Is there anything Agatha Christie couldn’t do? Though she’s gone down in literary history as the detective novelist, Christie fans know that her mysteries are just the tip of the iceberg. Over 66 novels, Christie experimented with dry humor, thrilling adventure, Gothic horror, and impeccably structured plots.
Once you finish one of her books, it’s normal to feel like the answer was staring you in the face—despite the fact that just before the reveal you weren’t even close to guessing it. There’s only two guarantees in an Agatha Christie novel: A satisfying reveal and low-key British imperialism (I wish I was kidding…but boy oh boy, I am not).
Even so, thousands of readers put up with Christie’s dicier aspects to enjoy her novelistic brilliance. After all, Christie’s ingenious plots didn’t just make her a best-selling fiction writer—they made her the bestselling fiction writer. As in, of all time. If you haven’t given her books a try, it’s high time to do so. From her light-hearted romps to her broody thrillers, here are Agatha Christie’s best books.
First, a guide to my complex, patent-pending Christie Breakdown System:
Premise: Most of the time, it’s “[X] gets ganked in [Y]. Luckily, [Z] just happens to be around to save the day.” But not always! (Stay tuned).
Mashup Formula: For those of us who struggle with limited attention spans.
Perfect For: Ideal reading conditions.
TL;DR: My last-ditch appeal to future Christie fans.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Premise: A widower named Roger Ackroyd gets ganked in the English countryside. Luckily, the fastidious Belgian detective Hercule Poirot just happens to be around to save the day, with his impeccably groomed mustache in tow, of course.
Mashup Formula: Locked room mystery + jaw-dropping finale = instant classic.
Perfect For: Days when you want to inject a page-turning mystery straight into your veins.
TL;DR: Go in knowing as little as possible and enjoy the ride. Critics often say this is Christie’s best book and they’re not wrong. When I got to the end, I was well and truly shook.
Premise: Our narrator Michael falls in love with an heiress named Ellie. Then stuff gets wild!
Mashup Formula: Psychological thriller + spoopy page-turner + modern Brontë homage = Maybe Christie’s best novel ever?
Perfect For: Days when you’re embracing your inner goth.
TL;DR: Not just a great mystery, a freaking banger of a novel. Endless Night was one of Christie’s personal favorites for a reason.
Premise: Intimidating patriarch Aristides Leonides gets ganked at the family estate. Who did it? Leonides’ hot granddaughter won’t marry Charles Hayward until he finds out.
Mashup Formula: Knives Out dialed up to 11.
Perfect For: Days when you want a modern haunted house story.
TL;DR: Short thriller with a truly fantastic payoff. Highly recommend this one for a superior beach read.
The Murder at the Vicarage
Premise: No one likes Colonel Lucius Protheroe, so it’s not too surprising when he gets ganked in the small village of St. Mary Mead. Luckily, Miss Marple is here to save the day, and also make fun of everyone without them realizing it.
Mashup Formula: Dry British humor crossbreeds with the coziest version of the detective novel.
Perfect For: Days when you don’t want to choose between violence and jokes.
TL;DR: This book is a delight. Christie was secretly very funny and unlike Poirot, Miss Marple isn’t a tool. Highly recommend!
The ABC Murders
Premise: When Alice Ascher kicks the bucket with a copy of the ABC train guide next to her, it’s no big deal. When Betty Bernard and Carmichael Clark get ganked with the same prop, not so much. It’s up to Hercule Poirot to crack the case.
Mashup Formula: Spoopy procedural a la The Bone Collector + actually good writing = a game-changer of a novel.
Perfect For: Days when you want to read a pulpy page-turner but don’t want to get judged by your snobby literary friends.
TL;DR: You know that trope where the cops have to track down a killer who leaves clues at each crime scene? Even though this book started it, the ending will still leave your jaw on the floor.
And Then There Were None
Premise: Eight people are summoned to a secluded island. One by one, they’re picked off by a mysterious force.
Mashup Formula: Full darkness + a proto-slasher plot structure = a high point among high points.
Perfect For: Embracing your inner horror fan.
TL;DR: It’s hard to believe Christie could write something as light and satisfying as Murder in the Vicarage, and also casually deliver this horror masterpiece. The premise alone kick-started the slasher genre—only for the juggernaut plot to deliver, deliver, deliver. Horrific initial title aside, this is a masterpiece.
Peril at End House
Premise: Someone is out to gank the glamorous Magdala “Nick” Buckley—so it’s a good thing that she just happens to run into Hercule Poirot. Will he catch the assailant and save the girl before it’s too late?
Mashup: Gossip Girl takes a walk on the wild side…and then has to deal with a ridiculous mustachioed detective.
Perfect For: Readers who want a society novel to just admit that rich people are monsters.
TL;DR: This book whizzes from a banger of an opening to a mind-bending reveal. It’s almost 100 years old and still bingeable. Though often overlooked, it’s a true gem.
The Moving Finger
Premise: Someone’s blackmailing the residents of Lymstock. Everyone thinks they’re the only one receiving threatening letters—until Mrs. Symington (say it with me now) gets ganked. Thankfully, my queen Miss Marple shows up in the nick of time.
Mashup: The Circleville Letters + outraged British decorum = an incredibly readable village mystery.
Perfect For: Days when you want an entertaining puzzle of a novel.
TL;DR: Don’t mess with Miss Marple.
The list above is just the beginning when it comes to great Christie novels. Once you exhaust those excellent options, I recommend reading the following books, each helpfully described with a trio of adjectives.
Five Little Pigs: Complex, rewarding, ingenious.
The Mousetrap: Quick, thrilling, fun.
Death on the Nile: Psychological, compelling, moody.
Evil Under the Sun: Twisty, clever, light.
Miss Marple Short Stories: Logical, bite-size, delightful.
The Pale Horse: Funny, short, surprising.
Murder on the Orient Express: Dark, engrossing, brilliant.
Bonus: If you want to solve a real Christie riddle, check out the twisty tale of the author’s own mysterious disappearance.