Reading Lists

Read Christie 2024

Outset June RC24 ATTWN Statues UK
Our June book: And Then There Were None

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 June choice: And Then There Were None

We are coming to the end of our exploration of the 1930s, but not without reading a true Christie classic. As it is regarded as her most successful decade, it felt right to celebrate with the best-selling crime novel of all time, And Then There Were None. Despite featuring none of her famous detectives, this story deserves to be held in high-esteem and the crux of the story is one that has since been returned to time and time again in books, television programmes, and films. Christie herself stated that the plot "was so difficult to do, that the idea fascinated me."

What's it about?

Ten strangers are lured onto the remote Soldier Island, each of them accused of having committed a heinous crime. With no sign of their hosts and their hopes of returning to the mainland battered by the arrival of a violent storm, the guests partake in an evening meal to pass the time. Before the night is over, one of them is dead... With no way on or off the island, it soon becomes clear that a murderer is in their midst. Which among them is the killer and will anyone escape the island alive?

We’re not going to leave the island. None of us will ever leave. It’s the end, you see – the end of everything…
Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None

Exploring the 1930s

In her novels so far, we have often seen the influence of other great writers, from Arthur Conan Doyle and G. K. Chesterton to Charles Dickens. However, And Then There Were None was a completely innovative idea which has since been parodied and inspires many authors to this very day. Christie's writing was still very much influenced by the world around her though and at the time of writing this, the death penalty was still popular in the UK, in fact there was a rise in capital punishment between 1920 and 1940. Criminal justice and punishment are key themes in this darker Christie story.

By this stage in her career, Christie was generally writing two to three books per year. Her playwrighting also began to really take off. In fact, Christie attributes her adaptation of And Then There Were None for the stage, as being what lead her down the path to more serious playwrighting. Towards the turn of the decade in 1938, Max encouraged Christie to buy 'the loveliest place on Earth', Greenway, after seeing it was up for sale. This became their holiday home where the family would escape to every summer.

The latter half of the 1930s saw a lot of change both positive and negative in the UK. Two of Britain's best-selling magazines were published: The Dandy debuted in 1937 and The Beano in 1938. Technicolor's three-color process was also introduced which enabled cinematic films to be viewed in full colour. This revolutionised the way in which people could enjoy television programmes and films. Towards the end of the decade Britain came out of The Great Depression but the relief was short-lived as the turmoil continued when, on September 3rd 1939, Britain went to war.

Alternative stories

Both Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile are excellent choices for this month. Alongside And Then There Were None, these are some of Christie's most famous mysteries, each with complex plots, red herrings, and high tension. If you're after another story with a highly atmospheric setting, we recommend you pick up The Sittaford Mystery. In a remote house in the middle of Dartmoor, six shadowy figures huddle for a séance, but they receive a message far more macabre than they could imagine. Why not pick up Death in the Clouds which takes place during a flight from London to Paris or Parker Pyne Investigates for a lighter read. Traveling the globe, this unconventional detective solves matters of the heart as well as devilish crimes. Alternatively, if you are seeking a completely different read, Unfinished Portrait could be the perfect option for you. Written under her pseudonym Mary Westmacott, this is a semi-autobiographical story about a woman during her most vulnerable period of life.

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 June book club on Thursday 27th June at the slightly different times of 9:30am and 4:30pm (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 Read Christie May24 US
Our May book: The ABC Murders

Our May choice: The ABC Murders

This month we're reading a fantastic story featuring Hercule Poirot from Christie's most prolific writing period. Christie experiments with a new literary technique in this novel - she combines first person narration, told from the perspective of Captain Hastings, with third person narration following Mr Alexander Bonaparte Cust's movements. Charles Dickens was one of Christie's favourite authors and he uses this same narrative style in Bleak House. The ABC Murders is one of the first examples of serial killers in crime fiction. In fact, when Christie wrote the book the term didn't even exist.

What's it about?

First there was Mrs Ascher at Andover. Next came Betty Barnard in Bexhill. Now, Sir Carmichael Clarke in Churston has been found dead. Taunting Hercule Poirot, the killer in question is gaining in confidence and is leaving deliberate clues for the detective to discover. Journeying around the country, Poirot must try and work out where the next location and possible victim could be. How far through the alphabet will the killer make it before he is found and brought to justice?

Let us see, Mr Clever Poirot, just how clever you can be. Perhaps you’ll find this nut too hard to crack. Look out for Andover, on the 21st of the month. Yours, etc., A B C.
Hercule Poirot, The ABC Murders

Exploring the 1930s

The early 20th century saw a rise in forensic and criminal psychology being used in investigations and courtrooms. We can see that Christie also begins leaning into this in her 1930s books, particularly those featuring Hercule Poirot. Some of the most notable examples include The ABC Murders, Cards on the Table, and Murder on the Orient Express.

After their marriage, Christie and Max spent a lot of time in the Middle East on archaeological expeditions. Whilst she wrote several stories out there, Christie was keen to get involved with the digs. She could often be found cleaning artefacts (sometimes using her face cream to do so) or developing and photographing the treasures discovered. When they weren't travelling or spending their summers in Devon, Agatha and Max resided in Wallingford where they bought Winterbrook House in 1934.

Despite the Great Depression, rise in fascism and struggles of unemployment, the inter-war period saw a lot of exciting developments in Britain. Radio increased in popularity with 1932 marking the start of the Christmas Day message from the King or Queen of England. Motor cars and busses were also on the rise seeing a radical change in the transport systems of Britain. It was also a period of many radical inventions including FM radio (1933), cat eyes (1934), the jet engine (1937) and xerography (1938).

Alternative stories

If you're looking for another story with a high death count, we recommend you try the standalone story And Then There Were None which is set on a secluded island or Murder is Easy where a dangerous killer is at large in a quaint village. Alternatively you could opt for the psychological mystery, Cards on the Table. Four murderers and four detectives are gathered for a game of bridge when the host winds up dead. Can the detectives work out which of the four murderers committed the fatal crime? If you're interested in Agatha Christie's inspiration from her time on archaeological digs, you might want to read Murder in Mesopotamia or Appointment with Death which are set in the Iraqi desert and Petra, respectively. Alternatively, the short story collection, The Mysterious Mr Quin is a great choice. Harley Quin was one of Christie's favourite characters to write and the collection promises drama, mystery, and plenty of murder!

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 May book club on Thursday 30th May at the slightly different times of 9:30am and 4:30pm (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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Our April book: The Murder at the Vicarage

Our April choice: The Murder at the Vicarage

Welcome to the 1930s! To kickstart our time in Christie's most prolific decade, we have chosen to read The Murder at the Vicarage which published in 1930. Here we are introduced to the deceptively astute Miss Marple, the village of St Mary Mead, and we get a great insight into small village life and neighbourhood gossip. Christie believed the idea for Miss Marple evolved from Caroline Sheppard in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd who, similarly to Miss Marple, was an unmarried woman who knew, saw and heard everything.

What's it about?

With its nosy neighbours frequently gathering for tea and a gossip, it doesn't take long for news of the latest scandal to sweep through the village of St Mary Mead. On today's agenda is the death of Colonel Protheroe. The victim was found shot in the vicarage study. Although no one ever expected a murder to occur here, the village is not shy of suspects - after all, Colonol Protheroe was an extremely unlikeable man. Everyone wants to play their part at being a detective, however the elderly lady the police dismiss as just a prying busybody is the one person who has what it takes to solve the mystery. Never underestimate Miss Marple...

In St Mary Mead everyone knows your most intimate affairs.
Agatha Christie, The Murder at the Vicarage

Exploring the 1930s

In 1930, Agatha Christie along with several other British crime writers founded The Detection Club. The members would meet regularly and share ideas on the technical aspects of their crime novels. The group also wrote a number of books together, taking it in turns writing a chapter with each author revealing their intended solution at the end of the book. The first of these to be published was The Floating Admiral (1931). Agatha Christie went on to contribute to a further two books by The Detection Club, all of which were published throughout the decade.

This period was hugely prolific for Christie as she published 20 novels, five short story collections, and two plays. In 1930 Christie wrote her first novel under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. This series was an opportunity for Christie to divert away from crime novels and to explore human psychology and the complexities of love in all its forms.

1930 also marked a huge change in Agatha's personal life. Whilst on site at an archaeological dig in Ur, she met Max Mallowan who she later married that same year.

Alternative stories

The Thirteen Problems (UK) is a short story collection featuring Miss Marple where a group of friends take it in turns to present an unsolved mystery to the group. These stories can all be found in the US collection Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories. You could also opt for Giant's Bread, the first of the Westmacott stories, which explores topics such as friendship, loneliness, music, and money. Alternatively, Why Didn't They Ask Evans? sees Bobby Jones and Lady Frances Derwent solving a perplexing death in the Welsh seaside town of Marchbolt. Lord Edgware Dies is another great choice featuring an unlikeable victim and Peril at End House requires Poirot to solve a murder that hasn't been committed...yet. Christie also published her first play in 1930, Black Coffee, which is perfect for those of you looking for an alternative read this month.

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 April book club on Thursday 25th April 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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Our March book: The Mystery of the Blue Train

Our March choice: The Mystery of the Blue Train

It's our final month exploring Christie's stories from the 1920s and we've chosen to read The Mystery of the Blue Train which was published in 1928. It is actually derived from the short story 'The Plymouth Express', published in 1923, which can be found in the collections Poirot's Early Cases (UK) and The Under Dog and Other Stories (US). Christie was her own harshest critic and she stated in her autobiography that the book was "commonplace, full of clichés, with an uninteresting plot." However, critics at the time could not disagree more, with the The Times Literary Supplement saying "The reader will not be disappointed when the distinguished Belgian on psychological grounds builds up inferences almost out of the air".

What's it about?

Ruth Kettering, daughter of a millionaire, is travelling onboard the opulent Blue Train, but when a guard attempts to rouse the sleeping passenger, he discovers she is not in a deep slumber, but has been brutally murdered. What's more, she is missing her precious jewels. Is this a simple matter of a robbery gone wrong, or did someone have good reason to want Ruth Kettering dead? Ruth's husband, with whom she is filing for divorce, is the prime suspect but Hercule Poirot is not so convinced. In order to solve the mystery, Poirot stages a re-enactment of the murder...with the murderer still onboard.

The palm trees, the deep blue of the sea, the bright yellow mimosa came with all the charm of novelty to the woman who for fourteen years had known only the drab winters of England.
Agatha Christie, The Mystery of the Blue Train

Exploring the 1920s

The Mystery of the Blue Train was published towards the end of the decade in 1928. By this time, Christie had already published four novels featuring Hercule Poirot as well as a short story collection. It is the first book, however, featuring both Mr Goby, who operates a private investigation service, and George, who is Poirot's valet. Both of these characters go on to feature in several other Poirot stories.

This book was a challenging one for Christie to write. She was required to deliver a book that year but since her mother's death in April 1926, she had been unable to write. Following the break down of her relationship with Archie and her disappearance later that year, Christie, Rosalind and Carlo (Christie's secretary and Rosalind's governess) went away to the Canary Islands for a fresh start in February 1927. This is where the majority of The Mystery of the Blue Train was written. Not only was Christie struggling to write due to the distressing events of 1926, she also had a seven year old daughter who according to Christie's autobiography "was not a child who could amuse herself by any exercise of imagination". In the garden of their hotel in Oratava, Tenerife, there was little for Rosalind to do but interrupt her mother's writing time.

The mid to late 1920s in the UK were a difficult time for many. Unemployment was on the rise at an alarming rate with around 2 million people unemployed by the mid-1920s. This lead to The General Strike of 1926 where Britain's miners walked out with other industries joining in solidarity. The aftermath of World War One was still having a huge impact on the working class and in 1925, Winston Churchill reinstated the gold standard and the British pound was too strong against other currencies. Along with the US Wall Street Crash in 1929, this all lead to what became known as the Great Depression of the 1930s...but more on that next month!

Alternative stories

If you read one of Christie's spy thrillers last month and want to continue with some of her more alternative reads, we recommend reading The Big Four. These were originally short stories but in 1926 Christie combined them into a book in which Poirot is launched into the world of international intrigue. An uninvited guest stands in Poirot's doorway before collapsing. What's even more odd is the piece of paper covered in the figure 4. Can Poirot get to the bottom of these peculiar happenings? Alternatively you could opt for a Christie classic, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Considered one of her finest works of fiction, Poirot is tasked with solving the murder of a man who was about to come into some very telling information about a blackmailer. You can expect suspicious villagers, cunning red herrings and a jaw-dropping denouement. If you've chosen from our alternative titles for January and February, you could also opt for Christie's first mystery, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, or the first Tommy and Tuppence adventure, The Secret Adversary.

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 March book club on Thursday 28th March 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.

Outset RC24 February
Our February book: The Secret Adversary

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.

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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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