I started reading Agatha Christie’s detective novels when I was very young, and my passion for crime mysteries stems largely from my early literary acquaintance with the Queen of Crime. I believe that when you read Christie’s crime mysteries, you also pretty much read the best and certainly most influential murder/detective mysteries there are (apart from probably those of Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe), and others either influenced Christie herself, see The Mystery of the Yellow Room , or are twisted imitations, see The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle . Below are my ten favourite books from Agatha Christie (as you can see I prefer Hercule Poirot mysteries over those of Miss Marple, and also enjoy “exotic location” mysteries).
I. And Then There Were None 
Obviously, And Then There Were None leads my list since this is Christie’s detective masterpiece. In it, eight people arrive to an isolated island invited for different reasons (some with job prospects in mind). They do not find their host on the island, and, it turned out that the cause of their arrival is more sinister as one by one they die from unnatural causes, with their deaths eerily in line with one nursery rhyme. Full of twists, with one big unbelievable reveal towards the end, this book is Christie at her best, and the cleverness and originality of the plot design is still unsurpassed, even though widely imitated.
II. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd 
This maybe only sixth Agatha Christie book but it is no less ingenious for that, and was highly influential because of its conclusion. In this story, Poirot is forced out of his retirement to help solve the murder of his friend Roger Ackroyd in the fictional village of King’s Abbot. Ackroyd was murdered at his home and some clues were left behind by the murderer. Again, mind-boggling, unexpected reveal/twist at the end guarantees the thrill and the amazement, ensuring that the novel is very memorable.
III. Murder on the Orient Express 
A murder in a moving vehicle was fuelling people’s imagination at the turn of the century onwards, and a murder committed in the luxurious Orient Express, which would have taken people in the 1930s on a scenic Paris-Istanbul journey, was even more intriguing to uncover. In this story, a wealthy American Samuel Ratchett, whom Poirot met briefly on the train, gets murdered, and Poirot has no choice but to plunge into the investigation. I love this novel because Christie once again makes absolutely sure that few readers would be able to guess the true murderer. Few people also know that the story was inspired by a true incident which happened in 1929 when the Orient Express train stalled in heavy snow for five days.
IV. Death on the Nile 
Death on the Nile is again a Poirot mystery set in an exotic location which I love and first read many years ago. This time the action is on the River Nile, Egypt. A successful and beautiful socialite is murdered during a river cruise, and Poirot turns his inquisitive eye on those close to the victim, while carefully surveying the scene and weighting the probabilities. The improbable nature of the murder means that the uncovering of the culprit turns out to be a quite complex affair, but also with an emotional tinge to it.
V. Evil Under the Sun 
In Evil Under the Sun, Hercule Poirot is holidaying in Devon when an attractive woman is murdered. The murder took place near a secluded hotel and there are only a handful of prime suspects which makes this detective story cosy and even more intriguing. Christie also employs a number of clever tricks to fool her readers and then to set out the true course of events. I liked this novel even more after I have seen the two film adaptations.
VI. Murder in Mesopotamia 
Like other novels listed here, this one again features Hercule Poirot and is unputdownable. The murder occurs among the expedition members who went to Mesopotamia, to be precise to Tell Yarimjah, north of Baghdad. There, the wife of Dr Leidner, Mrs Leidner, is murdered, and Poirot starts to investigate. One of the fascinating aspects of this murder mystery is that it is set in the archaeological site. This novel is dictated by Agatha Christie’s own experience of the region when she went with her husband, an archaeologist.
VII. Crooked House 
This is one of the later Agatha Christie novels which centres on one wealthy family, the Leonides, living in a grand estate Three Gables (the “Crooked House”) after the WWI. The millionaire patriarch of the family is poisoned, and Charles Hayward, the fiancé of the granddaughter of the murdered man, and Inspector Taverner start to investigate. Great characterisation of the family members, a lot of suspense and a surprising ending all make Crooked House a “must-read” Agatha Christie novel.
VIII. Cards on the Table 
This is one of the first Agatha Christie novels I read and, therefore, it will always be special to me. I also love this story in particular because the murder occurs in one room (an enclosed location setting) and there are only a handful of suspects. This makes for an interesting scenario from a psychological viewpoint. In this story, an eccentric host Mr Shaitana gathers around for his candle-lit supper a number of people – sleuths, including Hercule Poirot and Colonel Race, and people who are presumed to have killed in the past. After dinner, the guests retire to play bridge, and it is during this game that that the host gets murdered as he sits near a fireplace. This is an intriguing and cosy mystery, and Poirot once again proves that his “grey cells” alone can point to the murderer.
IX. Death in the Clouds 
This is probably the first Agatha Christie novel I read, and what immediately intrigued was that the murder took place “up in the air”, between Paris and London, in a completely enclosed setting of a commercial airplane. An inventive murder weapon and only eleven suspects make this murder mystery interesting, with Hercule Poirot and Chief Inspector Japp investigating the crime which bewilders and throws them off course a number of times.
X. The Body in the Library 
This is the only Miss Marple mystery on this list. This story is about a body discovered at the home of Colonel Bantry and his wife. The body is of an unidentified blond woman, and Colonel Bantry is lucky to have be an acquaintance of Miss Marple who must use all her detective senses to unravel the mystery. More secrets are to come in this story, and it really makes for a fascinating read.