Reading Lists

10 Books Featuring Poison

Thumbnail Poison Stack W Magazine RL

We explore some of the best Agatha Christie novels which feature her most prolific murder method, poison.

Since I was surrounded by poisons, perhaps it was natural that death by poisoning should be the method I selected.
Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

The Mysterious Affair at Styles [1920]

Agatha Christie’s first detective novel begins with Captain Hastings being sent back to England after sustaining an injury in the First World War. He is invited by his old friend, John Cavendish, to spend some time at their beautiful country house, Styles Court, where he meets Mrs Inglethorp and her new husband, Alfred. Despite the idyllic surroundings, Mrs Inglethorp is found poisoned, and suspicions begin to arise amongst the family members. Thankfully Hercule Poirot is on hand to investigate.

Three Act Tragedy [1934]

Sir Charles Cartwright’s dinner party is going well – the guests are talking, and the drinks are flowing, that is until the vicar drops down dead after sipping on his cocktail. Despite his death being declared as natural, Sir Charles suspects foul play and sends for the cocktail glass to be analysed, but no traces of poison can be found. So, who killed the vicar, how did they administer the fatal poison and even more puzzling, why?

Death in the Clouds [1935]

Poirot’s return flight from France doesn’t go to plan, when a fellow passenger is killed on board. Not content with being on the scene, Christie also makes the Detective a major suspect in this complicated case. A poisoned blowpipe is located under Poirot’s seat, and he must work out how the fatal crime took place without witnesses in order to clear his name.

Murder is Easy [1939]

Accidents can be fatal… But so too, can arsenic. When Luke Fitzwilliam returns to England, he doesn’t have much of a plan for the future. A chance meeting with an eccentric stranger leads him to a small, and seemingly unlucky, village. Are all these deaths just an unfortunate coincidence, or is a murderer at work in Wychwood under Ashe? An excellent standalone story from the Queen of Crime.

Her story was that the beer she gave him was all right. Our theory was that he suddenly felt so worried and remorseful that he slipped the poison in himself.
Agatha Christie, Five Little Pigs

Five Little Pigs [1942]

Sixteen years after a murder was committed, Poirot is asked to get to the bottom of it. Carla’s birth mother was charged with killing her husband, and died in prison, but not before penning a note proclaiming her innocence. By reassembling the five living witnesses, the Detective intends to discover who put the poison in the renowned artist Amyas Crale’s beer all those years ago…

Sparkling Cyanide [1945]

Rosemary Barton will never be forgotten. She was a sister, a wife, a friend but evidently, she was also someone’s enemy. Tonight, with a sprig of “rosemary for remembrance”, at the very table she died a year ago today. Could this be a civilised dinner or will history be tempted to repeat itself?

Crooked House [1945]

A house full of suspects. A murder method provided by the victim himself. It’s time to meet the Leonides family, a large and complicated group who share the eponymous residence. Greek-born Aristide made his fortune in the UK, and provides generously for those who live with him, but now he has been poisoned the family suspect someone still wasn’t happy with their lot. Could it be his second-wife, who was five decades his junior? It’s up to a family insider to find out.

There was no doubt but that Mr Fortescue was very seriously ill. Even as she came up to him, his body was convulsed in a painful spasmodic movement.
Agatha Christie, A Pocket Full of Rye

A Pocket Full of Rye [1953]

Patriarch of his family, Rex Fortescue meets an agonising end when he takes a sip of his morning cup of tea at his desk. Falling into substantial fortune upon his death, suspicions naturally turn towards his wife - that is until she is also found dead. But perhaps most puzzling of all, is the handful of rye found in Rex Fortescue’s jacket pocket. It is down to Miss Marple to decipher the puzzling clues that are stumping Scotland Yard’s finest and catch the guilty party.

The Pale Horse [1961]

Father Gorman hears a deathbed confession, before being killed in the street. He has, in his possession, a list of names which attracts the attention of the police, and our protagonist Mark Easterbrook. The list is linked to a spate of recent deaths, a suspicious trio of witches, and a very creepy village. Can Ariadne Oliver help to uncover an unusual murder methodology? This story is credited with saving at least two lives, when Christie fans recalled the plot of the book.

The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side [1962]

At a charity fete in Gossington Hall, hosted by film star Marina Gregg, cocktails are flowing, and guests are mingling. But moments after being welcomed, Heather Badcock is dead, killed from ingesting a poisoned cocktail. Gossip spreads quickly in St Mary Mead, and it isn’t long before people suspect that the intended victim of the fatal drink was actually Marina. But whilst the police begin questioning the party’s guests, Miss Marple conducts her own investigations…

Oh, my dear, of course! I know about that. Margot came back and told me all about it. Hemlock in the cocktails, wasn’t it?
Agatha Christie, The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side

Of course we can't create a completely comprehensive list of all Agatha Christie's books containing poison that also fits in this digestible format. There's plenty more excellent novels, short stories and even plays which demonstrate the author's expertise and creative use of deadly substances...

For those eager to read beyond these ten titles, might we recommend continuing your focus with the following novels: Murder in Mesopotamia; Sad Cypress; Death Comes as the End; and 4.50 from Paddington.

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