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Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe

Agatha Christie Collection

The Queen of Crime, Dame Agatha Christie has been a fixture in the schedules since 2000 when Chorion launched its Agatha Christie Collection. Currently the longest-running book series in my collection, it predates this blog. So to give them their dues, here is a quick helicopter of the ones that have gone before. Years refer to date read.

1. Murder on the Orient Express (2000)

Rightly one of the first to be released, Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is one of her best known works. An engaging and gripping introduction to both her and Poirot, the novel enjoys a strong structure and demonstrates why so many mystery novel clichés are clichés – because they work, when employed as they are intended. Well-paced, carefully crafted and seemingly baffling, Christie delivers a brilliant solution to one of her best loved stories. ♦♦♦♦♦

2. The Murder in the Vicarage (2000)

Miss Marple makes her debut in The Murder in the Vicarage. A very twee setting with archetypal characters, it’s one of Marple’s better outings. ♦♦♦♦◊

3. Death on the Nile (2000)

A brilliant mystery set afloat the Nile River in Egypt. The characters are terrific and the resolution is unspeakably clever. Most of what I can remember is a spoiler, but if any of her books are to be re-read, this has to be it! ♦♦♦♦♦

4. And Then There Were None (2001)

A chilling tale of visitors to an island being picked off one by one, as per the lyrics to the nursey rhyme Ten Little Indians (also known Ten Little N*****s, the book’s original title). Becoming the world’s best-selling mystery title, it is clear to see why it’s so popular. As each horrible character is killed in parallel to the deaths of the Indians/N*****s in the rhyme, Christie never fails to make the death plausible, nor the circumstances despite the survivors constantly trying to keep themselves out of harm’s way. The ingenious take on the mystery format is fabulous and leads to a shocking final act. ♦♦♦♦♦

5. The ABC Murders (2001)

Another excellent Poirot mystery. A serial killer identifying himself as ABC writes to Poirot with a warning before each killing. The first victim’s names and location all start with A, the next with B and so on. The random serial killings are a break from traditional Christie, and she does a marvellous job with it, further bolstered by some experimentation with both first and third person narrative. Although I feel it’s a writing convenience that doesn’t add much, it certainly takes nothing away. ♦♦♦♦◊

6. The Secret Adversary (2001)

Tommy & Tuppence star in this adventure thriller which is slow to start but builds into a gripping tale. They’re an exciting and dynamic lead couple, and it’s a brilliant piece. ♦♦♦♦◊

7. The Mysterious Affair at Styles (2001)

The first published Poirot mystery sees him investigate a murder at Styles, a large country house in which he is staying. Although the resolution is actually quite clever, it takes a long time to get there with a whole lot of nothing going on in the meantime. Clearly an early work with weak plotting, structure and pace. ♦♦◊◊◊

8. The Man in the Brown Suit (2001)

Another fabulous thriller. It’s a faster pace and dizzier ride than The Secret Adversary, but lacks the same absorbing atmosphere. A very, very good one. ♦♦♦♦◊

9. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (2002)

A controversial volume for Christie, I for one am firmly on her side and think her “author naughtiness” is well worth it. A clever, albeit sneaky, mystery with a clear message – rules were made to be broken, and broken in style. ♦♦♦♦♦

10. The Big Four (2002)

Together with The Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, this is one of Poirot’s top three outings. Subjected to some rough treatment, Poirot investigates the mysterious shadowy group The Big Four in an adrenaline laced, fast moving grey-cell fest. The book begins with disparate instances that all lead to the Big Four, and when the threads are pulled together we are left with a terrifying tapestry of crime. ♦♦♦♦♦

11. The Secret of Chimneys (2002)

A mind-boggling menagerie of characters and plots collide in the Chimneys mansion. It’s quite a convoluted issue that involves the government and oil (oh, how times change…!) that, one way or another, leads to someone snuffing it. It takes more concentration than your usual Christie fare, but it’s worth the investment because once it gets going, the ride is a good one. ♦♦♦♦◊

12. The Mystery of the Blue Train (2002)

Don’t be fooled by the returning murder/train/Poirot trio. This is one of the weakest Poirots ever written, with a dull cast and a boring plot that moves at an agonising pace. ♦◊◊◊◊

13. The Seven Dials Mystery (2002)

After a brief break for a boring blue train – they’re back! A whole bunch of Chimneys cast, as well as Chimneys itself. Bundle, Socks and Supt. Battle lead the cast and the revisiting of Chimneys is at least as successful as our first spell. ♦♦♦♦◊

14. The Sittaford Mystery (2003)

A forgettable mystery in which a murder is announced by a spirit at a séance. The book features none of Christie’s regular cast, nor her regular spark. ♦♦◊◊◊

15. Peril at End House (2003)

Poirot meets a girl who has narrowly avoided death three times and suspects she’s got someone after her. As he hones in on her safety, some other poor soul gets offed right next to him. Why? That’s what he wants to know. It stops and starts, but comes good in the end. ♦♦♦◊◊

16. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (2003)

This lightweight mystery lacks substance, with neither the characters nor the plot providing anything we haven’t seen before. ♦♦◊◊◊

17. Parker Pyne Investigates (2003)

In a collection of short stories, Parker Pyne sets to work as a private investigator. Some are better than others, but the overall pattern is short stories which are too short for any particular concern to develop for the characters, and long enough to get boring. ♦♦◊◊◊

18. Death in the Clouds (2003)

A relatively clever plot revolving around a murder on an aeroplane (Poirot was obviously wary of trains by now!). Entertaining, but nothing special. ♦♦♦◊◊

19. Murder in Mesopotamia (2003)

In the latest Poirot, the Belgian sleuth investigates a murder in – believe it or not – Mesopotamia! It does have a bit of a saggy middle, but it’s clever and worth the effort. ♦♦♦◊◊

20. Cards on the Table (2004)

Regulars Poirot, Adrianne Olivier, Supt. Battle of Scotland Yard and MI5’s Colonel Race all feature in this excellent novel. They’re invited to dinner by a chap who soon starts waffling on about getting away with murder… before being murdered. It’s great to see the characters all together, and the plot is a cracker. ♦♦♦♦◊

21. Dumb Witness (2004)

Poirot investigates a murder, the only witness to which is a dog. It’s slow-moving and doesn’t really get off the ground. ♦♦◊◊◊

22. Appointment with Death (2004)

Mrs Boynton is a tyrannical matriarch who makes her family’s life a misery – even after she is offed, because then they’re all suspected of murder. Poirot investigates, and keeps us glued while he does. ♦♦♦♦◊

23. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (2004)

Fresh from figuring out who killed the mean mother, it’s now a fearsome father that meets a sticky end. In this festive edition, Poirot is left to investigate the death of a horrid man in one of the best-written instalments featuring Mr Grey Cells. ♦♦♦♦◊

24. Murder Is Easy (2005)

Very, very, excruciatingly slow at the beginning and extremely far-fetched, but nonetheless this becomes a gripping read once it finally gets the toe it desperately needed up its backside. Ideal rating is probably 3.5. ♦♦♦◊◊

25. One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (2005)

Poirot’s dentist is dead. Is nobody safe?! It’s all a bit bits-and-pieces but gets there in the end. ♦♦♦◊◊

26. Evil Under the Sun (2005)

A beautiful young woman… on a beach… dead as a dodo. Christie really does know how to spoil a party! But it’s a well written spoiled party, and Poirot is on form. ♦♦♦◊◊

27. The Body in the Library (2005)

My favourite Marple, The Body in the Library is intriguing and features genuinely colourful and interesting characters. The pace is pretty good, and overall an excellent book. ♦♦♦♦◊

28. The Moving Finger (2005)

Another one with a slow start that gradually builds into something quite good. Too many frills and too much scene setting, but soon enough this becomes a greatly enjoyable mystery. Miss Marple pops up later but it seems very tokenistic – she could have been left out. ♦♦♦◊◊

29. Five Little Pigs (2006)

Poirot’s latest mystery has a darker tone. A woman was convicted of murdering her husband many years before, and now her daughter approaches Poirot to confirm what happened. In a format change, Poirot hears the same story from various standpoints and, of course, has no access to any of the original evidence. Cleverly done and wrapped up well. ♦♦♦◊◊

30. Towards Zero (2006)

Supt. Battle investigates the murder of an old biddy in her home. It passes the time. ♦♦♦◊◊

31. Death Comes As The End (2006)

A fantastic, gripping novel set in Ancient Egypt. Utterly different from anything else she wrote, Christie plunges into this forgotten world with aplomb. It’s the only Christie I’ve ever read in one day in a single sitting, and comes highly recommended. ♦♦♦♦♦

32. Sparkling Cyanide (2006)

Abysmal and boring book about a spiked drink that just couldn’t be slower without being printed backwards. ♦◊◊◊◊

33. Crooked House (2007)

A family drama which sees a patriarch pegging it and the wrong people initially taking the fall. ♦♦♦◊◊

34. A Murder Is Announced (2007)

The title says it all. Miss Marple is mincing about when a murder is announced via the village noticeboard, and then tries to work out whodunit when it inevitably occurs. ♦♦♦◊◊

35. Mrs McGinty’s Dead (2007)

Poirot is flanked by Adriane Oliver again, and they have a lodger to exonerate. The pair are a hoot and the investigation is entertaining. ♦♦♦♦◊

36. They Do It With Mirrors (2009)

A very forgettable Marple. ♦♦◊◊◊

37. The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (2009)

This has its own review.

38. Dead Man’s Folly (2010)

A fete involving a murder hunt goes a bit wrong when the murder goes a bit too right. Poirot bores the socks off us as he sorts it out. ♦♦◊◊◊

39. Ordeal by Innocence (2010)

Christie then redeems herself in Ordeal By Innocence. A convicted murderer kills himself, then some chap turns up saying his alibi checks out and maybe he didn’t do it. Not only an engaging mystery, but an intriguing study of innocence and wrongful convictions. ♦♦♦♦◊

From 2011 onwards, all books are part of the normal review system. You can refer to the Inaugural Titles list for details.


2 comments on “Agatha Christie Collection

  1. Pingback: Along Came A Spider | Simon's Bookcase

  2. Pingback: The Pale Horse | Simon's Bookcase

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This entry was posted on September 21, 2010 by in Agatha Christie Collection and tagged .

Author Cloud

@Queen_UK Adolf Hitler agatha christie Alan Clements Alastair Campbell Aldous Huxley Aleksandr Orlov Alex Shaffer Andrew Neiderman Anthony Burgess Arthur Miller Bateman Ben Brooks Ben Elton Bram Stoker Bret Easton Ellis C.J. Cherryh Carolyn Jess-Cooke Charles Dickens Chuck Palahniuk Dan Brown Dante Alighieri dashiell hammett david baldacci David Brin David Glattauer David Kirkpatrick David Line David Tennant David Wolstencroft Dylan Jones E.L. James Edgar Allen Poe Emilia Fox Eoin Colfer Erica Spindler Frank Peretti Gabrielle Lord Gareth Roberts Geoff Ryman George Orwell George R. R. Martin George W. Bush Gillian Flynn Gillian Slovo Graham Greene Guy Piran Harper Lee Harriet Lane Herman Koch Ian Rankin J.K. Rowling Jack Thorne Jacqueline Rayner James Herbert James Patterson Jasper Fforde Jeff Green Jeff Kinney Jeffrey Archer Jem Lester Jenny Robson Jeremy Clarkson Jerry B. Jenkins Jim Thompson John Crowther John Green John Grisham John Tiffany John Verdon Jonas Jonasson Judith Kerr Juliana Foster Justin Richards Kaci Hill Karen Levine Keeley Bolger Louis Walsh malorie blackman Marissa Meyer Mark Haddon Mark Z. Danielewski Martin Sixsmith Mary Higgins Clark Mary McNamara Matt Haig Matthew Ravden Michael Berry Michael Connelly Michael Morpurgo Michael Quirke Miguel de Cervantes Mike Lancaster Morris Gleitzman Morton Rhue Neil Sinclair Nick Hornby Nick Page Patricia Cornwell Patricia Stotley Patrick Ness Paula Hawkins Paul Johnston Peter James Phil Allcock R.J. Palacio Rachelle Dekker Raymond Chandler Richard Bachman Robert Louis Stevenson Robert Ludlum Robin Cook Robin Kirkpatrick sandra brown Sebastian Beaumont Sharon Osbourne Stella Rimmington Stephen Cole Stephen King Steve Lookner Steve Lyons Stuart MacBride Sue Townsend Suzanne Collins ted dekker Terry Pratchett Tim LaHaye Tim Randall Todd Strasser Tom Avery Tom Bower Tom Cain Tom Hoyle tony blair William Golding William P. Young William Shakespeare