I’m going to veer away from my usual routine here, so please humor me.
When I had to pick a book from the bottom of my to-read list, I wasn’t quite sure where to even start. I mean, my to-read list on Goodreads currently has 128 books on it, and that’s not even counting the books I want to read but haven’t added.
I ended up deciding to read Agatha Christie’s 1920 debut novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles. I love Agatha Christie mysteries–the twisting and, at times, convoluted plots; the witty characters; the atmosphere. I’ve read roughly 40 of her books over the years, but I realized that I’d never read much of her early work, including her very first book. So, I read The Mysterious Affair at Styles and also 4 of her 5 next books–The Murder on the Links, The Man in the Brown Suit, Poirot Investigates, and The Secret at Chimneys–within a couple of weeks.
I enjoyed all of them, but to be honest, they aren’t necessarily books I’d recommend to anyone but the most hardcore of Agatha Christie devotees. There are definitely overtones of the style that Christie perfected in later years, but her early books also seem overly derivative of her own influences, particularly Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series. I don’t think she truly came into her own until a few years later when she wrote The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which remains one of my favorites of her books. (And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, Crooked House, Ordeal By Innocence, Murder at the Vicarage, Sad Cypress, The Body in the Library, Sleeping Murder, and Death on the Nile would round out my top 10 favorites, in no particular order, with The ABC Murders, Cat Among the Pigeons, and Evil Under the Sun garnering honorable mentions.)
So, rather than writing a review of an Agatha Christie novel, which I’m sure many of you are familiar with, I instead am going to provide a list of things that should prove helpful to you if you ever find yourself trapped in a Christie mystery:
- Don’t leave your home.
- Don’t stay at home.
- Don’t go on vacation.
- Don’t travel for business.
- Don’t host a dinner party.
- Don’t attend a dinner party.
- Don’t attend a house party.
- Don’t find yourself alone.
- Don’t find yourself in a room full of people with people who have a motive.
- Don’t go into anyone’s personal study.
- Don’t accept invitations to visit people you don’t know.
- Don’t ride a train.
- Don’t get on a boat.
- Don’t fly in a plane.
- Don’t drink tea.
- Don’t play bridge.
- Don’t enter stately homes.
- Don’t buy houses.
- Don’t try to blackmail people. It never ends well for anyone involved.
- Don’t automatically suspect anyone who behaves really suspiciously. The most suspicious person is always conspicuously un-suspicious. (Say that five times really fast.)
What have you learned from reading Agatha Christie? What Agatha Christie novels are your favorites? Whose your favorite Agatha Christie detective? What book is on the bottom of your to-read list? As always, please visit our online catalog to place holds and learn more about an item.