The most successful mystery writer of all time, and perhaps the most famous, English author Agatha Christie wrote 66 novels, almost 150 short stories, and 16 plays. Some of her more famous works are her novels Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and the longest-running play in history, The Mousetrap.
In the Beginning
Agatha May Clarissa Miller was born in Devon, England, in 1890. She was the youngest of three children in a well-off family. A shy child, Agatha first turned to music and then to writing to express herself. She married a World War I fighter pilot named Archie Christie in 1914, and worked as a nurse during the war. She came up with the idea of her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, while working in a hospital. It was published in 1920.
The Works of Agatha Christie
The Mysterious Affair at Styles featured detective Hercule Poirot, a retired Belgian police officer. Poirot was very meticulous in the solving of his cases. Acting as his personal 'Watson' was Captain Hastings, a down-to-earth man who was always in the dark until the end of the novel when the solution was revealed. Captain Hastings later left the equation, but Christie went on to write over 30 novels featuring Poirot, the first of her two most famous characters.
Her other famous amateur detective was an elderly spinster woman named Miss Marple. She had spent all her life in the English village of St Mary Mead, but claimed that village happenings gave her a keen insight into the human mind. Christie wrote 12 novels featuring Jane Marple.
The Life of Agatha Christie
In 1926 Archie Christie asked for a divorce. Agatha disappeared from public view and was later found in a hotel, claiming that she had lost her memory. Agatha later married an archaeologist named Max Mallowan in 1930.
In 1971, the most popular mystery writer ever, with over one hundred million books published, became a Dame of the British Empire.
In 1976 Agatha Christie died. Her last Poirot novel, Curtain, was originally meant to be published posthumously, but this was decided against. It was published the year before she died. In it Captain Hastings and Hercule Poirot were re-united at the site of the first Agatha Christie novel, the Styles estate in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It perhaps has the most astonishing twist of any Christie novel, and eventually ends with the death of the great Hercule Poirot.
Novels in Chronological Order
Here are the novels of Agatha Christie in chronological order1. American titles are in parentheses. Titles of reprinted versions or titles with only small changes (such as changes in spelling) are not noted.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) - The first Hercule Poirot novel, involving a large country estate called Styles and a vast field of suspects.
The Secret Adversary (1922) - A story involving Tommy and 'Tuppence', two young adventurers, and international espionage.
Murder on the Links (1923) - The second Hercule Poirot story, in which the man who hired him is murdered just before Poirot arrives.
The Man in the Brown Suit (1924) - This one involves a young orphan named Anne Beddington and missing diamonds.
The Secret of Chimneys (1925) - Starring Superintendent Battle.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) - Starring Hercule Poirot, and with an unexpected twist at the end.
The Big Four (1927) - Poirot and Hastings chase a group of four brilliant criminals.
The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928) - The first Poirot novel told in third person, a style that would be adopted for later Poirot books. Involving a ruby stolen on a train.
The Seven Dials Mystery (1929) - A puzzling murder involving seven alarm clocks.
The Murder at the Vicarage (1930) - The first Miss Marple novel, narrated by the vicar and set in the small English village of St Mary Mead.
The Sittaford Mystery (US title: Murder at Hazlemoor) (1931) - Young Emily Trefusis' fiancé is arrested for her uncle's murder, and with the help of the police inspector in the case she must prove him innocent.
Peril at End House (1932) - Hastings returns to help Poirot solve this case. Nick Buckley, a young heiress, is convinced that someone is making attempts on her life.
Lord Edgware Dies (US title: Thirteen at Dinner) (1933) - Hastings joins Poirot to investigate a murder at a dinner party for 13.
Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (US title: The Boomerang Clue) (1934) - The title is uttered by a dying man, and is heard by Bobby Jones, who solves the mystery with the help of Lady Frances Derwent.
Murder on the Orient Express (US title: Murder on the Calais Coach) (1934) - Perhaps the most famous of the Agatha Christie novels, a man is murdered on a train and Poirot must solve the case. The suspects are varied, and the clues are plentiful but often conflicting. A well known British movie was made.
Three-Act Tragedy (US title: Murder in Three Acts) (1934) - A novel divided into three sections. A guest dies at a dinner party Poirot is attending.
Death in the Clouds (US title: Death in the Air) (1935) - Poirot must solve a murder committed on a passenger airplane, in which the cause of death is also a mystery.
The ABC Murders (reprinted in US as The Alphabet Murders) (1935) - Hastings once again joins Poirot in the chase of what seems to be a serial killer. Alice Ascher is killed in Andover, Betty Barnard is murdered in Bexhill, and so on. The ABC Rail Guide is always left next to the victims.
Murder in Mesopotamia (1936) - Poirot investigates a murder in Iraq, the setting being an archaeological dig.
Cards on the Table (1936) - Poirot solves an interesting case, one in which he must apply his 'little grey cells'. An eccentric man invites four criminal investigators and four people who he thinks have committed murder and escaped without punishment to a party. The two groups play separate games of bridge, and during the games the host is murdered.
Dumb Witness (US title: Poirot Loses a Client; reprinted as Mystery at Littlegreen House) (1937) - Another case in which the client dies before Poirot can reach them. The dumb witness is a small dog.
Death on the Nile (1937) - A murder is committed on the steamer Karnak, a ship on which Poirot is on holiday.
Appointment with Death (1938) - Poirot is part of a tourist trip to the Holy Land, where one of the tourists is murdered.
Hercule Poirot's Christmas (US title: Murder for Christmas; later reprinted as A Holiday for Murder) (1938) - Combining a stereotypical set of suspects and a locked room puzzle that Poirot must solve.
Murder is Easy (US title: Easy to Kill) (1939) - A series of murders committed in a small village are solved by Luke Fitzwilliam, a policeman investigating out of curiosity.
Ten Little Indians (US title: And Then There Were None (1939) - Another very famous novel. Ten characters are invited by a suspicious character to an island mansion. They are marooned there by a storm and die one by one in a way prescribed by a nursery rhyme.
Sad Cypress (1940) - Elinor Carlisle is accused of murdering her wealthy aunt, and Poirot is trying to prove her innocent.
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (US title: The Patriotic Murders; later reprinted as An Overdose of Death) (1940) - Each chapter of this Poirot murder mystery corresponds to a line of the verse. It involves a murdered dentist and yet another international conspiracy.
Evil Under the Sun (1941) - Poirot is on holiday on a resort island, where he suspects a person will be murdered and, when his suspicions come true, must find the culprit.
N or M? (1941) - Tommy and Tuppence Beresford return, now much older, to help in another international mystery.
The Body in the Library (1942) - A Miss Marple mystery, taking place in St Mary Mead.
The Moving Finger (reprinted in US as The Case of the Moving Finger) (1942) - Miss Marple solves yet another murder, this one taking place in the small town of Lymstock and involving an outbreak of nasty letters.
Five Little Pigs (US title: Murder in Retrospect) (1943) - Poirot is asked to investigate a murder that has taken place many years ago. The five principal suspects all write down their own accounts of what took place and from this Poirot solves the crime.
Towards Zero (reprinted as Come and Be Hanged (1944) - Another mystery starring Superintendent Battle, involving murder at a country house.
Death Comes as the End (1944) - This novel is set in ancient Egypt, and the surviving members of a murdered royal family must solve the mystery.
Sparkling Cyanide (US title: Remembered Death) (1945) - A year after a guest dies at a dinner party, the party is re-created in hopes of a solution. Another guest dies, and Colonel Race appears to solve the mystery.
The Hollow (reprinted in US as Murder After Hours) (1946) - Poirot investigates a murder at a country home called the Hollow.
Taken at the Flood (US title: There is a Tide...) (1948) - A Poirot postwar novel, which he solves with the help of a Superintendent Spence.
Crooked House (1949) - Charles Hayward, son of a Scotland Yard commissioner, helps solve the murder of the grandfather of the girl he loves.
A Murder is Announced (1950) - A newspaper advertisement in a small village announces that a murder will take place at a place and time listed. Miss Marple, staying in a spa nearby for rheumatism, must solve the murder, which does in fact happen.
They Came to Baghdad (1951) - Young Victoria Jones stars in this thriller, involving international intrigue in the Middle East.
Mrs McGinty's Dead (title in some US editions: Blood Will Tell) (1952) - Old Mrs McGinty has been killed, most believe by her lodger, James Bentley. Poirot must prove Bentley innocent before he is hanged.
They Do It with Mirrors - (US title: Murder with Mirrors) (1952) - A mystery with Miss Marple.
A Pocketful of Rye (1953) - Miss Marple investigates this set of murders made in order of the rhyme, 'Sing a Song of Sixpence', the first victim being found with a pocket full of rye.
After the Funeral (US title: Funerals are Fatal; later reprinted in UK as Murder at the Gallop) (1953) - A Poirot novel involving a spinster woman being killed herself after remarking at a wealthy relative's funeral that the deceased must have been murdered.
Hickory Dickory Dock (US title: Hickory Dickory Death) (1955) - A Poirot murder involving a boarding house for students, with little connection to the nursery rhyme.
Destination Unknown (US title: So Many Steps to Death) (1954) - Another case of a young woman stumbling into international intrigue. Hilary Craven is rescued from suicide by an agent of the Secret Service, who then recruits her.
Dead Man's Folly (1956) - A girl is dead when a village mystery game goes wrong. Poirot attempts to solve the murder.
4.50 from Paddington (US title: What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw; later reprinted in US as Murder, She Said) (1957) - Mrs McGillicuddy, riding the 4.50 from Paddington, sees a murder committed in a passing train, but only Miss Marple believes her shaken friend, and so it is up to her to solve the mystery.
Ordeal by Innocence (1958) - A mystery starring geophysicist Arthur Calgary.
Cat Among the Pigeons (1959) - Poirot must solve a series of murders at an English girls' school. There is a connection to a Middle Eastern revolution.
The Pale Horse (1961) - The Pale Horse is the name of an organisation of professional murderers. Detective novelist Adriadne Oliver, a self-parody of Christie, stars. Oliver appears in a few other mysteries, as well.
The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side (US title: The Mirror Crack'd) (1962) - St Mary Mead is becoming modernised. A guest is poisoned at a movie star's party, and Miss Marple solves the murder.
The Clocks (1963) - Poirot investigates how a body came to be in the home of a blind woman, along with several clocks that do not belong.
A Caribbean Mystery (1964) - Miss Marple goes abroad, to a resort in the West Indies, where she encounters a mystery.
At Bertram's Hotel (1965) - Miss Marple encounters crime and murder during a week at Bertram's Hotel in London.
Third Girl (1966) - Poirot struggles to understand the sixties, and a certain mystery.
Endless Night (1967) - This is a very interesting novel, with one of Christie's most amazing twists. It is narrated by a young man named Michael Rogers, who finds a seemingly perfect life with a wife and home in the country.
By the Pricking of my Thumbs (1968) - Now in old age, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford return for another mystery.
Hallowe'en Party (1969) - Poirot investigates murder at a Halloween Party, with the help of novelist Adriadne Oliver.
Passenger to Frankfurt (1970) - Sir Stafford Nye is plunged into another of Christie's international conspiracies. This is the last of her thrillers.
Nemesis (1971) - The last Miss Marple novel written, in which Miss Marple investigates a mysterious crime.
Elephants Can Remember (1972) - The last Poirot novel written, in which Poirot investigates another ancient crime, this one 12 years old.
Postern of Fate (1973) - The last novel Christie wrote, starring a very old Tommy and Tuppence Beresford.
Curtain (1975) - Poirot's last case, with its own amazing twist. Hastings returns to the place where Poirot is staying - Styles, the setting of their first adventure together, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Poirot dies in the course of the book. It was intended to be published posthumously but was not. Interestingly, when the US edition was published the New York Times printed Poirot's obituary on the front page.
Sleeping Murder (1976) - The last, in the Christie world, Miss Marple novel, involving a long ago murder. Posthumously published. Miss Marple survives.