Agatha Christie is the bestselling fiction author of all time. So it can be a bit intimidating to know where to begin with her works. Should you begin with her ingenious detective Hercule Poirot, or her endearing sleuth Miss Jane Marple? This list of the best Agatha Christie books will feature both protagonists and be the ultimate guide on where to begin with reading Christie’s mysteries.
Who is Agatha Christie?
Agatha Christie was born in Torquay, England in 1890. She was the youngest child of three and was initially homeschooled by her father. Contrary to her mother’s wishes, Christie taught herself to read by the age of five.
That passion for literature would remain steadfast throughout her life, until her death in 1976.
During the First World War Christie began writing the detective stories for which she would become famous. It was then that Hercule Poirot was born, amplified by an expertise in poisons which Christie acquired through her work at a hospital dispensary. What began as a challenge from her sister turned into an illustrious career.
Many of her novels feature settings that Christie visited, and much of her writing was inspired through observation. In fact, Miss Marple was inspired by Christie’s grandmother and her friends. Of course, while some of her books take place abroad, many of her beloved mysteries are set in her home country of England.
Through writing what she saw and knew, Christie created realistic characters that have become adored the world over. Upon his literary death, Hercule Poirot received an obituary in The New York Times, the only fictional character to have ever received such an honor.
During her lifetime Christie wrote 66 detective novels, 14 short story collections, and the world’s longest-running play: The Mousetrap. On the day she died, the theatres in London’s West End dimmed their lights for one hour in honour of this successful playwright.
Collectively her books have sold more than a billion copies in English, and another billion in translation. With more than two billion books printed, she is outsold only by the Bible and William Shakespeare. As well, her books have been translated into more than 100 languages, making her the most translated writer of all time.
Summary of the Best Agatha Christie Books
While most of the books on this list are either from Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple series, they are all self-contained stories that can be read as standalones. If you’re looking for more information on how to read all of the Agatha Christie books in order, you can check out our article here which features all of her books.
1. The Mysterious Affair at Styles
The Mysterious Affair at Styles is Agatha Christie’s debut novel and no list would be complete without its inclusion. This is the novel that introduced the eccentric Hercule Poirot to readers. Poirot would go on to become one of the most beloved detectives of all time.
A refugee of the Great War, Poirot is settling in England near Styles Court, the country estate of his wealthy benefactor, the elderly Emily Inglethorp. When Emily is poisoned and the authorities are baffled, Poirot puts his prodigious sleuthing skills to work.
Suspects are plentiful, including the victim’s much younger husband, her resentful stepsons, her longtime hired companion, a young family friend working as a nurse, and a London specialist on poisons who just happens to be visiting the nearby village.
All of them have secrets they are desperate to keep, but none can outwit Poirot as he navigates the ingenious red herrings and plot twists that earned Agatha Christie her well-deserved reputation as the queen of mystery.
2. And Then There Were None
And Then There Were None is another Poirot mystery that revolves around an eerie nursey rhyme. This novel is credited as Christie’s personal favorite book on her website.
First, there were ten. A curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a little private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found.
All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal – and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. A famous nursery rhyme is framed and hung in every room of the mansion.
When they realize that murders are occurring as described in the rhyme, terror mounts. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none.
Who has choreographed this dastardly scheme? And who will be left to tell the tale? Only the dead are above suspicion.
3. Murder on the Orient Express
This Poirot mystery is credited as fourth in Christie’s personal favorite 10 books on her website. It has been adapted multiple times, including most recently into a 2017 film starring Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.
Isolated and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer – in case he or she decides to strike again.
4. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
This book was Agatha Christie’s second pick of her favorite books and described by her as a general fan favorite. However, it is also one of Christie’s most controversial mysteries and one that breaks the rules of traditional mystery.
The peaceful English village of King’s Abbot is aghast. The widow Ferrars dies from an overdose of veronal. Not twenty-four hours later, Roger Ackroyd – the man she had planned to marry – is murdered.
It is a baffling case involving blackmail and death. One that taxes Hercule Poirot’s “grey cells” before he reaches one of the most startling conclusions of his career.
5. The A.B.C. Murders
Another beloved fan favorite that is well-deserved of its spot in the top five best Agatha Christie books, this novel has also been recently adapted. The A.B.C. Murders was adapted into a three-part crime-drama series of the same name in 2018 starring John Malkovich, Rupert Grint, and Anya Chalotra.
When Alice Asher is murdered in Andover, Hercule Poirot is already looking into the clues. Alphabetically speaking, it’s one letter down, twenty-five to go.
There’s a serial killer on the loose. His macabre calling card is to leave the ABC Railway Guide beside each victim’s body. But if A is for Alice Asher, bludgeoned to death in Andover, and B is for Betty Bernard, strangled with her belt on the beach at Bexhill, who will then be Victim C?
6. Death on the Nile
A new adaptation of this novel is imminent. It was first adapted into a play by Christie herself, then a 1978 film, followed by a 2004 film, and most recently into a film starring Kenneth Branagh, Gal Gadot, and Armie Hammer which will be released in early 2022.
The tranquillity of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish, and beautiful. She was a girl who had everything – until she lost her life.
Hercule Poirot recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: “I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.” Yet in this exotic setting, nothing is ever quite what it seems…
7. The Murder at the Vicarage
Miss Jane Marple is just as beloved as Poirot by many, and therefore a list of the best Agatha Christie books should most definitely include a Marple mystery. Murder at the Vicarage is the first Miss Marple mystery, which makes it the perfect first Marple book included on this list.
Miss Marple encounters a compelling murder mystery in St. Mary Mead, where under the seemingly peaceful exterior of an English country village lurks intrigue, guilt, deception, and death.
Colonel Protheroe, local magistrate and overbearing landowner is the most detested man in the village. Everyone – even in the vicar – wishes he were dead. And very soon he is – shot in the head in the vicar’s own study.
Faced with a surfeit of suspects, only the inscrutable Miss Marple can unravel the tangled web of clues that will lead to the unmasking of the killer.
8. The Body in the Library
The Body in the Library is another Miss Marple mystery, the second in the series, and in this one Christie mentions herself by name. A benevolent Easter egg for fans. As well, this novel is a nod to a previous Christie book, Cards on the Table, in which a character says she has written a crime novel with this same title.
It’s seven in the morning. The Bantrys wake to find the body of a young woman in their library. She is wearing evening dress and heavy make-up, now smeared across her cheeks.
But who is she? How did she get there? And what is the connection with another dead girl, whose charred remains are later discovered in an abandoned quarry?
The respectable Bantrys invite Miss Marple to solve the mystery before tongues start to wag.
9. Five Little Pigs
Five Little Pigs brings us back to the detective work of Hercule Poirot as we near the top 10 novels on our list of the 15 best Agatha Christie books.
It was an open and shut case. All the evidence said Caroline Crale poisoned her philandering husband, a brilliant painter. She was quickly and easily convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Now, sixteen years later, in a posthumous letter, Mrs. Crale has assured her grown daughter that she was innocent. But instead of setting the young woman’s mind at ease, the letter only raises disquieting questions: Did Caroline indeed write the truth? And if she didn’t kill her husband, who did?
To find out, the Crale’s daughter asks Hercule Poirot to reopen the case. His investigation takes him deep into the conflicting memories and motivations of the five other people who were with the Crales on the fatal day. With his keen understanding of human psychology, he manages to discover the surprising truth behind the artist’s death.
10. Poirot Investigates
Poirot Investigates is the third Hercule Poirot book and is a collection of short stories. If you are new to Christie’s writing, or looking for something shorter than her usual 200-page mysteries, this is a great option to pick up.
It features 11 stories from a suspicious death in a locked gun room to a mysterious missing will. These stories that follow Poirot and Captain Hastings were initially published in various magazine before being collated in this collection.
11. Peril at End House
This is another Poirot mystery that is the eighth in Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series.
Hercule Poirot is vacationing on the Cornish coast when he meets Nick Buckley. Nick is the young and reckless mistress of End House, an imposing structure perched on the rocky cliffs of St. Loo.
Poirot quickly takes a particular interest in the young woman. She has recently narrowly escaped a series of life-threatening accidents.
Something tells the Belgian sleuth that these so-called accidents are more than just mere coincidences or a spate of bad luck. Something like a bullet!
It seems all too clear to him that someone is trying to do away with poor Nick, but who? And, what is the motive?
In his quest for answers, Poirot must delve into the dark history of End House. The deeper he gets into his investigation, the more certain he is that the killer will soon strike again. And, this time, Nick may not escape with her life.
12. Cards on the Table
The fifteenth in her Hercule Poirot series, Cards on the Table delivers on everything readers have come to love and expect from a Christie mystery in this captivating whodunnit.
A flamboyant party host is murdered in full view of a roomful of bridge players.
Mr. Shaitana was famous as a flamboyant party host. Nevertheless, he was a man of whom everybody was a little afraid.
So, when he boasted to Poirot that he considered murder an art form, the detective had some reservations about accepting a party invitation to view Shaitana’s private collection. Indeed, what began as an absorbing evening of bridge was to turn into a more dangerous game altogether.
13. Crooked House
This book is one of Agatha Christie’s very few standalone novels that does not feature Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple. Christie has said that she found the concept of studying a certain family interesting to explore while writing this book.
In the sprawling, half-timbered mansion in the affluent suburb of Swinly Dean, Aristide Leonides lies dead from barbiturate poisoning. An accident? Not likely.
In fact, suspicion has already fallen on his luscious widow, a cunning beauty fifty years his junior, set to inherit a sizeable fortune, and rumored to be carrying on with a strapping young tutor comfortably ensconced in the family estate. But criminologist Charles Hayward is casting his own doubts on the innocence of the entire Leonides brood. He knows them intimately.
And he’s certain that in a crooked house such as Three Gables, no one’s on the level.
14. A Murder is Announced
Miss Marple’s fourth case is Agatha Christie’s third choice for her top ten favorite novels according to her website. This book was promoted as Christie’s fiftieth book.
The villagers of Chipping Cleghorn, including Jane Marple, are agog with curiosity over an advertisement in the local gazette which reads: “A murder is announced and will take place on Friday October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30 p.m.”
A childish practical joke? Or a hoax intended to scare poor Letitia Blacklock? Unable to resist the mysterious invitation, a crowd begins to gather at Little Paddocks at the appointed time when, without warning, the lights go out.
Finally, no list would be complete without Poirot’s final case. Whilst Curtain was published at the end of Agatha Christie’s writing career – in fact, less than one year before her death – it was actually written many years before during the London Blitz in the Second World War. Unsure if she would survive the war, Christie wrote the final cases of both Poirot and Miss Marple to conclude their respective series.
Arthritic and immobilized, Poirot calls on his old friend Captain Hastings to join him at Styles to be the eyes and ears that will feed observations to Poirot’s still razor-sharp mind. Though aware of the criminal’s identity, Poirot will not reveal it to the frustrated Hastings, and dubs the nameless personage “X.” Already responsible for several murders, X, Poirot warns, is ready to strike again, and the partners must work swiftly to prevent imminent murder.
Poirot’s final case is a mystery which brings him and Hastings back to Styles where they first solved a crime together. The story was both anticipated and dreaded by Agatha Christie fans worldwide, many of whom still refuse to read it, as it is known to contain Poirot’s death.
The 15 Best Agatha Christie Books Wrap-Up
- The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)
- And Then There Were None (1939)
- Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
- The A.B.C. Murders (1936)
- Death on the Nile (1937)
- The Murder at the Vicarage (1930)
- The Body in the Library (1942)
- Five Little Pigs (1942)
- Poirot Investigates (1924)
- Peril at End House (1932)
- Cards on the Table (1936)
- Crooked House (1949)
- A Murder is Announced (1950)
- Curtain (1975)
And there you have the 15 best Agatha Christie books. Many devoted fans of Christie – and Poirot and Miss Marple – will have their own personal list of her best books. Are any of your favorites on this list?
Christie’s books have become the epitome of cozy mysteries that are perfect to curl up with on a cold evening. She undeniably paved the path for future generations of mystery authors and her legacy lives on in the hearts of readers around the world.
Looking for even more book recommendations?
Check out this list of all 70+ Agatha Christie books in order.