It's been a goal of mine for several years now to read all the Agatha Christies. I'm making a slow dive into that expansive list with a few Poirots here and a few Marples there. #ReadChristie2020 is a challenge for readers worldwide who want to read more from the Queen of Mystery this year. As such, this blog post is dedicated to every Christie I've read in 2020, and I'll be updating it throughout the year as I read more of her work.
This post will not contain spoilers! You are free to read without risk! :)
Book 1: The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Hercule Poirot #1
Date Read: May 10-12
My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5)
Summary: Against the backdrop of WW1, Hercule Poirot, a Belgian refugee and detective, takes on the case of the death of Mrs. Inglethorp, the wealthy matron of Styles Court who dies suddenly by strychnine poisoning. The circumstances surrounding her death at first appear to be a straightforward murder, but the mystery proves no such thing. Everyone at Styles Court is harboring secrets—from Mrs. Inglethorp's much younger husband, her vengeful step-sons, a specialist on poisons who happens to be in the neighborhood at the time of the murder, and the young pharmacist in residence at Styles.
What I thought...
I think this might have just made it to one of my all-time favorite Christies, and that's saying a lot! This is a fantastic introduction to Poirot—and Christie as a whole. The plot and characters were top-notch, and I enjoyed seeing the beginning of Hastings and Poirot's working relationship. As usual, Christie kept me guessing through every twist and turn, and through just about every page I changed my mind as to 'whodunnit' until Poirot finally explains to us exactly what his "little grey cells" have been up to. After reading, I went ahead and watched the adaptation from ITV's Poirot starring David Suchet, and was delighted to see that Poldark's Trenwith House was used as Styles Court!
Book 2: The A.B.C. Murders
Hercule Poirot #13
Date Read: May 16-17
My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3/5)
Poirot receives a mysterious letter from a plotting serial killer: A is for Mrs. Ascher in Andover, B is for Betty Barnard in Bexhill, C is for Sir Carmichael Clarke in Churchston. How long will the killer continue down the alphabet until his identity is discovered? The murders appear to be only connected by the alphabet—but is something bigger underlying the killer's scheme, linking these murders together?
What I thought...
This one's a fan-favorite, so I had my hopes up, but all in all, this Poirot just wasn't my cup of tea. Unlike Poirot's usual cases, the serial killer mystery seemed too dissimilar to all the cozy cleverness I usually expect from Christie. The book works backwards, deviating from her usual style; we know who the enigmatic A.B.C. is early on, while we wait for Poirot to catch on to his heels. There's plenty of twists and turns, barring spoilers, but the ending's revelations felt too abrupt and twisted. I didn't feel like Christie gave us time to actually wrap our heads around the bigger mystery before it was revealed. With that said, I definitely thought about this one for a while after reading and have grown to appreciate it more since finishing it. Though it wasn't to my personal taste, it's worth a read, and a vast majority of mystery lovers hold this one up high as a Christie favorite. I will add that ITV's Poirot with David Suchet did a fantastic adaptation of this one, and it made me appreciate this enigmatic book even more.
Book 3: The Murder on the Links
Hercule Poirot #2
Date Read: August 28-30
My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4/5)
Hercule Poirot receives a mysterious letter from a French businessman who believes his life hangs in the balance of imminent murder. Poirot and Hastings make the venture down to the client's French villa only to discover that they're too late—the man has already been killed, stabbed in the back with a pen-knife. A host of neighbors and relatives make for suspects, and it's up to Poirot to figure out the truth behind a case that links to another more than ten years previously. . .
What I thought...
I really enjoyed this one! It wasn't quite as good as Styles, but really, it was pretty clever. What really drove me to read this one was my complete love and adoration for Hastings, knowing as I did that he is involved in a certain romance in this book—one that I won't spoil! And happily it didn't disappoint. This was a real twisty Christie, relying a lot on past events and red herrings and lies and betrayal—but I seemed to be able to guess what they were before Poirot revealed them, which actually made me feel pretty smug. Christie has always fooled me—but not this time! I guessed "whodunnit" about half-way through, which surprised me a bit, as usually my imagination gets carried away reading her books and I imagine all sorts of unlikely things—but ha, they were true! So, all in all, I was satisfied. The David Suchet episode which I watched afterward was the only let-down as far as I'm concerned. It muddled the cleverness of Christie within the first minute! :(
Book 4: Peril at End House
Hercule Poirot #8
Date Read: September 7-8
My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4.5/5)
While on holiday in Cornwall, Poirot and Hastings chance upon a young woman who has had three attempts on her life in the last three days—one, a heavy-framed painting above her bed almost crashes down on her in the night; two, her car is tampered with; three, a loosened boulder almost crushes her in its path. The young Nick Buckley of mysterious End House is in great peril, and Poirot makes it his mission to stop the killer before the next attempt meets a fatal success.
What I thought...
Christie is incredible at keeping you on your toes, as shes faithfully proves in this clever little book. I felt this one was a tad more immersive than Links, and from the get-go I was completely engaged with this carefree Nick Buckley and the strange events that nearly cost her her life. Her circle of friends proved a most curious mix of characters, as well as her Aussie lodgers, wacky servants, and interesting relations. A lot of this book was mainly anticipation and fear—that Poirot would be too late, that the next attempt would be a success, or a new tragedy would strike. What did happen was utterly brilliant. I cannot say a word about the ending, because no words could possibly be allowed from me without spoiling a shred of the genius and treachery of this "whodunnit." I certainly was fooled, but then, Christie fools me so often I've learned to accept it! Per usual, afterwards I watched the corresponding episode with David Suchet—which really went above and beyond my expectations. Having been severely let down with the production of Links (above), this one was just superb, from the casting to the screenplay. Agatha would have approved, I think!
I'll continue to add more of my Christie reads of the year to this post, next of which being the first Miss Marple mystery: Murder at the Vicarage. Christie confession time—I'm a complete novice to Marple! I've read so much Poirot that the idea of meeting someone new seems a bit strange—like I'm being disloyal to the beloved Belgian detective I've grown to love so much! But I'm certain I will warm up to Miss Marple in no time. Let's find out together! You can be sure I'll update this post as soon as I hit the next one.