Tuesday, September 15, 2015

My Top Three Favorite Agatha Christie Books

Kerry Hammond joins us today to wax poetic about our collective idol, Agatha Christie. Read on...

When you have a favorite author, it’s hard to narrow down their life’s work to one favorite book. For Agatha Christie week, I decided that I couldn’t possibly pick just one, but might be able to narrow it down to my top three favorite Agatha Christie books. Let me also point out that it would be easy to pick Murder on the Orient Express or And Then There Were None as my favorites. These books have two of the best plots every written, but anyone who has ever read Christie probably knows the ins and outs of each. I went with the less obvious, but still great, Christie mysteries for my list.

Death on the Nile is one of my all-time favorite Christie books. I have to admit that I am fascinated with Egypt and its history, and any book that takes advantage of this exotic locale is at the top of my list. It all starts with a young girl named Jackie and her fiancĂ© Simon. The two are engaged to be married and Jackie intends to introduce her fiancĂ© to her friend Linnet in hopes that she may find him a job. Several months later Poirot comes across the couple on their honeymoon. But it’s not Jackie that Simon has married, it’s Linnet. It appears that Jackie is stalking the couple, and Poirot tries to reason with her to leave them alone. When the honeymooners book passage on the same river boat as Poirot, he becomes involved in the murder that takes place on board. A trip down the Nile, a murder, and an excellent plot twist make this one of my favorite Christie mysteries.

Appointment With Death also has an exotic locale, are you seeing a theme. In this book, Poirot is on holiday in Jerusalem and overhears a conversation between a brother and sister concerning the fact that someone has got to be killed. He witnesses the same two siblings and their tyrannical step-mother, who rules her family without mercy. When said step-mother is found dead on a trip to Petra, Poirot fears that the conversation he overheard may have been about her death. The murder comes down to who not only had motive, but the opportunity to kill the woman. Poirot must sift through many suspects and their comings and goings to determine who wanted her dead, and had the opportunity to commit the crime.

And that brings us to A Pocket Full of Rye...

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn't that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?

The king was in his counting house,
Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlour,
Eating bread and honey.

The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose.

I return to England for my final book, as there is nothing like a good British whodunit. I’ve chosen A Pocket Full of Rye because it contains a nursery rhyme. Christie wrote several mysteries that were based on nursery rhymes (Hickory Dickory Dock and One Two Buckle my Shoe, to name two others). In A Pocket Full of Rye, the murder of Rex Fortescue shocks police, but not quite as much as the fact that the dead man’s pocket is full of rye. Shortly after his death, Fortescue’s son Lance arrives. What follows is the death of  Lance’s step-mother by cyanide and the death of the maid Gladys by strangulation. Miss Marple becomes involved because Gladys used to be her cleaner, and she feels the need to offer her help when she reads of Gladys’ death in the newspaper. There is the issue of Blackbird Mine in Africa (see poem above for blackbirds) and the fact that it may have contained gold. Reason enough for murder? You’ll have to read to find out.

What are your favorite Christie reads? Do you go with the classics, or off the beaten path?

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