Read Christie 2020

L Inline RC2020 December
This month we're reading Midwinter Murder

Our December choice

The final month of the year is upon us! Can you believe it? It has been a pleasure sharing this Read Christie journey with you during the testing months of 2020. That's why we're finishing up with a brand new book that we think you'll love, a collection of Christie stories set during the coldest season, Midwinter Murder. The category prompt this month is 'A story inspired by Christie's work'. This might be her work as a nurse, the role she undertook in a pharmacy, or the job for which she is most famous, writing. Midwinter Murder has some truly excellent stories in it,

If you are not yet able to get hold of this collection where you live, we have provided a great list of alternative stories to choose from below.

Did you know? 'Three Blind Mice' is not published in the UK short story collection, as Agatha Christie agreed never to release the story there whilst The Mousetrap was still being performed. 'Three Blind Mice' was adapted by Christie into the record-breaking play The Mousetrap, and she didn't want to spoil the secret of this special whodunnit, for those who were yet to see it...

What's it about?

This collection is a charming companion for our countdown to Christmas. Some stories have distinctly festive themes and settings, whereas others are simply set in winter months, both in England and further afield. There are a couple of excellent poisoning cases, where Christie has undoubtedly drawn from her wartime work, and also several nods to her experience as a writer of mysteries. You can expect cases from a handful of her greatest detectives, from Hercule Poirot to Parker Pyne, Miss Marple to Mr Quin. Take a diverting trip with Christie's characters this month, and settle down to a short story whenever you have a free moment, or indulge in the whole thing in one sitting. You have earned a break!

The curtains were drawn in the dining-room, and the lights on, illuminating the long table piled high with crackers and other decorations. It was a real old-fashioned Christmas dinner. At one end of the table was the Squire, red-faced and jovial; his sister faced him at the other. M. Poirot, in honour of the occasion, had donned a red waistcoat, and his plumpness, and the way he carried his head on one side, reminded one irresistibly of a robin redbreast.
Midwinter Murder, Agatha Christie

Alternative stories

Agatha Christie's wartime work as a pharmacist informed so many of her mysteries. Why not take this month's prompt as a chance to read Sparkling Cyanide, it is the largest gathering some of us will likely attend over the holidays! If you'd like to put your puzzle-solving skills to the test with Hercule Poirot this month, the interlinked short story collection The Labours of Hercules is a great choice. You can meet a character inspired by Christie's own work in a pharmacy in The Pale Horse, or spend some time getting to know a pretty dysfunctional family over the festive season, by reading Crooked House.

A beloved festive classic, Hercule Poirot's Christmas came about as a result of a personal request, "You complained that my murders were getting too refined - anaemic, in fact. You yearned for a 'good violent murder with lots of blood'. ... So this is your special story - written for you", Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot's Christmas. This story shows how she adapted her writing, and created stories for her audience, making her a master of her profession!

Have you completed Read Christie 2020?

This year we have been thrilled to celebrate 100 years of Agatha Christie stories with readers, viewers, listeners and fans. The challenge has allowed us to explore a different story in detail each month, and provide additional content for the website and social channels too. Most importantly, this year it has allowed us to stay connected with our beloved Christie community during such turbulent times, and we're so grateful to each and every one of our participants for getting involved. If you want to see what everyone has been reading visit #readchristie2020 on Instagram to find out more.

If you want to share your completed Read Christie 2020 postcard later this month, simply download the card (using the button below) and fill it in. Share your image on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using #readchristie2020. Alternatively, we've also created a neat digital checklist you can fill in too!

Print the Read Christie 2020 postcard

Read Christie 2021

We are delighted to announced that we will be doing the Read Christie challenge for a third year! Email subscribers will receive an early preview of the postcard in late December, so if you're not already on our monthly mailing list, sign up to our newsletter to get involved.

Our November choice

For this month’s category, ‘A story prompted by events during Christie’s lifetime’, we have chosen our first Tommy and Tuppence novel of the year, N or M?. Written and published during World War II, the book showcases life during the war for those left behind in England, as well as an intriguing case of espionage (which the Beresford’s must solve).

Tommy describes his life with Tuppence as a ‘joint venture’ in this novel, and whilst the plot sees them pretending to be strangers, it highlights their sense of commitment to one another charmingly. We can't wait to hear what you think about this one.

What's it about?

The Beresford’s are feeling futile at the start of this story. When we join them, they are discussing how they have been made to feel like, in their mid-40s, they simply can’t do anything useful for the war effort.

Mr Grant arrives to offer Tommy an administrative position at the ‘Ministry of Requirements’, but when Tuppence makes a mischievous exit, he reveals he has a secret mission for Mr Beresford, to discover the meaning behind a dead agent’s last words: “N or M”. Tommy heads off on his secret mission, only to discover his wife in disguise at Sans Souci, a guesthouse on the South Coast which he has been sent to stay at. What is she doing there? And will they be able to work together undiscovered to find the spy?

‘My country,’ said Tommy dryly, ‘doesn’t seem particularly anxious to allow me to die for it.’
N or M? Agatha Christie

Alternative stories

Why not celebrate Christie's centenary by returning to the very start of her stories? The Mysterious Affair at Styles reflects the writer's experiences of World War I, and introduces the Belgian refugee, Hercule Poirot. Another early work which reflects global events is the first Tommy and Tuppence novel, The Secret Adversary. Lord Edgware Dies reflects Christie's cultural awareness, by recreating figures from the public eye in her works. If you didn't get round to it earlier in the year, we highly recommend picking up A Murder is Announced for this category, or indeed, the masterful Ordeal By Innocence. Both later works provide interesting insights into post-war Britain.

The online book club

We will host an online discussion about the book on Thursday 26th November at 4pm GMT. Join us on Facebook and Instagram to share your thoughts about the book, about themes of espionage in Christie, and to discuss Tommy and Tuppence with other Christie fans.

Our October choice

We are excited to choose a Miss Marple story this month, with our October category ‘A story inspired by Christie’s reading’. The writer taught herself to read, after some resistance from her mother, and was an avid reader throughout her life. The influences of the books she chose can be seen across her whole oeuvre. Some of her literary favourites are evident from the book titles alone, Taken at the Flood, By the Pricking of my Thumbs and Absent in the Spring are all lines from Shakespeare’s work. She also makes reference to poets William Blake and Alfred Tennyson.

The title The Moving Finger takes its name from poet Edward Fitzgerald’s 1859 translation, Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Omar Khayyam, who was writing in the 11th Century, was nicknamed “the Astronomer-Poet of Persia”. The reference to this poetic verse has both figurative and literal significance to Christie’s story, and showcases how she used her reading to inspire and inform her works.

What's it about?

Jerry and Joanna Burton have rented a house in the village of Lymstock, “the peaceful backwater where nothing ever happens”. The siblings hope for some rest, as Jerry is recovering after a serious accident, but scandal is rife in this seemingly charming place, and they receive a poison pen letter questioning their status as brother and sister…

It turns out plenty of villagers have received cruel messages from this anonymous hand, gossip is rife amongst neighbours, and Doctor Griffith knows it needs to stop before something more sinister happens. Miss Marple doesn’t appear in this novel from the outset, instead making her presence known when there’s a tragic mystery to be solved.

No smoke without fire, that’s what I say.
The Moving Finger, Agatha Christie

Alternative stories

There are plenty of great titles to choose from for this category. If you’re looking for a spooky story this October, you’d be best picking up Endless Night or By the Pricking of My Thumbs. If you’d prefer a Poirot story, you can’t go wrong with Sad Cypress or alternatively, Taken at the Flood. Miss Marple’s The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side would make an apt choice too. Can you spot how the literary work Christie references permeates the story?

If you want to join in but do not have access to any of these books right now, just let us know via social media. We would be happy to recommend another from the stories you do have to hand. Share your choice with us on Twitter or Instagram using #readchristie2020.

The online book club

We will host an online discussion about the book on Thursday 29th October at 4pm GMT. Join us on Facebook and Instagram to share your thoughts, talk about the marvellous Miss Marple, and chat with other Christie fans.

Our September choice

We are so excited to re-read Death on the Nile this month. There are so many exciting books you can discover using the prompt ‘A story inspired by Christie’s travels’, but this had to be our choice, ahead of the new film being released in cinemas (N.B. The film is now being released in cinemas this December).

The historical and geographical detail of the novel derived from Christie's various trips to Egypt. Agatha Christie spent several months in Cairo as a debutante in 1910, attending dances and meeting people. She returned to the country several times, including in 1933 when she journeyed up the Nile with Max Mallowan and her daughter, where she gained inspiration for this novel.

What's it about?

Love. Money. Jealousy. Desire. Tragedy. This story has everything you need for a captivating read. Wealthy heiress Linnet promises to help out a friend in need, Jacqueline de Bellefort, but instead ends up getting married to Jackie's fiancé, Simon Doyle. Their luxury honeymoon in Egypt is watched closely by detective Hercule Poirot, and a love-sick Jackie who is determined to take her revenge. Linnet fears for her safety on board the steamer, but with so many witnesses nearby, could she really come to any serious harm?

‘I am a detective,’ said Hercule Poirot with the modest air of one who says ‘I am a king.’
Death on the Nile, Agatha Christie

The online book club

We're keen to ensure fans can make it to our book club discussion about Death on the Nile, ahead of the cinematic release of the film. With plenty of global changes occurring, we wanted to check which date works best for you.

Alternative stories

If you want to avoid reading the story before you see the film, there are plenty of other great travel tales to choose from. Why not try Destination Unknown, Murder in Mesopotamia, or Death Comes as the End? Christie's travels informed her writing of Appointment with Death and Murder on the Orient Express too, both of which are excellent Hercule Poirot novels. If you want to join in but do not have access to any of these books right now, just let us know via social media. We would be happy to recommend another from the stories you do have to hand. Share your choice with us on Twitter or Instagram using #readchristie2020.

Our August choice

This month’s prompt is ‘A story set in Christie’s London’, and we’ve chosen The Seven Dials Mystery. I originally envisioned taking trips out of the office to capture photos of the book in Seven Dials, a stone’s throw from my desk. As we remain working from home these photos are just a pipe dream, but it seems more important than ever to transport readers to Christie’s London, to remember the vibrant experiences the city had, and has, to offer, and to celebrate the great stories that are set there. I hope our August activities and insight into the text help readers to escape to the city from the comfort of their own homes. If you have happy memories of an Agatha Christie experience in England, please feel free to email us. We’d love to create a gallery of them to help fans come together and celebrate.

What’s it about?

The mystery actually begins on the Chimneys estate, the residence owned by Eileen 'Bundle' Brent's father, Lord Caterham. The property has been rented by Sir Oswald and Lady Coote, whose house guests prove to be a very lively bunch! When the group plan a practical joke on a sleeping Gerry Wade, the guests think it is all a bit of fun, but by the next day no one is laughing anymore... Bundle Brent is determined to get to the bottom of the suspicious death, but the only clue seems to be a reference to London's Seven Dials. What can it possibly mean? It's time to take a trip to London to find out!

‘In my experience,’ said Lord Caterham, ‘people who go about looking for trouble usually find it.’
Lord Caterham, The Seven Dials Mystery

Alternative stories

There are so many great books to choose from! So if you don’t fancy delving into The Seven Dials Mystery, we recommend meeting Tommy and Tuppence at the start of their sleuthing careers in The Secret Adversary, joining Miss Marple in At Bertram’s Hotel, or solving several mysteries with one of Hercule’s short story collections, Poirot Investigates or Poirot’s Early Cases. If you want to join in but do not have access to any of these books right now, just let us know via social media. We would be happy to recommend another from the stories you do have at home. Share your choice with us on Twitter or Instagram using #readchristie2020.

The online book club

We have been hosting our online book club since March, after receiving fan requests for community activities during lockdown. We will continue to host it as long as readers are still keen to attend, and this month’s chat will take place on Thursday 27th August at 4pm UK time. Chats will take place on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Our July choice

We’re delighted to be reading The Man in the Brown Suit this month, chosen for the category ‘A story starring someone Christie knew’. This year’s prompts have encouraged us to focus on Christie’s real-life inspiration and influences, and so far we’ve learned plenty about the six stories we’ve enjoyed, as well as about the author’s own life.

This book stars a Major E A Belcher who Christie depicts in the fictionalised character of Sir Eustace Pedler. The gentleman was a friend of her first husband, Archie Christie, and the organiser of a 9 month tour the Christies took in 1922. The story itself bears plenty of similarities to their own trip, and Christie dedicated it fondly ‘To E.A.B In memory of a journey…’ It felt particularly fitting to spend this month on a thrilling adventure which can be taken from home. Last month we enjoyed armchair travel to Devon, and now we embark on a trip to South Africa from the sofa. We hope you enjoy it!

What's it about?

Anne Beddingfeld is a stand-out narrator, with the self-proclaimed nickname “Anna the Adventuress”. She is launched into action when her father’s untimely death leads her to London, and the scene of a suspicious accident. As a fellow Tube traveller is electrocuted, Anne chases down a disappearing doctor and finds a cryptic handwritten note… The note leads her to another murder scene in a large English house, then lands her on board a boat to South Africa, where she aims to get to the bottom of the mystery, once she’s recovered from her seasickness that is! Meanwhile, a Sir Eustace Pedler MP is under fire, as a murder has been committed on his British property, and he is pressured into taking a boat to South Africa, with a new member of staff who he has only just met.

‘But, my dear child, what do you propose to do?’
'Have adventures and see the world,’ I replied, without the least hesitation.
Anne Beddingfeld, The Man in the Brown Suit

Alternative stories

If you’d like to take a different adventure this month, there are plenty of other titles you can choose from. Indeed, Murder in Mesopotamia, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile (which we will read in September) all draw inspiration from fellow travellers Christie met whilst on trips. The character of Miss Marple was also famously based on the author’s recollections of her grandmother and friends, so why not indulge in the first novel starring her famous female sleuth, The Murder at the Vicarage.

If you want to join in but do not have access to any of these books right now, just let us know via social media. We would be happy to recommend another from the stories you do have at home. Share your choice with us on Twitter or Instagram using #readchristie2020.

The online book club

We will once again be hosting an online book club discussion of the book across social media, on Thursday 30th July at 4pm UK time, (BST).

Our June choice

This month’s category prompt is ‘A story set somewhere Christie lived’. We have chosen to ‘virtually’ escape to Devon this month, to make the most of the British countryside and enjoy Dead Man’s Folly. As June also marks the beginning of summer for us in the UK, it also feels most appropriate to ‘visit’ the home where Agatha Christie spent her summer holidays. After reading two Miss Marple stories, it is time to get reacquainted with our favourite Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot, and to celebrate Ariadne Oliver’s unique character too. We will once again be hosting an online book club discussion of the book across social media, on Tuesday 30th June at 4pm UK time, (BST).

What’s it about?

The mystery starts with a request from Ariadne Oliver, or as Miss Lemon terms it “a wild goose chase”. The author is down in Devon on a job, preparing to stage a murder mystery for a local fête, and she needs Hercule's help. Something suspicious has prompted her notorious intuition, and she fears the death they are staging might indeed come to pass. Under the guise of prize-giver, Poirot journeys down to the coast to discover if her fears are warranted.

Call me a fool if you like but I can only say that if there was to be a real murder tomorrow instead of a fake one, I shouldn’t be surprised.
Ariadne Oliver, Dead Man's Folly

Alternative stories

Such a source of delight for Christie, Greenway was also used to inspire the stories of Five Little Pigs and Ordeal by Innocence. Both of which would make excellent reading choices this month. If you’d prefer to visit Christie’s London, there are plenty of great stories to choose from, including The Secret Adversary, Cards on the Table and At Bertram’s Hotel. If you want to join in but do not have access to any of these books right now, just let us know via social media. We would be happy to recommend another from the stories you do have at home. Share your choice with us on Twitter or Instagram using #readchristie2020.

Our May choice

This month’s category is ‘A story Christie dedicated to a friend or relative’ and we will be reading The Body in the Library. I hope you enjoy this month’s novel whose dedication simply reads “To my friend Nan”. Nan Watts was a childhood friend. At first they disliked each other, since Nan was a boisterous rebel, and Christie was quiet and well-behaved, (and people told Nan to be more like Agatha). After a tricky period they became close friends, and completely revised their opinions of each other. Christie noted that she deeply missed Nan as she could talk about the old days with her, a sentiment Miss Marple echoes in A Murder is Announced.

When we chose the Read Christie 2020 themes last year, we had no idea how much we’d be thinking of our friends and relatives right now, or that so many readers would be seeking out Christie stories to comfort them during their separation from loved ones. Christie dedicated her stories to close family and friends, to fellow authors and readers and to her pet dog, Peter. This was a gesture of thanks to those she cared about, a sentiment we can all appreciate right now. As plenty of our Christie community remain at home at the time of writing this, we have ensured our choice is easy to get via eBook, or audio around the world. We have also provided some alternative stories to choose from below. Join us for an online book club on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on Thursday 28th May at 4pm BST, so fans can talk about the book and stay connected.

What's it about?

The story begins with an iconic shriek, as the maid wakes Dolly Bantry from her dreamful sleep to report a dead body in the library at Gossington Hall. Fearing a local scandal, as she is positive her husband does not know the young, murdered woman on their hearth rug, Dolly calls for the help of her astute friend Miss Marple. But it seems this case isn’t going to be a simple one, as a number of detectives, a handful of class rules, and plenty of suspicious circumstances collide in this puzzling case. Locals remain convinced it must have something to do with that bad sort, Basil Blake, but rumours (as Colonel Bantry will discover) don’t always have a basis in fact!

Bodies are always being found in libraries in books. I’ve never known a case in real life.
Colonel Bantry, The Body in the Library

Alternative stories

There are so many great dedications in Christie, that highlight her love for friends, family, and fellow authors! We'll be shedding a light on who the recipients are, and how Christie knew them throughout the month. A few of our favourite dedications can be found in Murder is Easy, One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, A Caribbean Mystery and Endless Night. If you want to join in but do not have access to any of these books right now, just let us know via social media. We would be happy to recommend another from the stories you do have at home. Share your choice with us on Twitter or Instagram using #readchristie2020.

Our April choice

This month we’re celebrating Christie’s writing process, and her playful ability to trick her readers – we are reading a story Christie disguised! As plenty of our Christie community are now at home, we wanted to choose a book which is easy to get via eBook, or audio around the world. So, we’ve chosen the Miss Marple story Sleeping Murder. The story, published ten months after Christie’s death in 1976, was in fact written much earlier (plotted and written during the 1940s). There have been plenty of theories about exactly when this story was written, including a fascinating exploration by John Curran in Agatha Christie’s Complete Secret Notebooks. The book also reveals that, when planning the story, Christie considered it as a Hercule Poirot story, a Miss Marple novel, and as a possible Tommy and Tuppence work too. Suitably confused? Then let's get reading.

We'll be hosting an online book club discussion on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on Thursday 30th April at 4pm BST, so fans can talk about Sleeping Murder and stay connected. Join us!

What’s it about?

Gwenda Reed, newly wed, arrives in England from New Zealand, determined to find the perfect house for herself and her husband Giles. She settles on ‘Hillside’, a pretty seaside villa in the town of Dillmouth, but the house proves to be more than a little unnerving… Gwenda is visited by visions of how the house used to be, and escapes to London to visit Giles’ cousin, a Mr Raymond West. Raymond’s aunt Miss Marple listens to the haunted Gwenda, as she recalls seeing a woman at the bottom of the stairs, a woman she knows is called Helen. But who is Helen? Why does Gwenda have these memories? And is it safe to delve into the history of this house?

I always think to myself that it’s better to examine the simplest and most commonplace explanations first.
Miss Marple, Sleeping Murder

Alternative stories

Our category incorporates plenty of great stories. You might choose to read one of the six novels Christie wrote under the pseudonym, Mary Westmacott. Giant’s Bread, Unfinished Portrait, Absent in the Spring, The Rose and the Yew Tree, A Daughter’s A Daughter and The Burden would all be suitable choices, if you don’t fancy picking up Sleeping Murder with us this month. Both Curtain and An Autobiography were also written and then hidden away by Christie, disguised as later works which were published posthumously, so these two would also make fine choices for the category. Finally, we suspect Dumb Witness might prove to be a popular choice this month, as the action begins on an Easter weekend in April. This was published under the title Poirot Loses A Client, so we think that qualifies as a disguised story too! What are you reading this month? Share your choices with us on social media using #readchristie2020.

Our March choice

This month we’re celebrating Christie stories that have been told on stage. Christie adapted plenty of her own novels for the theatre, including And Then There Were None, The Hollow and Death on the Nile. She also allowed a select few stories to be adapted by others, including Gerald Verner (Towards Zero) and Frank Vosper (Love From A Stranger aka 'Philomel Cottage'). We’ve chosen to read Murder on the Orient Express, a story that Christie herself was keen to modify for the stage, and which was expertly adapted by Ken Ludwig in 2017.

What's it about?

This is a locked-room mystery set on a seriously stylish train. Passengers are marooned on board after the Orient Express hits a snowdrift in the dead of night, and private detective Hercule Poirot is among them. An American passenger named Ratchett is found murdered, with 12 stab wounds to the chest. His door was locked, but his window is open, and there are no footprints in the snow… The famous detective must interview his fellow travellers, who come from all walks-of-life, to discover who is capable of the savage attack, how they entered the berth and why they killed this unlikeable man. Divided into three parts, this story is a fascinating case where readers can marvel at Poirot’s mastery whilst trying to piece together the truth. A brilliant read, which is well-worth discovering, or revisiting.

I’ll tell you the truth, Mr Poirot. I disliked and distrusted him. He was, I am sure, a cruel and a dangerous man.
Hector MacQueen, Murder on the Orient Express

Alternative stories

Our Read Christie 2020 postcard reads ‘A story Christie adapted for the stage’, but we’ve broadened out this category to include ‘A Christie story adapted for the stage’ so that readers may choose from any of the following stories: A Murder is Announced, And Then There Were None, Appointment with Death, Death on the Nile, Five Little Pigs, Murder on the Orient Express, 'Philomel Cottage', The Hollow, The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, The Secret of Chimneys, Towards Zero, 'The Witness for the Prosecution', 'Wasps' Nest' or 'Yellow Iris'. We can’t wait to hear what you read next!

The online book club

We will be hosting an online book club on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on Thursday 26th March at 1pm GMT, so fans can talk about the book and stay connected. Join us!

Our February choice

This month we’re reading ‘A story Christie loved’. Inspired by the author’s 1972 letter, describing her current favourites amongst her stories, we have picked A Murder is Announced, a brilliant Miss Marple novel set in the village of Chipping Cleghorn. Christie said of the novel, “I thought all the characters interesting to write about and felt I knew them quite well by the time the book was finished.” It’s also the current favourite of James Prichard, Christie’s great-grandson and CEO of Agatha Christie Ltd.

What is it about?

The story begins as the local Chipping Cleghorn Gazette lands on doorsteps around the gossipy village. But the paper boy turns out to be delivering much more than adverts for domestic help and second-hand furniture… A murder is advertised, and the neighbours turn out in force to observe the parlour game! Except, the advert is no joke, and a small-time criminal ends up dead. Who was this man, and why did he come to Miss Blacklock's home? Detective Inspector Craddock must solve the mystery, but doesn't think much of the woman he's been asked to consult with, an old friend of his Godfather's, Miss Jane Marple.

A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30 p.m. Friends please accept this, the only intimation.
Chipping Cleghorn Gazette, A Murder is Announced

Alternative stories

We highly recommend reading this charming list of Christie’s favourite stories, which was written in response to a note from a Japanese reader. It gives fascinating insight into why Christie liked these works and it is a unique way of getting to know some of the best novels in her extensive oeuvre. There are nine other titles to choose from, if A Murder is Announced doesn’t sound like your perfect February read. Tell us which one you’ve chosen, share your reading progress and discuss the books on our Twitter, Facebook or Instagram pages. Don’t forget to use #readchristie2020 so we can join in the conversation.

Our January choice

To kick-start our celebrations, we’re reading ‘A story that changed Christie’s life’: The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920). First published as a serialisation in The Times Weekly Edition, this story introduced Hercule Poirot to the world, and changed the life of the author (and her fans) forever. Having explored such a variety of her stories for the website, it is so comforting to return to the one where it all began. Readers will enjoy spotting Christie tropes which she established in her first novel, as well as discovering themes which the Queen of Crime will continue to cover decades later.

What is it about?

Narrated by Hastings, this story takes place at the eponymous country house, Styles Court. Hastings is invited to stay there by a friend, John Cavendish, whose step-mother Emily Inglethorp owns the Essex manor. Emily’s sudden death by suspected poisoning leads Hastings to seek help in the local village. His former acquaintance Hercule Poirot is staying there, amongst other Belgian refugees displaced by war. As Mrs Inglethorp’s marriage to a man 20 years her junior has disinherited her stepsons, there are plenty of suspects to choose from. At times Hastings suspects his companion Poirot might be past his prime, but the hope that Inspector Japp will crack the case seem misplaced. It is only Hercule Poirot who can see past the red herrings, to reach the ultimate shocking conclusion.

Imagination is a good servant, and a bad master. The simplest explanation is always the most likely.
Hercule Poirot, The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Alternative stories

Other suggestions for ‘A story that changed Christie’s life’ include The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Murder at the Vicarage, Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None and Three Blind Mice (US only). Tell us which one you’ve chosen, share your reading progress and discuss the books on our Twitter, Facebook or Instagram pages. Don’t forget to use #readchristie2020 so we can see what you’ve been talking about.

Our 2020 reading choices

Sign up to the newsletter to receive The World of Agatha Christie: 1920s magazine