Thursday, September 15, 2011

Happy Birthday Agatha Christie!! (1890 - 1976)

I specialize in murders of quiet, domestic interest.

Today is the birth date of the doyenne of crime writers, Agatha Christie. Where on earth would we all be without her prolific output of wonderful books, I don't care to think - over the years these same books have just given us so much pleasure. I graduated from Nancy Drew straight to Christie and thus began my life long love of the whodunit, not to mention all things British.

The Golden Age of Mysteries would not have been nearly as golden without Christie. She was an incomparable. So I say, thank goodness for  Dame Agatha and a very Happy Birthday to her. Wherever she may be, I'm sure she's still spinning mysteries.

Today's post will link up with Kerrie Smith's blog, MYSTERIES IN PARADISE since she hosts the monthly Agatha Christie Carnival AND the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. Be sure and take a look to see what other Christie fans are posting today in celebration of The Birthday.

Be sure and check out the fun Agatha Christie Quiz at CONFESSIONS OF A MYSTERY NOVELIST. I did and I only got a 90. Missed one question. Shame on me.

To read more about Agatha Christie, her life and work, please go here.


Rather than one review I thought (since I seem to be in a listing mood) I'd list my Top Ten Favorite Agatha Christie books - this week - the list is fluid. In fact, I may have posted a list of favorite Christies before. If so, consider today's list the latest Official List. (Until next time.)


Who'd ever think of committing one murder and hiding it within several assorted murders to avoid being the immediate suspect?

Agatha Christie that's who. She was the first, far as I know, to come up with this devious plot device. Consequently this sort of murder is now referred to as an ABC. Ingenious.

When Poirot receives an anonymous letter taunting his prowess and stating that a murder will be committed soon, he worries that the letter may not, in fact, be from a mad man. He is right. The first murder is just the beginning of a curious, confounding case.

Poirot's old cohort in arms, Hastings, is visiting from South America and they're soon working together again to catch a cold-blooded killer.

2) THE PALE HORSE (1961)

A terrific standalone minus Poirot or Miss Marple, this strange tale of murder for hire disguised as murder by witchcraft is one of Christie's best and weirdest plots. This time out it's police surgeon Jim Corrigan's turn to solve the crime when he finds a list of names in the personal effects of a brutally murdered priest.

This investigation leads him to a criminal conspiracy which defies belief, but Christie makes it all work. THE PALE HORSE reveals the conspirators early on, but the final brilliant stroke is left for the unveiling of the master criminal and the how to of the actual crimes which have stumped the police. Beware of red herrings!


In the village of Chipping Cleghorn, everyone turns to the personal ads at the back of the Gazette to keep abreast of who is doing what in the small community. Imagine the surprise when a murder is announced in advance. Of course, the curious turn up at the home of Letitia Blacklock, at the intended hour, ready for a murder game of some sort - sherry and biscuits on the side.

However, Miss Blacklock denies any knowledge of the ad and can't imagine who would play such a terrible joke.

When a young masked man intent on burglary shows up and is promptly shot dead, Miss Marple and the very handsome Detective Inspector Craddock are soon on the case. This is only the first of several nasty murders which will keep you guessing until the very last moment. Christie takes into account the nature of village life and how, by 1950 it had all begun to change dramatically - one of the reasons the killer is able to commit the crimes.


Another wonderful stand alone, though the enigmatic Colonel Race shows up (for the first time) in the middle of the book as a passenger on a ship bound for Capetown, South Africa.

When Anne Beddingfeld, an inventive and imaginative young woman, fixates on the idea of disentangling the mystery behind the man in the brown suit - after she's been a witness to the death of another man in an underground train station - she sets off on the grandest and most dangerous adventure of her life. This is one of Christie's fastest-paced mysteries. It is filled with derring-do, shipboard hi-jinks, romance, and a whole cast of intriguing characters.

None more so than Sir Eustace Pedlar, whose diary advances the plot as we switch viewpoints from Anne to Pedlar and back again.

I've lost track of how many times I've read this. It's one of several books I reach for when I'm feeling weary or ill or just out of sorts. THE MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT will soon set me to rights again.


Another book I reach for time and again because it always cheers me up, most especially when a gloomy winter day comes along.

Chinmeys is one of those enormous English Country Houses where (in books, at least) weekend parties usually consist of shooting harmless birds or small mammals, drinking plenty of whiskey, AND murder. The house in this instance belongs to the inimitable Lord Caterham (one of Christie's most memorable creations) an aristocratic elder with too much charm and probably too much time on his hands. He is one of my favorite characters in the Christie canon.

A whole host of other characters show up for a weekend in the country, despite Caterham's protestations and dislike of politics. The list includes - besides family - a member of Parliament, foreign dignitaries, an American millionaire, a jewel thief, a contingent from a Balkan country whose representative is promptly murdered, and last, but certainly not least, a beautiful woman and a long missing adventurer whose last known gig was as a tour guide in South Africa. When murder is discovered, Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard also joins the ensemble.

Before you can say Herzoslovakia, a murderer is caught, a jewel discovered and a King is placed on his rightful throne.


An escapist adventure set during the time when English tourists still travelled to Baghdad and the Middle East in general. A not-so-secret peace summit (which the Prime Minister as well as the President of the USA will attend) is scheduled to take place in Baghdad and all sorts of mysterious factions convene on Iraq to either make sure the meeting goes without incident or to disrupt the meeting by any means necessary.

In the meantime, a young woman back in England, recently fired from her job, has taken one look at a handsome young man in the park and is instantly smitten. He, unfortunately, is on his way out of the country, headed to Baghdad to work for some sort of peace through Shakespeare mission.  Once he leaves, clutching a photo of Victoria to his bosom, she decides  - on the spur of the moment - that since she has to get a new job anyway, she might as well work in Iraq. Makes sense to me.

How Victoria, the handsome young man, an enigmatic American secretary, an archaeologist, a government agent who is a master of disguises, other spies and various scheming characters all wind up in Baghdad followed by murder, kidnapping and other assorted crimes, is the greatest fun to discover.

Will the peace summit ever take place? Will Victoria get her man? I can guess. Can you?


An ingenious plot, a wretch of a victim deserving of murder and more and a train full of suspects stranded in the snow - the Orient Express of the title.

When a sinister American industrialist is murdered in his train compartment, stabbed several times, Hercule Poirot - a fellow passenger - is entreated to help solve the crime, by a harried train official. He would prefer that when the tracks are finally cleared and the train continues on its way, the murderer be handed over to the authorities - a fait accompli -  thereby limiting the bad publicity.

How Poirot unravels this one is a wonder to behold. Another ingenious mystery which takes place in a controlled environment and yet the killer is not readily apparent.


When Hercule Poirot's London dentist is murdered soon after treating Poirot, the Belgian detective must, of course investigate. Poirot's keen observational skills take notice of a certain shoe buckle which will later help solve a particularly wicked case of  multiple murder. The plot involves a charismatic government official, a long-held secret, a beneficial marriage and a murderer who delights in camouflage.


Hercule Poirot is on holiday on Smuggler's Island, off the English coast, when he is asked to help solve the murder of flamboyant actress Arlena Marshall. Marshall had been vacationing with her hapless husband and estranged young step daughter while at the same time, dallying with a married man who'd traveled to the island with his drudge of a wife, seemingly at Arlena's urging. So all kinds of swirling undercurrents had followed these characters (and several others) to the fun-in-the-sun resort.

Murder, Poirot deduced, could not be far behind.


A Miss Marple mystery which introduces us to the wonderful Lucy Eylesbarrow, one of Christie's more imaginative creations. Lucy is an incredibly proficient and intelligent young woman who'd attended Oxford and graduated at the top of her class, but had decided to go into domestic service rather than follow a more typical career.

An overnight success, Lucy become the darling of rich mamas who doted on her organizational skills with their children, their houses and their lives. She charged the highest fees, could pick and choose who to work for, and never took a contract that would keep her in the same place for more than a few months.

When Miss Marple's friend Mrs. McGillicuddy sees a murder from her train window she goes unbelieved (no body is found on the train or the tracks) by everyone BUT Miss Marple. The elderly spinster/detective realizes she's too old to go snooping about the countryside trying to find a hidden body and more, importantly, a ruthless murderer. So Miss Marple hires Lucy Eylesbarrow to investigate while working as a housekeeper at Crackenthorpe Hall.

The Hall is a large, old fashioned estate directly on the train line Miss McGillicuddy had travelled. Miss Marple brilliantly deduces it is the perfect place to dump a body from a passing train.

Again, we get an eccentric family - the Crackenthorpes - plenty of suspects and several more murders before the egocentric killer is revealed by a Miss Marple ruse.

To see a complete list of all Agatha Christie books, please use this link.

And what else to have today in celebration? Why a Hercule Poirot cake, of course.

(Cake created and posted originally at Cake Central by Shawnag)


  1. Quite an interesting list. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Oh, what an adorable cake! Yvette, I think you are such a good writer. I'm always so impressed with what you have to say and how you say it. Really.
    I've read some of your top ten, but not all. Very interesting about ABC being a type now. I'm very fond of Victoria in TCTB. I don't know if I could list favorites. Sometimes it seems like the one I'm currently reading is the best I've ever read! There have been only a couple that were less wonderful to me.

  3. Hi Yvette -- The earlier Poirot series on BBC had, as David Suchet would say it, "eh, Mees, eh, Lay-MONE". They took her out later, and I would assume they did so to stay more true to the original novel. But the loss of "Mees Lay-mone" disappointed me. I loved that character, and I do not think Agatha Christie would have disapproved. The BBC versions of the Poirot mysteries have always been so good.
    I love Miss Marple too, and my favorite is the novel about the train ride during which she witnesses a murder ... 5:50 to Paddington? Anyway, thanks for another interesting post!

  4. jiescribano: Thanks for dropping by today. :)

  5. Yvette - First, thank you so much for linking up to my post :-). How kind of you!

    And I just love your list of your top ten Christie novels. I just love The ABC Murders myself, and you've listed several others I particularly like, too. Terrific post!

  6. Thank you! I really do appreciate your kind words, Nan.

    My list is fluid, nothing written in stone. Subject to change even by tomorrow. It's the only way I can justify making any sort of list.

    For instance, I see I left off CAT AMONG THE PIGEONS which is one of my all faves too.

    Ah well, I do the best I can with I am given. Ha.

  7. Valerie: Thanks!

    My only quiblle with the BBC later series of adapations of Christie books was that they kept changing the plots! I mean, how can you improve on perfection?

    For instance, in 4:50 FROM PADDINGTON which is on my list of favorites, it's not Miss Marple who sees the initial murder at all.

    See what I mean?

    At any rate, I love David Suchet and also Joan Hickson as the earlier Miss Marple. She was splendid.

    Suchet, of course, was born to play Poirot. :)

  8. Margot: You're more than welcome. I loved the quiz!

    It's hard to go with a definitive list so that's why mine is definitely fluid. :)

    Left off a couple of her more famous books, I know, but it's my own personal list. Subject to change, though, at any moment.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  9. i have loved everytinh i`ve read of hers. thank you for reminding me of her birthday : )

  10. demie: Me too! You're welcome. :)

    So hard to make a list when you love just about everything Christie's ever written too.

  11. Thanks for the list and the cake Yvette and for helping us to celebrate the birthday

  12. Your salute to Agatha Christie reminded me of my favorite Miss Marple, the wonderful Dame Margaret Rutherford. I always thought Agatha Christie and Miss Marple were one and the same.

  13. You're welcome, Kerrie. Plenty of cake to go around. :)

  14. Mark: I always liked Margaret Rutherford but didn't consider her a 'real' Miss Marple since the stories were so greatly changed as to be almost unrecognizable and the Miss Marple of the books was not at all the 'jolly' type.

    Still Rutherford was wonderful as a Miss Marple of her own invention.

    I wonder if Christie thought of herself as Miss Marple-ish. :)

  15. I've enjoyed each Agatha Christie I've ever read (she was even the subject of an English paper in high school), but I haven't read several on your list. More books to read!

  16. Lauren: I've read them all, but truth be told, I've forgotten lots of the plots and also the short stories have goen by the wayside. My memory can only store so much and lately, that's NOT very much.

    All I can say is, you can hardly go wrong with an Agatha Christie book. :)

  17. Hi Yvette, another lovely world. What would be the world without Christie. She was so much a part of my teenage years. Barring a couple, I've read all her books. (It helps that she is still in print and a staple in school libraries). Somehow never enjoyed They Came to Baghdad because I like mysteries about murders set in a small community and not about world domination.

    On another note, since it is BBAW, I can't tell you how much I enjoy your posts and your comments. Thanks a lot. In case, you are interested here's my post:

  18. My own favorite, Yvette, is still "And Then There Were None." Downbeat, to be sure, but it's still one of the best "impossible crime" stories ever written - and, as Christie's explanatory ending chapter points out, there ARE clues - if you are looking closely. There's a Bouchercon panel on Christie coming up tomorrow (Friday) morning, by the way.

  19. Wonderful tribute! Agatha was the most quintessential mystery writer of the last century and her works will endure as classics for all time.

  20. I love those vintage covers, just wonderful. I read every Christie I could get my hands on when I was a teenager & I sometimes go back & reread one. No one could spin a plot like Agatha.

  21. Two authors are a must on every bookshelf. One is Agatha Christie and the other is P.G. Wodehouse. Thanks to my wife's eclectic taste in books and her impressive collection of these two authors, my daughter and I get to read, and enjoy them, too.

  22. I am a HUGE agatha christie fan! This was an amazing post! Thanks for sharing.

  23. neer: Thank you. Your words are especially appreciated on this BBAW or as I like to call it: Be Kind to Book Bloggers Week. :)

    We all have our own Christie favorites. Luckily for all of us she wrote tons of books, so there are plenty to choose from.

  24. Les: I have AND THEN THERE WERE NONE on audio with the actor who plays Hastings narrating.

    I liked the book (have read it several times) but I have to say I would not choose it as a top favorite. It's just too downbeat.

    Please report on the Christie panel!

  25. Pat: I have a suspicion that long after we're all gone, people will still be reading Christie. She is eternal.

  26. lyn: Yes, she was a master at plotting and far as I'm concerned, she was no slouch when it came to characterization either.

  27. Vittle me this: Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed it. We are big Christie fans around here. :)

  28. Terrific post! I am a big Christie mystery fan too. I have also done a post for Agatha Christie's birthday but it's not as good as yours!

    Although I haven't read most of her stand alone books, I do love The Pale Horse. Evil Under the Sun,One, Two, Buckle My Shoe and 4.50 from Paddington are also favourites. A Murder Is Announced was the first Miss Marple I read and remains one of my best loved Miss Marple novels.

  29. wutheringwillow: Oh, for sure. A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED is classic. I also enjoyred the first tv version they did with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. If you haven't seen this one, try and find it. It's wonderful.

    I'm heading over to look at your post. :)

  30. I am not an Agatha Christie follow, although way back in 1537, in the Middle Ages, in high school, I read about the famous Belgian, and his fantastic denouements with cutlasses from Abbyssinia as the weapons.

    I will read The Man in the Brown Suit and a few others I see here.

  31. Kathy: You know that no two people read the same book. (to quote Emerson) so it's okay if you're not a big fan. :)

    There are plenty of us anyway.


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