Reading Lists

Read Christie 2024

Outset RC24 February
Our February book: The Secret Adversary

Welcome to #ReadChristie2024! This year we will be exploring Christie's works through the decades, from her very first novel published in 1920 through to her final stories published in the 1970s. We will explore the context of some of her titles by taking a deeper dive into the world at that time, potential sources of inspiration, and other authors of influence. Are you ready to jump in?

Our February choice: The Secret Adversary

For our second book of the 1920s we will be reading The Secret Adversary. This is an adventure novel rather than a classic murder mystery and is the first of five books starring Tommy and Tuppence as the lead detectives. The inspiration behind this story came when Christie overheard someone talking about a woman called 'Jane Fish'. The name struck her as being immensely original and rather humorous. This idea is introduced very early on in the novel when Tommy tells Tuppence about overhearing a discussion about a woman called Jane Finn. Read the book to discover what role she plays in the story.

What's it about?

Young, restless, and hard up, Tommy and Tuppence are eager to reignite their sense of adventure, and to break free of their daily routines. After realising she had no inheritance coming her way, and no rich husband to rely on, Tuppence suggests she and Tommy become business partners and form a company that is "Willing to do anything, go anywhere". But shortly after advertising their services, the pair are thrown headfirst into danger and deception, and are not entirely sure who they can trust. Are the conspiracy theories and treacherous missions too much or will they thrive under the pressure?

But suppose we try the unorthodox. Tommy, let's be adventurers!
Agatha Christie, The Secret Adversary

Exploring the 1920s

For our next book of the challenge we have chosen Christie's second novel, which was published in 1922. Rather than writing another murder mystery featuring Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings, Christie opted to veer away from this genre and tried writing something altogether different - a spy thriller. She invented a new duo to take the lead, a little different from that of Poirot and Hastings, with youthful exuberance and an audacious attitude towards life.

At the time of Christie writing this story, her husband, Archie, had resigned from the Flying Corps and had settled himself into a new career. However, many people after coming out of the war were not so lucky and young people were desperate for jobs. This formed the inspiration for characters Tommy and Tuppence - they were to be young, not long out of the V.A.D (Voluntary Aid Detachment), A.T.S (Auxiliary Territorial Service), or army, and desperate for work.

Despite thoroughly enjoying writing this story, Christie's publishers were unsure whether to publish it as they felt it wouldn't sell nearly as well as if she wrote another classic mystery. However, they did eventually accept, and it sold rather well. Christie then went on to publish several other books featuring this adventurous pair as well as many other espionage novels.

What can we expect from this story then? Heavily influenced by the war, be prepared for two young people embarking on a daring adventure, spies, espionage and conspiracies, as well as a whole host of characters you aren't sure can be trusted.

Alternative stories

Whilst free to read any book published in the 1920s, we have a few alternatives that we can recommend. The Man in the Brown Suit is an excellent option for February. Published 100 years ago, this is a story of a young woman who comes to London looking for adventure. But she gets a little more than she bargained for when she witnesses a man fatally losing his balance on the underground. Was it really just an accidental death? And who was the mysterious man in the brown suit? Another book you could opt for is The Seven Dials Mystery which involves a mere prank involving eight alarm clocks severely backfiring with fatal consequences. Alternatively, you could read the next Tommy and Tuppence book in the series, Partners in Crime. This is a collection of short stories featuring the duo where they are asked to take over a detective agency...what could possibly go wrong?

How to get involved

Once you've printed your challenge postcard, simply fill in the story you've chosen for this category and get reading! If you post about your choice on social media make sure to tag us in the photo so we can see it. Use #ReadChristie2024 on Instagram for your chance to be featured in our monthly reading round-ups. Alternatively, you can let us know via our X, Facebook or Instagram which book you've chosen, in the comment sections of our posts. Some readers choose to join our end of the month book club, or incorporate it into their own book club plans. However you join us, we hope you have fun with this year's challenge.

The book club

We will be hosting our February book club on Thursday 29th February at 9am and 5pm (UK time) on both Instagram and Facebook. To get involved, simply head to the comments section where we will pose live questions about our chosen book for a whole hour, and share your opinions on the novel. We have received requests to accommodate more time zones and we are currently working out how best to accommodate readers' locations. Stay tuned for further information.

Our 2024 reading choices

Digital Card Filled In
This year's official picks for the Read Christie 2024 challenge
Outset RC Jan24
Our January book: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Our January choice: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

What better place to start our journey through the years than with Agatha Christie's very first detective novel. This is the product of a dare from her sister Madge, who bet that she couldn't write a good detective story. Having been working in a local dispensary, and completing her exam of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in 1917, poison naturally was the murder method of choice. It is in this story that we are first introduced to Hercule Poirot, and his sidekick, Captain Hastings. Little did Christie know at the time, just how popular her Belgian detective would become.

What's it about?

Captain Hastings has returned to England after sustaining an injury in the First World War. His good friend, John Cavendish, invites him to spend his leave with his family at their beautiful country home, Styles Court. However, on the morning of 18th July, the family wake to discover Emily Inglethorp, John's step-mother, has been poisoned. Naturally, suspicions immediately fall on the family, particularly on Emily's new and rather unlikable husband, Alfred. There is no one more suited to solving this fatal affair than Monsieur Hercule Poirot.

I thought of the white-haired old lady in the big house, and that vivid wicked little face that had just smiled into ours, and a vague chill of foreboding crept over me.
Agatha Christie, The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Exploring the 1920s

We begin this year's challenge with a book which was actually written and set in 1916. Why? Well, it is inspiring news for all budding writers, as this book actually took four years to be snapped up by a publisher, and was only released in late 1920 in the US, and early 1921 in the UK. If at first you don’t succeed… Christie tried, and tried again.

What does this mean then, as we delve into this work as part of the 1920s? The war is current, but also a spectre in this book. It is the reason why Hastings is at Styles Court, why Hercule Poirot is living in the UK, and the reason Cynthia is working at the dispensary. Can we expect to see the shadow of World War One featuring in Christie's other 20s stories? You'll have to read along to find out...

Christie took inspiration from books she was reading at the time. The impact of reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories are evident, most clearly with the parallels between our narrator, Hastings, and Holmes' trusted sidekick: Dr Watson. For more information on this, we'd recommend reading Chapter One of Mark Aldridge's superb Poirot biography.

In Christie's personal life in 1919, Archie had taken a job in the City, they’d taken a flat together and she'd given birth to her only daughter Rosalind in August. With such a lot going on, she still had time to plot out new stories, and chase her publisher for news of her first book. We look forward to exploring the themes that emerge in her works, as she progressed through the 1920s.

Alternative stories

As this year's theme is through the decades, you can read any book published in the 1920s giving you lots of scope to pick up a new book or revisit an old favourite. We believe The Mysterious Affair at Styles is the perfect starting point for this challenge but if you've already read that one, why not try Poirot Investigates? This is Christie's first collection of short stories featuring the famous detective and Captain Hastings. Alternatively, you might want to opt for The Murder on the Links which is the duo's first case abroad together as they investigate a murder on the French coast.

How to get involved

Once you've printed your challenge postcard, simply fill in the story you've chosen for this category and get reading! If you post about your choice on social media make sure to tag us in the photo so we can see it. Use #ReadChristie2024 on Instagram for your chance to be featured in our monthly reading round-ups. Alternatively, you can let us know via our X, Facebook or Instagram which book you've chosen, in the comment sections of our posts. Some readers choose to join our end of the month book club, or incorporate it into their own book club plans. However you join us, we hope you have fun with this year's challenge.

The book club

We will be hosting our February book club on Thursday 25th January at 9am and 5pm (UK time) on both Instagram and Facebook. To get involved, simply head to the comments section where we will pose live questions about our chosen book for a whole hour, and share your opinions on the novel. We have received requests to accommodate more time zones and we are currently working out how best to accommodate readers' locations. Stay tuned for further information.

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