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Read Christie 2023

Updated: Dec 30, 2023



Methods & Motives





'The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it.' - The Murder of Roger Ackroyd


I'm so excited about this theme! I feel like this year, we'll be able to get into the heart of Christie's genius - understanding the psychology of her characters, and how they commit their crimes. The solution is always in sight; the clues are all there. I'm always beating myself up for missing the seemingly obvious hints.


I hope this year's reading challenge will allow me to enjoy and appreciate Christie's books all over again. I have attached the Agatha Christie Ltd website and socials below:









Below are the company's official picks for each month, but more reading guidance will be available from the 4th of January onwards



Month

Theme

Official Pick

January

Jealousy

Sad Cypress

February

Blunt Object

Partners in Crime

March

Anger

The Moving Finger

April

Poison

Sparkling Cyanide

May

Betrayal

Towards Zero

June

Gunshot

They Do It with Mirrors

July

Love & Lust

Evil Under the Sun

August

Fall from a Height

Death Comes As The End

September

Hatred

Appointment with Death

October

Stabbing

Murder on the Orient Express

November

Greed

Endless Night

December

Strangulation

Sleeping Murder



Hercule Poirot is my favourite Christie character - I have a collection of his mysteries as an affiliate on Bookshop


Any commission earned will be redirected to the Malala Fund


 


January


Sad Cypress


Alternative Picks: Five Little Pigs, Towards Zero, Cards on the Table, Death on the Nile, Murder in Mesopotamia, The Murder on the Links, The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side



Motive - Jealousy


This is only the second time I've read Sad Cypress and that must have been a couple of years ago now. The fun part of rereading Christie's books is that it gives you the opportunity to look for all the clues you missed the first time. I've always found that the genius of Christie is that she does indeed give you all the tools you need to solve the mystery, and yet- she still manages to take you by surprise with a twist! Sad Cypress is more of a slow-paced mystery in comparison to her other works like A Pocket Full of Rye. However, I think that was necessary for this plot because it allowed the reader to familiarise themselves with the characters like Elinor Carlisle, and then work on their own deductions.


This was definitely a puzzle that ached my head initially because all the evidence clearly points in one direction.


'Anyone who has never really loved has never really lived...'

What I loved about the jealousy theme is that it shows readers how important it is not to take the facts at face value. Jealousy can manifest itself in various forms; its presence may appear obvious to very subtle. I think Sad Cypress is such a lovely, cosy mystery. There will be a moment in Part III where the penny will drop for most readers, and they'll be kicking themselves as to how they could have missed the obvious signs.


Synopsis


Elinor Carlisle has been convicted for the murder of Mary Gerrard. The damning evidence all points to her; she had a method and motive. However, not everyone is convinced of her guilt. Dr Lord appeals to the famous Hercule Poirot to uncover who was responsible for Mary's death. Or was it Elinor all along...?



 


February


Ordeal by Innocence


Alternative Picks: Partners in Crime (Official Picks), Hickory Dickory Dock, Murder in Mesopotamia, Mrs McGinty's Dead, The Sittaford Mystery, The Pale Horse




Method - Blunt Object


I decided to break away from the official pick this month and go for Ordeal by Innocence. This is one of my favourite Christie covers, and I was excited to take the opportunity to reread this mystery. I find rereading Christie's books to be just as enjoyable because it gives you the chance to spot all the clues and hints you missed the first time. When reading Christie, I like to just immerse myself in the story and then see what I missed when rereading.


This is more fast-paced in comparison to January's pick, Sad Cypress. I did find this one to be considerably more eerie and atmospheric because of the silent accusations embedded throughout the book. One person being found innocent isn't necessarily a relief because of implications for the rest of the characters. I'm sure there was a recent TV adaptation of this book (but always read the book first!)





'Justice is, after all, in the hands of men and men are fallible.'

I thought this was such a cosy and clever mystery. All the characters are suspects and with no apparent motive, you'll be hooked until the very end.


Synopsis


Jack Argyle is convicted for the murder of his mother. He is convicted and subsequently dies in prison. His family have come to accept the verdict and try their best to move on. But when Mr Arthur Calgary comes forward to provide an alibi for Jack, the innocence of the whole family is thrown into question...



 

March


The Moving Finger


Alternative Picks: Take at the Flood, Murder is Easy, Curtain: Poirot's Last Case




Motive - Anger


This intriguing little mystery is perfect for those in a reading slump. In just over two hundred pages, Christie explores how bitterness, resentment and anger can lead to murder. It's a subtle way of looking into the psychology of the murderer; understanding a raw and common reason why characters commit their crimes. It explains why Miss Marple is the sleuth in question for this book because her unthreatening appearance allows those around her to let their guard down. She comes across as just an ordinary, mundane woman; this is her power. By seeming irrelevant, Marple observes and reflects on the individuals around her. Nothing escapes her sharp eye.


Although I enjoyed this book overall, Miss Marple doesn't make an appearance until the last 1/3 of the story. I usually prefer her presence from the onset, but the mystery itself was still very clever. Although I had read this one before, it was a long time ago so it felt nice to enjoy this mystery once again.


'The great thing in these cases is to keep an absolutely open mind. Most crimes, you see, are so absurdly simple.'


Synopsis


To recover from an injury, Jerry Burton and his sister retire to the village of Lymstock. Life seems ordinary until everyone starts receiving anonymous letters. The letters seem to be full of baseless, random lies. But when one recipient takes their own life, Jerry is determined to unmask the sinister writer.



 

April


Sparkling Cyanide


Alternative Picks: A Pocket Full of Rye, Crooked House, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Death in the Clouds




Method - Poison


This is the second time I've read this mystery, but the first was so long ago so it felt like a brand new story. I've always adored this particular edition, so I was excited to finally delve back into this one. The method of poison is a favourite of Christie's. If you're interested to know more about this, I highly recommend A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup. It breaks down all the different toxins and poisons Christie uses in her stories and more interestingly, why she knew so much about them.


I loved how this book breaks down all of the characters in different chapters. It gives you as the reader, the opportunity to familiarise yourself with everyone and start making your own observations and deductions. This book is another lovely example of how Christie gives her readers all the tools they need to solve the mystery. I had a few theories, but as always, Christie outsmarted me again.


This is a great book to pick up if you find yourself in a reading slump. This particular edition I have was only around 160 pages. It's concise, clever and incredibly well-written.



'How little you might know a person after living in the same house with them!'

Synopsis


It's been a year since Rosemary Barton died. The coroner ruled her death as a suicide. The witnesses to her sudden death, however, start to think otherwise...




 

May


Towards Zero


Alternative Stories: Unfinished Portrait (A Mary Westmacott story), Evil Under the Sun, They Do It With Mirrors, Death on the Nile




Motive - Betrayal


I think this is one of the few Christie books I have left that I've not read. This edition is from 1971! Naturally, I was very excited to have the opportunity to read this one. Towards Zero is a very short mystery so it's worth adding to your TBR if you're in a reading slump. In this mystery, we follow Superintendent Battle. I got a bit excited whenever there was a reference to my favourite detective, Hercule Poirot.


It was so easy to fall into this story - just full of thoughtful characters and a mind-puzzling murder. I stayed up really late just to finish this one. It's my favourite read in the #readchristie2023 challenge. The final thirty pages just had me hooked. It made me further appreciate the genius of Agatha Christie.


This one is more of a plot-driven novel, but the tension between the characters was just so fun to follow. I felt like I was watching some reality TV show sprinkled with some murder! A five-star read for sure!


'I suppose, like most young people nowadays, boredom is what you dread most in the world, and yet, I can assure you, there are worse things.'

Synopsis


When an elderly widow is murdered at her seaside estate, Superintendent Battle is called to the case. It's not long until he realises that the facts don't add up...



 

June


Cards on the Table


Alternative Stories: They Do It With Mirrors, One, Two, Buckle my Shoe, At Bertram's Hotel, The Secret of Chimneys, The Hollow, N or M?




Method - Gunshot


I decided to go for a different pick this June because I was just really in the mood for a good old Poirot mystery. Don't get me wrong, I love Miss Marple. I think I have a soft spot for the Belgian detective because Murder on the Orient Express was the first Christie book I ever read. The one and only tattoo I have is in tribute to this sleuth.


What I loved about this one is that it allowed brought together three fabulous sleuths - Colonel Race, Superintendent Battle, and of course, Hercule Poirot. If only Miss Marple could have made a sneaky appearance...


Christie really illustrated the different approaches her sleuths have to solving mysteries. The psychological method of Poirot with the little grey cells was a frequent theme throughout the story. I think this is a book I'd like to re-read and highlight all of the clues I missed the first time. It was a clever, thoughtfully written mystery with twists right until the very end.



'I have always disapproved of murder.'

Synopsis


Hercule Poirot attends a dinner party hosted by the eccentric Mr Shaitana. He claims to have a special treat for the famous detective...a room full of guests and one of them a murderer!



 

July


Evil Under the Sun


Alternative Stories: The Mysterious Mr Quinn, They Came to Baghdad, Midsummer Mysteries, The Hollow, A Caribbean Mystery, The Body in the Library




Motive - Love & Lust


As the theme for this month centres on motive, it only makes sense that the official pick is a Hercule Poirot mystery. This is only the second time I've read this mystery, but as that was a while ago, the story felt new. It's a fun mystery to read whilst on the beach (although I couldn't do that this time as we've all had loads of stormy weather this July!)


I found this to be a really intriguing mystery to follow; Poirot's stress on understanding motive, and what can drive people to kill, was keenly highlighted in this book. Although the victim was predictable, the solution to the crime is very ingenious. Every time I've read a Christie book, I always think I'll be able to figure it out. However, each mystery seems to have its own clever solution. There are so many brilliant books to read for July's theme - love and lust is probably one of the biggest motives of fictional murder. If Poirot is also your favourite Christie sleuth, I would highly recommend The Hollow for July's theme.


'The wish to kill and the action of killing are two different things.'

Synopsis:


Hercule Poirot decides to head off to the English coast for a holiday. He meets a funny array of guests at the hotel resort. One woman, Arlena Stuart, seems to attract a lot of attention. When her body is discovered, strangled, Poirot is forced to cut his holiday short...



 

August


Endless Night


Alternative Stories: Death Comes as the End (official pick), Elephants Can Remember, Parker Pyne Investigates, Third Girl, Why Didn't They Ask Evans?



Method - Fall from a height


I wanted to break away from the official pick for August to take the opportunity to read Endless Night - an unread standalone mystery. I found this edition at a second-hand bookstore in London, and I believe this is a first edition (do correct me if I'm wrong). Reading a new Christie book for the first time is always such a special experience, and I'm so glad this one lived up to my expectations. It really reminded me of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - those who have read this mystery will know exactly what I'm talking about!


Admittedly, I did find the first 1/3 of the book to be a bit slow. It's unusual for Christie to write a slow-burner thriller, but I can assure you that her intentions were deliberate and worth the wait. I'm used to her other mysteries, such as A Pocket Full of Rye, where there's a murder by page 5!


This is a slow-burner that will definitely unsettle you. Reading the last fifty pages genuinely had me shocked; I need to reread this one to see if I can spot all of the signals Christie usually hides within. This was such a lovely reading experience; Christie fans need to take the time to talk about this book more.


'It's second nature to make the best of yourself.'

Synopsis:


Mike Rogers is certain he's met the love of his life and is determined to start a life together in the country. When they are pestered by bad omens and warnings from locals, the happy couple are determined to stay in their dream home...until disaster strikes.



 

September


Crooked House


Alternative Picks: Appointment with Death (official pick), Five Little Pigs, Murder Is Easy, Dumb Witness, Peril at End House, Hercule Poirot's Christmas




Motive - Hatred


Once again, I didn't go for the official pick this month. I've only read Crooked House once quite a while ago, so I thought it would be fitting to give it another reread. I'm absolutely obsessed with the cover art for this one; it felt like the perfect read as we now enter the autumn season.


I had a rough recollection of who the murderer was for this one; so rereading allowed me to look out for clues I missed the first time. It's quite fun rereading a Christie book - the first time you should read just to enjoy the story. The second is to identify what you missed firsthand. As this is a relatively short mystery (under 200 pages), it was relatively quick to read; concise and fast-paced.


I would say this is more of a psychological thriller/murder mystery; and is arguably a lot darker than Christie's other books. The concluding chapters were eerie and very grim. A lot of people can be forgiven for thinking that Christie just writes light-hearted murder mysteries, but you see the dark streak in her writing come out in Crooked House. It's a brilliantly well-written crime novel; loved every page.


'What are murderers like? Some of them, have been thoroughly nice chaps.'

Synopsis:


In the small suburb of Swinly Dean, Aristide Leonides is murdered. Suspicion has already fallen on his widow. But Charles Hayward is not convinced...


 

October


Murder on the Orient Express


Alternative Picks: The Man in the Brown Suit, Lord Edgware Dies, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Hallowe'en Party, Third Girl




Method: Stabbing


I went with the official pick for October as Murder on the Orient Express was the first Christie book I ever read; and undoubtedly, a firm favourite. It is likely one of the first books that spring to mind when people think about works by Agatha Christie.


It was fun to reread this one and locate all the subtle hints and clues embedded throughout the novel. There is a rich, diverse set of characters, all unique and intriguing in their own way. I would quite happily read more chapters on each of them. Furthermore, Poirot is absolutely brilliant in this story. His unfiltered and frankly 'no bullshit' attitude towards the other characters was funny to read.


It's so easy to escape into this world on the Orient Express; a cosy, exciting mystery. It's a personal goal of mine to one day travel on the Orient Express - and of course, bring this copy with me! Although, I hope to enjoy that trip without any dead bodies cropping up!


Murder on the Orient Express is one of the first books I recommend to people new to Christie's work. It's a murder mystery classic for a reason. She genuinely changed the 'whodunnit' world of writing for good with this one.


I would also recommend checking out the most recent adaptation of this mystery!



"If you will forgive me for being personal - I do not like your face M. Ratchett."

Synopsis:


Hercule Poirot finds himself on the Orient Express, surrounded by an array of intriguing characters. All come from different backgrounds and parts of the world. But when one fellow passenger is found stabbed to death in his cabin, they all become suspects...



 

November


A Pocket Full of Rye


Alternative Stories: Endless Night, Dumb Witness, Peril at End House, The Sittaford Mystery, The ABC Murders




Motive - Greed


The official pick for this month was Endless Night, however, I had already read it for August. I thought A Pocket Full of Rye would be a fun alternative (this copy in the picture is a first edition!).


When people tell me they prefer fast-paced novels, this is one of the first books that springs to mind. Christie doesn't leave you waiting around with this one - there's a body by page six. You are greeted with an array of intriguing, rather ridiculous sets of characters. A dysfunctional, sad lot that would rather not have anything to do with one another. The cruel, piggish patriarch of the family is the only thing that keeps these characters connected. I think because all of these characters were so self-absorbed, they easily let their guard down around Miss Marple. One can be forgiven for looking at Miss Marple, and dismissing her as just an old lady. However, she is a literary example of why you should never judge a person at first glance.


What is unapparent to many, is painfully obvious to Miss Marple. However, she doesn't have an ego at all. I enjoyed rereading this mystery, and noticing how Miss Marple picked up on tiny details. If you haven't read a Miss Marple book before, A Pocket Full of Rye is brilliant one to start.


"Oh yes," said Miss Marple fervently. "I always believe the worst. What is so sad is that one is usually justified in doing so."

Synopsis:


Rex Fortescue collapses suddenly at work. Not only was he poisoned, pieces of rye were found in his pocket...


 

I'm so excited that I was able to contribute to this article by Official Agatha Christie


James Prichard, Sophie Hannah, and many more share their thoughts on why we love reading crime at Christmas!




 

December


Sleeping Murder


Alternative Picks: 4:50 from Paddington, A Pocket Full of Rye, Mrs McGinty's Dead, A Murder is Announced




Method - Strangulation


I can't believe we've come to an end of another Read Christie challenge. I decided to go for the official pick this month, because I remembered reading Sleeping Murder in one sitting, and loved it. This is a very unique puzzle. Solving a murder is one thing, but when it was committed nearly twenty years prior and there's no body, one doesn't really know where to start. But Miss Marple does.


Miss Marple is a brilliant sleuth for the simple reason that she uses her pretend ignorance to her advantage. Characters see a little old lady and dismiss her easily, but Miss Marple is the perfect example of why you should never judge a book by the cover. Moreover, her lack of ego makes her likeable; she explains her observations without belittling others. She appreciates that nothing should be taken at face-value; people deceive and lie all the time.


I thought this was a really fun puzzle to read; a great crime fiction to read around Christmas time.


"It's very dangerous to believe people, I haven't for years."

Synopsis:


Gwenda moves from New Zealand to start a new married life in England. But the familiarity of her new home becomes sinister...




And that's a wrap?!


The #readchristie2023 challenge is over! I found this theme, Methods & Motives, to be a really fun and creative way of delving deeper into the psychology of Christie's work. It was nice knowing there was a time each month where I could reread a Christie classic. I would have to say that Murder on the Orient Express was my favourite - forever will be.


What's next?


On Wednesday 27th December 2023, Agatha Christie Ltd will reveal the details of Read Christie 2024. Make sure to be following their socials to receive all the important updates.



Thank you to anyone whose taken the time to read this little blog. I hope to see you again for Read Christie 2024!



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