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 order.1 American titles are in parentheses. Titles of reprinted versions or titles with only small changes (such as changes in spelling) are not noted. For more detailed information about each novel see footnote.
- 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' fiance 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 thirteen.
- 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, etc. 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 comitted murder and escaped without punishment to a party. The two groups play seperate 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]3: 1939 Another very famous novel. Ten characters are invited by a suspicious characted 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 girl he is in love with's grandfather.
- 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 internation 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 geophycisist Arthur Calgary.
- Cat Among the Pigeons: 1959 Poirot must solve a series of murders at an English girl's school. There is a connection to a Middle-Eastern revolution.
- The Pale Horse: 1961 The Pale Horse is the name of an organization 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 modernized. 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 internation 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 twelve 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 U.S. 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.