She is the Queen of Crime and the originator (as far as I know, at least) of the “cozy” murder mystery. There is something oddly enjoyable about snuggling up in a comfy chair and reading about murders, suspects, and Christie’s truly infamous sleuths.
Agatha is the creator of such greats as Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and others. Even the mysteries she writes that lack a traditional detective are first-rate.
Why? Because her writing talent surpasses the ages. The books take place from the 30s to the 70s. There is no Internet, no iPods, no video games – but there is a good cup of tea and a full cast of British characters, so believable and well penned that you could almost say you’d met the people before.
Except one (or more) have committed the oh-so-heinous crime of murder.
And oh what a puzzle she creates! Of every novel I’ve read of hers, I have never been disappointed. She has dozens of books, and I have recently had a reading spree of 5 of them. Here’s a brief, spoiler-free summary of each for your perusing pleasure. I recommend each one heartily, with perhaps a slight extra ounce of hearty bibliophile approval for They Do It With Mirrors, After the Funeral and Cards on the Table.
But, really, they are all awesome. So, if you like to piece together clues and tiny drops of conversation and suspicious glances, enjoy being a couch detective, yet enjoy even more being completely wrong: Read these and all other whodunit’s from Dame Agatha Christie.
They Do It With Mirrors: When one of Miss Marple’s oldest friends implores her to take a holiday with her sister, Carrie, because she feels something is “off” at Carrie’s home, Miss Marple finds that Carrie has turned her home into a sort of rehabilitation for delinquent boys. And her family isn’t very happy about it. Once murder occurs, Miss Marple realizes that she must look behind the magician’s trick and find the killer in their midst.
Cat Among the Pigeons: Meadowbank is a heralded upper-class girls’ school, completely above scandal. That is, until a teacher is found dead. But such an exclusive school must not house a cold-blooded murderer, could it? It’s decided it must be a degenerate stranger. However, yet another teacher is killed and it’s clear there is someone that has a personal vendetta against Meadowbank. Only Hercule Poirot seems able to piece together this puzzle.
A Pocket Full of Rye: When the tyrannical and odd tycoon Rex Fortescue dies a sudden and mysterious death, the strangest thing about it is why his pocket is full of rye. It can’t help but puzzle the detectives. But as the investigation seems to be gaining ground, a prime suspect gets knocked off just as peculiarly. It’s not until Miss Marple finds her way to the scene do they realize these murders seem to be following a children’s nursery rhyme, and instead of looking amongst possible inheritors, they may be searching for an insane, pointless killer. The problem? Those can be the hardest to find.
Cards on the Table: Mr. Shaitana is a disliked, strange person who looks at people more as objects and collectibles than as actual human beings. However, his gift for party throwing causes Hercule Poirot, crime writer Ariadne Oliver, Colonel Race, and Superintendent Battle of the Scotland Yard to play bridge with four of Mr. Shaitana’s “collectibles” at his home. But before the night is through, Mr. Shaitana pays the ultimate price for his dangerous hobby and is murdered. This puts the investigators in an interesting position as only four people could have committed the crime, and, according to a statement made by Mr. Shaitana to Hercule Poirot before the bridge game, all four had previously gotten away with murder.
After the Funeral (also printed as Funerals are Fatal): When the family members assemble for their beloved and rich relative Richard Lanscombe’s funeral, after a battle with a fatal illness, they are shocked when the ever-outspoken Cora asks loudly, “But he was murdered, wasn’t he?” But when another death suggests that maybe there is more to her question than a lack of brains and sensitivity, Hercule Poirot is called in to investigate.
Go ahead. Go and see if you can figure out whodunit. ;)