Mystery writer Agatha Christie is still the world's best selling author of all time.
Her numerous stories have been adored across the world for decades. Christie’s writing brought us chilling tales and hugely popular detective characters like Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.
Her mysteries have been adapted into countless TV series and films and later this year Sir Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile is due to hit the big screen.
If you want to dive into the original tales but don’t know where to start, here’s everything you need to know about Agatha Christie and her novels.
Everything you need to know about Agatha Christie
Although she wrote a few other books too, Agatha Christie is famed for her mystery novels. Some were written as stand-alone, some as series and others were part of short-story collections.
Christie was also a member and president of The Detection Club, a group of British writers who collaboratively wrote mystery books.
In addition to her mystery writing, Christie wrote six other titles outside of the genre under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott (more on this below).
With a keen interest in archaeology (her second husband Sir Max Mallowan was a successful archaeologist), details from her time spent at digs made their way into her fiction writing and prompted her first of three non-fiction books, Come, Tell Me How You Live.
Her second, The Grand Tour: Letters and photographs from the British Empire Expedition, is a non-fiction collection of correspondence from her 1922 travels and the final is her autobiography, published after her death in 1976.
Christie proved she was truly the “Queen of Mystery” when she disappeared herself in December 1926. Her car was found abandoned on the morning of 4th December with her fur coat and driving licence left behind.
Thousands began a manhunt to no avail until, 11 days later, she was found in a hotel in Harrogate. Christie claimed she had a serious case of amnesia (confirmed at the time by psychiatrists) and couldn’t remember where she’d been or what had happened.
Although there have since been various theories about the events of those days (her first husband had recently had an affair and she had checked into the hotel in his lover’s name), Christie’s own disappearance remains her biggest mystery.
How many books did Agatha Christie write?
Agatha Christie wrote 76 books. The first of which was The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring Hercule Poirot and was published in 1920.
It took Christie five years to get the book to print, having been rejected by six other publishers previously.
Agatha Christie's most famous characters
There are many characters, dead and alive, throughout Agatha Christie's mystery novels but a few stand-out figures have become household names in their own right.
Christie’s earliest and arguably most popular character is Hercule Poirot. Poirot is a Belgian (not French) ex-policeman who employs his services finding the clues to the most complicated cases and coming to the aid of the UK police force.
Superintendent Battle and Inspector Japp are therefore recurring characters in the Poirot novels, who reluctantly rely on his help.
On TV, actor David Suchet’s portrayal of Poirot is probably the most recognisable, with his smart suits and distinctive waxed moustache. Suchet played the character for more than two decades.
Most recently, an older Hercule Poirot was reimagined by John Malkovich in The ABC Murders series on BBC in 2018. In cinemas, he was also played by Sir Kenneth Branagh in Murder on the Orient Express in a star-studded production that came out in 2017. Branagh's next adaptation, Death on the Nile, is due for release later this year.
The mystery novelist’s other most popular character is Miss Marple. The older, unmarried woman who lives in a village first appeared in short stories before making her way into novels of her own.
Enjoying her cover as little more than a harmless nosy neighbour, Miss Marple uses her understanding of human nature, and different types of personalities, to solve mysteries.
Unusually, the plots don’t follow Miss Marple from the beginning. Instead, she pops up later on, often not until halfway through the story.
There have been two popular UK TV series adaptations of Miss Marple’s mysteries. The first Miss Marple was played by Joan Hickson in the 1980s and 90s before a new series in the 2000s starred Geraldine McEwan. She was also memorably played in four 1960s film adaptations by Margaret Rutherford.
Tommy and Tuppence
Lesser known stars of Agatha Christie’s novels are Tommy and Tuppence, a couple actually named Thomas and Prudence Beresford.
The detective pair form “Young Adventures ltd” which sees them through four novels and a short story collection, resulting in not only their own marriage (at the end of the first book) but a set of twins and a third adopted child.
Their story The Secret Adversary was the first of Christie’s to be made into a foreign feature-length film (and only just the second ever film overall).
The film was a silent picture made in Germany as “Die Abenteuer G.m.b.H” which means “Adventures inc”.
Mary Westmacott was not a book character but in fact a pseudonym that Christie wrote under for her non-mystery novels, of which there were six. She kept her secret for more than 20 years.
The pseudonym was chosen as Mary was Christie’s second name while Westmacott was a family name connected to distant relatives.
The first book published under Mary Westmacott was entitled Giant’s Bread and was published in 1930, a decade into Christie’s career as an author.
According to her granddaughter, Christie put details from her own childhood and experiences of the First World War into the novel.
10 of the best Agatha Christie books
Murder on the Orient Express
One of Agatha Christie’s greatest novels, Murder on the Orient Express features Hercule Poirot on a luxury train trip. After the Express is halted in the snow, a man is found stabbed to death in his compartment but the door remains locked from the inside. Meanwhile, almost everyone on the train seems to have a motive for murder...
The ABC Murders
A methodical serial killer is on the loose, taunting Poirot with clues. The killer works their way through an alphabet of victims, beginning with Mrs Ascher in Andover before Betty Barnard in Bexhill…
The Pale Horse
A priest is killed minutes after visiting a woman on her deathbed. There was also a violent squabble earlier which may or may not be connected. Mark Easterbrook and Ginger Corrigan have a lot to uncover about The Pale Horse Inn. The latest adaptation of The Pale Horse aired on BBC in February 2020.
Five Little Pigs
A woman is convicted of murder but 16 years later, Poirot can't keep the Five Little Pigs nursery rhyme out of his head. Just like the lines of the rhyme, he identifies five suspects who went to market, had roast beef and so on, and suspects one of them is the true culprit.
Ordeal by Innocence
A woman and her son are murdered and her other son, Jack is convicted of the crime. Jack maintains his innocence and says he hitchhiked with a stranger on the night in question so couldn't be guilty.
Dr Calgary is the man who gave him a ride and arrives at the family home to clear Jack's name, but he has already died in prison. Someone else in the family is the real murderer.
Death on the Nile
On a tranquil cruise along the River Nile in Egypt, Hercule Poirot’s detective skills are called into action when a young and beautiful woman is shot in the head and the assembled company of passengers come under suspicion.
And Then There Were None
Ten strangers arrive on Solider Island but the hosts are mysteriously absent. All members of the group are accused of a different crime and, one by one, they begin to be mysteriously murdered.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
A much loved favourite, this book follows the mysterious death of Roger Ackroyd, a man who knew too much and ends up stabbed in the neck in his study.
Peril at End House
Hercule Poirot meets a young woman named Nick who keeps missing death by inches. The detective must try to keep her safe and unravel the mystery of a murder which hasn’t yet been committed.
Poirot's final murder case. He may now be in a wheelchair, but Hercule Poirot is determined to discover exactly who killer X is once and for all.
Agatha Christie TV series, films and adaptations
In 1928, The Coming of Mr Quin was adapted into the first film of Agatha Christie’s work, named The Passing of Mr Quinn. From then, there have been numerous adaptations in almost every incarnation.
The most enduring is arguably David Suchet’s Poirot ITV series, which aired from 1989 until 2013.
The BBC One series Miss Marple starring Joan Hickson ran from 1984 until 1992. Agatha Christie’s Marple on ITV then featured Geraldine McEwan in the title role from 2004 until 2013.
Since the first in the 1920s, there have been other big screen films, most recently revived by Sir Kenneth Branagh. There have also been many theatre productions and radio plays which have drawn from Christie’s work.
There are even a number of video games, anime series and graphic novels based on Agatha Christie's mysteries.
Complete list of Agatha Christie books
Hercule Poirot novels
- The Mysterious Affair at Styles
- The Murder on the Links
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
- The Big Four
- The Mystery of the Blue Train
- Peril at End House
- Lord Edgware Dies
- Murder on the Orient Express
- Death in the Clouds
- Murder in Mesopotamia
- The ABC Murders
- Cards on the Table
- Dumb Witness
- Death on the Nile
- Appointment with Death
- Hercule Poirot's Christmas
- Sad Cypress
- Evil Under The Sun
- One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
- The Hollow
- Taken At The Flood
- Mrs McGinty's Dead
- After the Funeral
- Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly
- Hickory Dickory Dock
- Dead Man's Folly
- Cat Among the Pigeons
- The Clocks
- Third Girl
- Hallowe'en Party
- Elephants Can Remember
- Black Coffee
Hercule Poirot short stories
- Poirot Investigates
- Murder in the Mews
- The Labours of Hercules
- The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (Poirot and Miss Marple short stories)
- Poirot's Early Cases
Miss Marple novels
- The Murder at the Vicarage
- The Body in the Library
- The Moving Finger
- A Murder is Announced
- They Do it with Mirrors
- A Pocket Full of Rye
- 4.50 From Paddington
- The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side
- A Caribbean Mystery
- At Bertram's Hotel
- Sleeping Murder
Miss Marple short stories
Tommy and Tuppence Novels
- The Secret Adversary
- N or M
- By the Pricking of My Thumbs
- Postern of Fate
- Partners in Crime (short story collection)
Other Agatha Christie mystery novels
- The Man in the Brown Suit
- The Secret of Chimneys
- The Seven Dials Mystery
- The Sittaford Mystery
- Why Didn't They Ask Evans?
- Three Act Tragedy
- Murder is Easy
- And Then There Were None
- Five Little Pigs
- Towards Zero
- Death Comes At The End
- Sparkling Cyanide
- Crooked House
- They Came to Baghdad
- Destination Unknown
- Ordeal By Innocence
- The Pale Horse
- Endless Night
- Passenger to Frankfurt
- The Unexpected Guest
- Spider's Web
Other Agatha Christie mystery short stories
Detection Club novels
Novels under Mary Westmacott pseudonym
- Giant's Bread
- Unfinished Portrait
- Absent in the Spring
- The Rose and the Yew Tree
- A Daughter's a Daughter
- The Burden