work that out aged 11? – although in retrospect I could appreciate the cleverness.

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  8. Probably Evil Under the Sun or One, Two, Buckle My Shoe. In terms of the sheer warmth of joy that I get from her books, these two are the ones that bring it out most strongly in my memory. And Seven Dials, too, though that works for a much different reason.

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    • Appointment With Death is a bit of a contender for me – because for a long time I was unaware of its existence. Pre-internet, it was like discovering a long lost Poirot. And it’s a cracking read too.

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  9. The first Christie novel I read was “Murder is Easy” and I would pick it as a favourite due to the atmosphere it created of a hidden menace in an outwardly sunny and idyllic village. Perhaps it is nostalgia and I’m not sure if it is as sophisticated as some of her other work but there it is.

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  10. My favorite is The Secret of Chimneys, because I wanted to be that woman everyone fell in love with, but I’ll always have a soft spot for The Body in the Library, because it was the first one I read.

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