Narrowing down the best Agatha Christie books is no small feat. Christie’s novels are known worldwide, and the characters, such as Belgian Detective Hercule Poirot and his trusty assistants, Captain Arthur Hastings and Miss Marple, have become household names. This article will highlight some of Christie’s most beloved books, as well as the best of Christie’s characters and mysteries. Years after her death, many are still buying and reading her work.
The Best Agatha Christie Books, Plays and Short Stories
In no particular order, the following is a list of the best Agatha Christie books, based on sales, reader reviews, and readability.
1. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Voted the best crime novel ever written, this is the third novel featuring Belgian Detective Hercule Poirot, a quirky older detective with an interesting personality and a funny mustache. This is one of the most loved and best written of the Hercule Poirot mysteries.
This mystery finds Hercule Poirot retired from the country when a wealthy neighbor, Roger Ackroyd, is stabbed to death in his office. Coming out of retirement, this is one of the best Hercule Poirot mysteries. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was published in 1926 by William Collins and remains one of the quintessential Christie reads.
2. The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Christie’s first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, is a locked-room mystery. In this first of Christie’s novels, a wealthy heiress, Emily Inglethorpe, is found dead, poisoned, in her locked bedroom. This Christie novel introduces Hercule Poirot. It also introduces Arthur Hastings and Inspector Japp, who are often characters in Christie’s books.
Fond of accusing, or at the very least suspecting everyone of the crime, Hercule Poirot moves about this Christie novel in suspicion of every member of the victim’s family, eliminating them one by one, until the shocking twist ending that very few readers can see coming. The Mysterious Affair at Styles is not only the first Christie’s book, but it is one of Christie’s best.
3. Murder at the Vicarage
The first of Agatha Christie’s books to feature Christie’s lovable and unassuming Miss Marple, a lovely old spinster from St. Mary Mead, this an interesting and fun read. Miss Marple is an elderly lady who acts as an amateur detective and attempts to solve murders with her deductive reasoning and quick wit. Before this novel featured her, she was in Agatha Christie’s short stories.
This story is about finding the killer of a man that literally no one liked. With more suspects and people with cause to kill him than any one detective should have to sort through, this is a great book to try if you’d like to read Agatha Christie. It is a great start to the Miss Marple novels.
4. The ABC Murders
Another novel featuring Hercule Poirot, the premise of this book is brilliant and keeps the reader on their toes and on the edge of their seat. Agatha Christie truly created a masterpiece when she penned this novel. It features one of the first “serial killer” storylines seen in a mystery novel.
In The ABC Murders, a serial killer is killing people based upon their names’ letters in alphabetical order. His first victim, for example, is Alice Ascher from Andover. His second victim is Better Bernard from Bexhill. Then, Sir Carmichael Clarke was killed in Churston. Hercule Poirot has to try to get ahead of this deranged killer and figure out who the next target is before the killer strikes.
5. Crooked House
Crooked House is not a part of a series, and it does not feature any of the well known characters that Agatha Christie’s books are known for. However, it remains one of Agatha Christie’s best books.
Again, death by poison (if you have not figured it out, poison is a favorite instrument of murder for Christie). Charles Hayward, the investigator, has many suspicions, one of which is the widow of the victim, who is 50 years younger than her wealthy husband. This title, Crooked House, is a play on the nursery rhyme “There was a Crooked Man,” and is wildly popular among Christie fans.
6. Murder on the Orient Express
Another locked room murder mystery, Murder on the Orient Express, is one of the most popular of the Poirot books. In this book, the Orient Express, a train, is stopped overnight due to weather, and by the next morning, a man is found stabbed to death (Agatha Christie was also a fan of a good stabbing murder when poison was not called for).
The real mystery on the Orient Express? The man stabbed to death is found in his train compartment, which is locked, from the inside. He investigates in the fashion he is known for: suspecting everyone literally. This mystery novel featuring Christie’s famous detective has more twists and turns than you can count, and the way that Christie writes it takes genius. Murder on the Orient Express has also been developed into a hit movie.
7. Death on the Nile
In Death on the Nile, Hercule Poirot tackles a murder investigation on a Nile cruise. Approached and asked for help by newlywed Linnet, who suspects that her former best friend is after her and means to kill her, Monsieur Poirot is suspicious of more people than the friend when Linnet winds up dead, plot twists abound. On a boat with nowhere to escape investigation, this classic detective story with a fun setting and a mystery that is intriguing is arguably the best Agatha Christie book.
8. Endless Night
One of the last books written by Christie, this one is much darker in nature and tone than most of Christie’s other stories. Told by narrator Michael Rogers, a blue-collar worker who marries a paranoid wealthy woman, this is the story that is a slow burn, and when the crime finally occurs, things are nearly hopeless.
Consumed by the obsession and claim that she will be killed, Ellie, Michael’s wife, proves herself right when her body is found in the forest. Unfortunately, this is not the only murder. This is a dark tale of vengeance, anger, and paranoia, all wrapped up in a great mystery novel.
9. Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case
Published in 1975 but written during World War II, this is the novel where we say goodbye to the much-loved Poirot series. Christie pulls out all the stops for him, giving the reader the send-off that she feels, and many readers feel, he deserved. Going back to where he started in her tales, Poirot is now very old and takes on one last case. Taking her time to develop the plot fully and giving the old detective as much glory as she can manage, this sad tale written during a world war sends Poirot out with a bang.
It should be mentioned that this is the only case in which the New York Times has given a front-page obituary to a fictional character, but they did so to honor this much-loved character of crime fiction. Agatha Christie died shortly after this book’s release.
10. A Murder is Announced
This is one of the best Marple books there is, and this book sees the sharp Miss Marple take the lead as the protagonist, rather than the secondary character that readers are used to seeing her play in many Miss Marple books and short stories.
In this odd murder mystery, a killer puts an ad in the local newspaper in the village Marple is staying at that announces that there will be a murder, even citing the time, day, and place. Everyone is sure that it must be a joke, but the detective from so many of Christie’s short stories cannot resist the urge to find out for herself, deciding to show up at the designated time, day, and place.
11. Peril at End House
In Peril at End House, we see Poirot and Hastings again, which is one wild story. A woman who has survived several murder attempts in the course of a day must try, with help, to figure out who is trying to end her life before the next attempt is successful. This book features suspects in a guest house, a shifty maid, and wild party-going friends, all of whom are suspects.
12. Five Little Pigs
This is an after-the-fact whodunnit, and it again features Hercule Poirot. In this story, Caroline Crale, who died in prison while serving a sentence for poisoning her husband, sends a letter to her daughter, who does not receive the correspondence until after her mother’s death. Caroline Crale writes a moving letter maintaining her innocence in the murder she was convicted of and begs her daughter to look deeper into the case so that her name can be cleared, even after her death.
With the help of Christie’s best-known character, Poirot, five witnesses to the husband’s death write statements of what they witnessed years ago, and Poirot agrees that the plot is more twisted than a simple case of the wife killing the husband.
13. And Then There Were None
This is one of the most famous novels in the mystery genre by any author and for a good reason. In this story, ten strangers are invited to a private island by a mysterious man, and upon arriving, they realize that their host is nowhere to be found. One by one, guests start dying, and the few clues that exist must be investigated fully so that the guests can get off the island alive. This is one of the best crime books published.
14. The Man in the Brown Suit
A young woman named Anne sees a man die by falling onto subway tracks. Upon inspection, she finds a note in his pocket with an address. Curious, Anne goes to the address and finds a dead woman. This mystery unravels as Anne tries to figure out what is going on.
15. The Body in the Library
Another Miss Marple book is the odd tale of a family who wakes one morning to find a woman they do not know dead in their home. Possibly connected to other crimes, Miss Marple is on the case and must solve this odd crime before the murderer strikes again. Solving crimes amid sundry characters is a specialty of this amateur sleuth.
16. Evil Under the Sun
Another Hercule Poirot story, this book has him searching for the killer of a young woman who is found strangled on a beach. Full of twists and turns, this book is sure to keep you guessing.
15. 4:50 From Paddington
In this fun mystery, a woman witnesses a murder on a passing train and cannot get anyone to believe her when she tells them what she saw. Turning to Miss Marple for help, the mystery unfolds.
16. Poirot Investigates
In this collection of short stories, Poirot solves several mini crimes that keep the audience entertained and on the edge of their seat. Entertaining as always, Hercule Poirot proves that readers much love his crime-solving abilities.
17. The Secret Adversary
This is the first book that features a couple, Tommy and Tuppence, who start a business in which they solicit themselves for adventure. Hired to solve a case of a missing person abducted half a decade prior, this is a fun read of two people trying their hand at detective work.
18. Cards on the Table
The odd story of a man who invites eight people to a card game, in which half of them are detectives, and the other half have been accused or suspected of murder at some point. The host is killed right out in the open, and chaos ensues. To add to the fun, one of the guests is Hercule Poirot.
19. Appointment with Death
This story features Mrs. Boynton, a horrible, abusive mother who ends up killed with nothing but one small puncture wound to suggest she was stabbed by something. Hercule Poirot only has 24 hours to figure out who killed the terrible woman.
20. Murder in Mesopotamia
Narrated by a young nurse assistant of Hercule Poirot, a brutal murder takes place at an excavation site in Iraq, and the assistant and detective must figure out who is behind the murder.
21. The Mousetrap
A play, the longest-running one in history, in fact, this is a classic whodunnit murder mystery that has been in a stage production since the early 1950s.
22. The Moving Finger
Again featuring Marple, this book features a poisonous pen that writes letters and is then sent to victims. Marple has to figure out who the sender is.
23. Sleeping Murder
The last of the Agatha Christie books tells a complicated story of a woman who moves into an old house, but seems to have memories and knowledge of the house she could not possibly have since she maintains that she’s never been there before. This is a darker tale than most of the other Agatha Christie books but an incredible read non-the-less.