Agatha Christie Top 5s - Round-Up Post





Sitting in judgement in And Then There Were None



Last week crime writer and blogger Christine Poulson and I agreed to each share a list of our top 5 Agatha Christie novels – mine is here, and hers is on her blog here.

Our lists provoked a lot of interest and – as we hoped – many people joined in and posted their Top 5. Also there was considerable discussion, and more lists, on the Facebook Golden Age Detection discussion board (a closed group, but one that always welcomes new members with an interest in the genre).

Leading light Curtis Evans, of The Passing Tramp website, is now suggesting Top 10 lists, which he will then tabulate, and that sounds like a great idea – so do visit either his webpage or the Facebook page to find him if you want to pass on yours.

In the meantime, I thought it would be interesting to take a more impressionistic look at which books were mentioned a lot, and which weren’t. So I went through everyone’s lists and mentions taking notes – and these are my conclusions (if I seem to have missed your list, let me know):

1) Everybody loves Poirot best. No surprises there. There was a run from 1926 (Roger Ackroyd) to 1953 (After the Funeral) where almost all the full-length novels were mentioned at least once. The exceptions were Dumb Witness and Appointment with Death – does no-one have a word for these? Even Big Four got one shoutout! Curtain – the last Poirot book published, but written in this era - was a surprisingly frequent choice too.




Dressing for dinner in Curtain


2) Marple's earlier cases were the favoured ones – from Murder at the Vicarage (1930) to They Do it With Mirrors (1952) – and again Sleeping Murder (published 1976 but written during WW2) was popular. 


3) The early adventure stories – what Vicki/Skiourophile splendidly calls the flapper crime novels – had their advocates. Secret of Chimneys got the most plugs, with Man in a Brown Suit as runnerup. 

4) A couple of short-story collections got the odd vote – Labours of Hercules and Thirteen Problems.
5) I know I’m prejudiced against Tommy and Tuppence but I’m not the only one, and Robert Barnard did call them ‘everyone’s least favourite Christie sleuths’. Only N or M? got any mention at all.
 

would that be Major Bletchley?

6) Of the non-sleuth classics (not elegant but the best way to describe them), And Then There Were None, Crooked House, Pale Horse and Endless Night all came up. No interest in Sittaford Mystery (Murder at Hazelmoor) which I would have added to that list, nor in Ordeal By Innocence, which Christie liked herself. 



My summing-up would be: The popular choices didn’t surprise me, but some of the omissions did.


It was a really interesting exercise – thanks to so many people for joining in, and all your comments and lists and arguments were highly enjoyable.


It’s not too late to add a Top 5 or a comment below…

Comments

  1. Interesting summary, though I'm not the best qualified person to comment. Maybe I'll have a proper list in a year or two!

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    1. We'll be expecting that list one day Col.

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  2. The problem with these lists is that one wants immediately to re-read them all again just to make sure... ;-) Thank you for the mention - I guess the early Tommy + Tuppence would qualify as flapper crime: I don't think it's too bad -- just up against too much other, better competition.

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    1. Yes, I sometimes have to think which of the early ones are T&T and which are not; and they do have an atmosphere all of their own. I know just what you mean about re-reads - since starting on this I just feel like beginning with Styles and working my way through the whole lot. THEN I could really form a judgement....

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  3. Moira, you've convinced me to read an Agatha Christie next, which will hopefully revive my (shortlived) chronological reading of all her novels. I'm also keen to read her autobiography and perhaps a couple of her pseudonymous Mary Westmacott books that no one writes about.

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    1. I'm sure you'll enjoy them Prashant. Her autobiog is a good read, and I have enjoyed those of her Westmacotts that I have read - there's a couple of entries on them on the blog. Absent in the Spring I thought was good.

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  4. Moira - Oh, this is really interesting! Thanks for following this up. I'm not at all surprised that Poirot stories got the most votes. Interesting that the Beresfords got the fewest. And I'd have thought Ordeal by Innocence would have shown up. Hmmm....

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    1. I think the 2 books Christie mentioned most as her own favourites were Ordeal by Innocence and Crooked House - so I was surprised that many people mentioned Crooked House, but none Ordeal....

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  5. Hmmm. Well, I'm a bit of a cynic about these books, and that puts me in about 1% or less of the crime fiction readership.. When I read Dame Christie's books years ago, I read the Poirot books -- until he and I had a parting of the ways about Jewish people and non-European immigrants. So I left him.

    However, I do watch the David Suchet TV episodes shown on PBS over here -- and I do enjoy them. I think some of the language has been sanitized a bit as I don't notice offensive comments by the Belgian detective.

    I've watched some Miss Marple stories, too, of course, when they are shown. They don't interest me as much. And I saw one Tommy and Tuppence TV episode on dvd, and laughed my way through their privileged lives and search for the Bolsheviks hiding under every bed and in every bush. That was my first and last experience with them. They're too unrealistic as detectives.

    I may try a few of those mentioned here, the stand-alones though. The Poirot shows are on TV and on dvd.

    It is fascinating, though, what readers write about her books, always fun to read.

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    1. Yes, there are problems with her language, though I think she says herself she didn't realize the horror of anti-Semitism till the runup to the Second World War, and her attitudes changed then.

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  6. Nice analysis. It seems like the variety of books chosen indicate that I must read all them which is my goal anyway. It will take a while at the rate I am going, though.


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    1. There's an awful lot of them - but at least they are mostly short Tracy!

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  7. Here is a link to an article about Agatha Christie and anti-Semitism in her writings.
    http://wordcount-richmonde.blogspot.com/2013/03/so-was-agatha-christie-anti-semitic.html
    There is a link to an article about this by Ruth Dudley Edwards. She tells of a visit to Christie's house by the late Christopher Hitchens, who said that this prejudice pervaded the atmosphere.
    Worth reading.
    I also was put off by her other prejudices.
    Interesting that certain lines or wording were taken out of later editions or the versions that came to the States.

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    1. thanks, I had already read Lucy's article.

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  8. Thanks, Moira. Very interesting. I think that while we mustn't condone racism, these novels were written in a very different time. I tend to screen out the offensive elements and the same applies even to writers like Dickens and Trollope.

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    1. Yes I very much agree with you Christine.

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  9. Everyone is different in how they read and what they can tolerate, like with relatives.

    Some readers can't put up with much violence on the page. Some women really don't want to read misogynistic plots or characters. Others can put up with it.
    Since we're all reading for enjoyment and to be entertained and perhaps learn something, we all have to figure out what we will read and not read. It's personal taste, and as I've learned no two people have exactly the same reading taste.

    At any rate, I like that painting. Do you know who did it?

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    1. Indeed, Kathy, and I live your analogy with relatives - clever, and exactly right. do you mean the painting of the woman in the evening dress? - it's by someone called Ambrose McEvoy, whom I had never heard of. If I want to use a painting to illustrate something, I often go The Athenaeum website http://www.the-athenaeum.org/ and that's where this one came from.

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  10. Yes. That is the painting. I like it, and will look at McEvoy's artwork.

    On books, a blogger whose words I read daily at Yvette Can Draw, often says, "No two people read the same book." Words to live by, and that personal taste is very different. (There is also awesome artwork posted there often by theme or by artist.)

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    1. I think I looked at her site once before - did you recommend it perhaps - and will do so again.

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  11. I did recommend her website. Right now she has put up old very campy movie posters from decades ago. They are terrific -- colorful, big titles, sensational. Lots of fun. I wish those old movies, except the horror ones, were available today.

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    1. I will certainly go and take another look.

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