Monday, October 29, 2018

Top Ten Hercule Poirot Murder Mysteries

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

It's a Halloween freebie! In past years I've done books to read to get in the Halloween spirit, suspenseful novels, characters I'd be for Halloween, and horror novels on my TBR list, so I was running out of ideas! However, this year I completed my goal of reading all the Hercule Poirot books and I've been wanting to share my top ten favorites, and I thought this might be a good time of year to share these murder mystery recommendations.

I included the five that I gave 5 or 4.5 stars, and then of all the ones I gave 4 stars to, I couldn't decide how to narrow it down, so I picked the five that had the highest rating on Goodreads. (Ironically, this means I included one 4-star one where I literally wrote in my review, "I wouldn't put this in the top 10 of Poirot novels, but it's still worth reading!")

One note: Agatha Christie wrote these books over a span of 55 years. The first Poirot novel came out in 1920, and Christie was very much a product of her times. A few, like Hickory Dickory Dock, include characters who are painfully stereotypical by race or nationality, and most of her books for the first few decades included at least one line that could be considered racist or anti-Semitic. It's not until the 60s and 70s that she moved instead to having her characters awkwardly criticize men's long hair and feminine fashion. So just... be prepared for that.

1. The ABC Murders
This one has a mix of the traditional — Poirot being clever, Hastings being confused — with a different structure and a different type of killer than usual. Rather than the typical closed-circle mystery (which guest at the mansion did it?) this is a serial killer who's targeting victims in order of the alphabet: Alice Ascher of Andover, Betty Barnard of Bexhill-on-Sea, etc. How far into the alphabet will he get before he's stopped?

2. Cards on the Table
Poirot is invited to a dinner party along with four individuals who, according to the host, have each gotten away with a murder in the past. When the host is murdered, Poirot's usual approach of figuring out who has the psychological profile to be a murderer is challenged by the idea that all the suspects may have already committed murder at least once! This one is super-twisty and one of my top three favorites.

3. The Clocks
This is another one that's not a closed-circle mystery, and it has an unusual and delightfully creepy premise. A stenographer is summoned to a house where no one's home but a murdered man no one can identify, and a bunch of clocks have been placed around the room all showing the same, wrong time. Where does one begin?

4. Curtain
The final mystery! Poirot's bumbling sidekick, Hastings, must figure out what happened after Poirot himself finally dies. In a nice bit of nostalgia, it takes place in the same house as the very first Poirot mystery.

5. Death on the Nile
This was one of the original books back in middle school that turned me into a Poirot fan. On rereading, I was glad to find it was just as enjoyable and twisty as I remembered. It has all the best parts of a Poirot mystery — the psychology, the unexpected twists, the side romances — and no Hastings!

6. Five Little Pigs
Poirot tackles a 16-year-old closed case that seems clear-cut: The person found guilty had motive and means and all the evidence pointed against her. And yet — is everything as it seemed? Even after all that time, Poirot can still get to the bottom of things.

7. Lord Edgware Dies
What I enjoy most about Christie's mysteries is that I can usually put together many of the clues, but I still can't ever fit the final pieces in to solve it. This is one where I had an idea of where it was going, but the biggest piece of the puzzle never even occurred to me. When she can accomplish that without straining credulity, it's an enjoyable read.

8. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
This one is a classic, and for good reason! There's not much I can say without spoilers, but it definitely takes a different approach than most of her books.

9. The Mysterious Affair at Styles
I kind of thought Christie might have needed to warm up to some of her better plot twists, but this very first Poirot mystery packs a punch and kept me guessing until the end. Hastings is at his most irritating and ignorant here, but it's still a solid introduction to Poirot and his crime-solving skills.

10. Peril at End House
This includes one of my very favorite twists of the Poirot mysteries. I was convinced I'd figured out the mystery, and then it turned out that what I'd figured out was just a tiny piece of the puzzle — Christie fooled me again, though as usual the clues were all there. Things go off the rails a bit at the end, but I still really liked it.

Have you read any of the Hercule Poirot mysteries? Do you have a favorite?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: The Secret History and Birdsong
Five years ago I was reading: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Roots
Ten years ago I was reading: Black Boy

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