One day I walked into the school library, hoping to find some adventure books I haven't read before, and stumbled upon this title: After the Funeral. I was hooked instantly by the synopsis, and checked out the book instantly. Later at home I showed the book to my dad (still unsure whether I would want to read about murder), but he encouraged me to, saying that he used to love Agatha Christie too; hers are great detective novels, and seldom contain violent or bloody scenes, which hitherto I've been afraid to find. So I read it, and... LOVED it! After that, monthly bookstore visits became my most exciting moments during high school, because I'd get to pick one or two new Agatha Christie's to bring home. Well, they only lasted several days, and so I'd spend the next weeks in expectant to the next visits!
Now I have read, roughly, about 70 books (mostly during night school and college), and right now I'm in the middle of rereading (or reading if I've missed it before) all Christie's crime novels (omitting the short stories collections) in publication chronological order in the Agatha Christie Perpetual Reading Challenge.
From these rereading I found out that, but few memorable favorites, I've forgotten most of them. However I was lately intrigued by a few bloggers who inquired my opinion on which Christie's to start with. And several days ago I came to realize how many "top ten lists" of Agatha Christie's out there, and thought I might as well publish mine. Not that I'm an expert or something, no! I've forgotten most of them, and am still in the middle of the rereading process anyway. So I will narrow it down to TOP FIVE of my favorites, and most probably I'd change my mind every now and then, but for now, here it is...
MY TOP 5 AGATHA CHRISTIE
FIVE: Towards Zero
This is one unique crime story, the one without murder at the start, or you might call it a murder in the making. Yes, it is! If the murder is the zero point, here's a story of the broilings of many seemingly unrelated events, happening to different people, and the thought of it inside the mind of the murderer-to-be. It provides you with the unique study of a criminal mind.
FOUR: Crooked House
This is one of Christie's "close intimate murder" stories - you know, a crime which happens in a small intimate surrounding, involving close relatives. It's usually the best Poirot's works, but this one is different. First of all, there's no detective. Then there's also the eccentricity of the family, and the feeling that there's always something dark lurking there behind you that sent a chill down your spine throughout the reading. It's one of my most memorable Christie, and you'd ponder a lot about human mind after reading this!
THREE: And Then There Were None
The most thrilling story Christie's
ever written. Ten people are invited to spend holiday in an isolated Island, then, one by one, they are murdered. And as the title's hinted, they were all eventually dead. No survivor and no possibility of outsider, who's the murderer then?? A gripping story, a kind of modern gothic. No wonder it becomes one of the famous ones from Christie.
If you are new reader, please remember NOT to read this first. It's Hercule Poirot's final case, and served as a farewell. It's Poirot's in his ultimate understanding of criminal mind, that without him, no one could have thought that a murderer is in action. For me personally, it's the most memorable and emotional, but it's also the most exquisite murder case. So, read it after you've read all Poirot's other cases (and they are numerous!)
When I narrowed down the list to five, I didn't realize that there're more than that (and damn, it's so hard to pick just, isn't it?) So may I present you with one honorable mention?
HONORABLE MENTION: Peril at End House
Murder case investigation is usually started with murder, right? This one is different. Poirot investigates some murder attempts directed towards a girl, disguised as accidents. This is another interesting study of crime psychology, with an unusual plot twist!
ONE: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
I think this is one of the biggest plot twists ever in detective novels, and probably the most eloquently written by Christie (especially the last chapter!) You'd find it in all the top lists out there, and it's one of Christie's most famous. It's Hercule Poirot's case, and one of the best psychological studies from Christie. I remember thinking after my first reading (I've read it 3 times), that to murder is foremostly the decision. Everyone can do it when provided with motive and opportunity - one decision will make huge differences. How dangerous human free will is!
Well, there are at least six novels you can consider from, if you want to start reading, or read further, of Agatha Christie. You can get more in my Agatha Christie Perpetual Reading Challege list. But there are so many, your head must be spinning. Let me just help you...
HOW TO PICK YOUR FIRST OR NEXT AGATHA CHRISTIE'S :
1. Reading order
They are not in chronological order, and each book tells a standalone story. However, to get intimate with the two recurring detectives: Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, you would want to read their first books before the other, and finally end with their finales. The Mysterious Affair in Styles is where you'd learn Poirot's little history and background, while The Murder at the Vicarage is the first appearance of Miss Marple. They'd be your good starting point. The Mysterious Affair in Styles, in particular, is Christie's first crime book, so by starting it, you'd see how she begins, and how she'd improve in the next ones.
What a crime novel without detective, right? However, with Christie, you'd find some stories are indeed without detective. The most famous in this category are And Then There Were None. There are also several with amateur-turns-detective, such as Crooked House. But in most cases you'll meet some recurring detectives. The most famous one is Hercule Poirot - the only fictional character who ever received a real obituary in a newspaper. There's also Miss Marple, Inspector Battle, and the jolly couple: Tommy and Tuppence.
My favorite Christie's are the close intimate murders like Crooked House or Dumb Witness, but some might prefer more dramatic ones like Lord Edgware Dies or Three Act Tragedy. If you love witty espionage thriller, The Secret Adversary or The Secret of Chimneys would be great for you.
If you're picking Agatha Christie for teenager, I'd say And Then There Were None would be a good starting point. You might not want to give them something brutal such as Murder on the Orient Express, but I think the rest are good enough.
So, which Christie's have you read, and which you'd read next?