The Best and Worst of Agatha Christie

With more than 60 novels and 14 short story collections, is it any wonder that Agatha Christie is the bestselling novelist of all time? Her works are ranked third in the world’s most published books, behind Shakespeare and the Bible, and they have been translated into at least 103 languages. However, with 66 novels and numerous short stories, not all of Mrs. Christie’s works are going to be favorites. Then again, one person’s favorite is another person’s least favorite, and sometimes for the same reasons. For example, the first time I read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, I literally threw the book across the room, vowing to never read another Agatha Christie book again, all because of the twist ending that makes other people count this story as their favorite. So here are some of the best and the worst (in my opinion) of Agatha Christie.

THE BEST
The Mysterious Affair at Styles: This is Christie’s first published novel and introduces the world to retired Belgian police detective Hercule Poirot, Inspector Japp and Arthur Hastings, who becomes the Watson to Hercule’s Holmes. This book is a great one to start with if you have yet to dip your toe into the Christie canon.
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And Then There Were None: One of my absolute favorite mystery books, which will keep you guessing until the end. Interesting Fact: First published in the U.K. in 1939, this book has had several different names, but since those were considered racially offensive (look them up if you dare!), the title was changed to And Then There Were None in January 1940.
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The A.B.C. Murders (or the Alphabet Murders): The victims in this book seem to be completely unrelated as Hercule Poirot and his good friend Arthur Hastings begin to investigate. This book doesn’t really follow Christie’s usual style, and so it is a good read if you are looking for something a little different.
ABC MURDERS

The Mousetrap: Yes, this is a play. In fact, it’s the longest-running play in history. The play is actually based on a short story by Christie, who asked that the story not be published as long as it ran as a play in the West End of London. The play was first performed in 1952, and the story has still not been published in the U.K. However, it was first published in the United States in a short story collection in 1950 under its original title Three Blind Mice.themousetrap

THE WORST
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: In regards to this book, I have been asked to say that “this bloggers opinion does not reflect the opinion of Half Price Books”… or in fact anyone else on the planet apparently. I’ll just say, be prepared to feel cheated.the-murder-of-roger-ackroyd

The Big Four: This is Christie’s first stab at writing espionage. In my opinion, she should have stuck with police detectives and little old ladies and left the spy work to Le Carré.thebigfour

Destination Unknown: Originally called So Many Steps to Death, this is another one of Christie’s spy novels, and it just seems bland, which may be why it is one of only four Christie novels never to be adapted into another kind of medium.destination unknown

Postern of Fate: This is the last novel that Christie wrote, and it is reported that she suffered from dementia during that time, so it’s not surprising that this book would be on the bottom of the Christie spectrum.postern of fate

Now, this is just a sampling of some of the best and the worst of Agatha Christie, or at least this blogger’s opinion about the best and worst of Agatha Christie. Of course, Agatha Christie’s legacy continues through Sophie Hannah’s Hercule Poirot novels, The Monogram Murders (2015), Closed Casket (2017) and The Mystery of Three Quarters (2018), not to mention the movie version of Christie’s novel Murder on the Orient Express that came out in 2017, starring  Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp and Judi Dench. Plus, And Then There Was None was voted best mystery by HPB customers in our Mystery Madness tournament this past March! So, I think it’s safe to say Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery and her books (even the worst ones) are worth the read. Check them out at your local HPB and HPB.com.

What’s your favorite (or least favorite) Agatha Christie novel?

Booklovers’ Choice: Favorite Books from HPB Bibliomaniacs Across the Country

I think every booklover will admit that one of the hardest questions to answer is “what is your favorite book?” Someone asked me that question not long ago, and I had read so many good books, trying to pick a favorite was almost heartbreaking. I finally said The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton because that was the first book that made me want to be a writer and touch people’s lives the way that book had touched mine. However, the question got me wondering what were some of my favorite booklovers favorite books? So much to their chagrin, I asked. And what better time to share their answers than on August 9, better known as Booklover’s Day?

Amanda B., Woodshoppe Manager, Dallas, TX
“I think I’ll have to go with Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. As I child I remember reading it and being fascinated by the depth and detail of the novel. It was the perfect mixture of horror, fantasy, suspense and Americana. As an adult, I think it is one of the most touching and nostalgic books I’ve ever read.”

Heidi H., Store Inventory Manager, Indianapolis, INLegacy of Ashes
“One of my favorite books of nonfiction is Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA by Tim Weiner. It may be one of our country’s most important tomes. At over 1,000 pages it took me over six months to read, mainly because I’m a slow reader, but the content was gripping and brought new meaning to the phrase ‘page-turner.’”

Jammie M., District Inventory Manager, Dallas, TXThe Hobbit
“My favorite book is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s the only book I’ve read multiple times. I like the world and the story. Plus, it was my mother’s favorite book, and I feel connected to her when I read it.”

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerDavid J., District Inventory Manager, Indianapolis, IN
I think the first book that caused me to fall in love with reading was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg because it intrigued my imagination and really got me into the world that the characters lived in. From that time on, books were a gateway into another world and into the lives and experiences of other people.

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Resolution Renewal: Half a Year, Half a Year, Half a Year Gone!

July 1 marks the midyear checkpoint for New Year’s Resolutions. It’s time to take stock of what you’ve accomplished and what you need to do to accomplish even more. Every year, I resolve to read a certain number of books, and I know I’m not alone because through the Half Price Books Resolve to Read program more than 60,000 people (including me) resolved to read more! However, of the 50 books I resolved to read, I’ve only read 16. Needless to say, I have some work to do, and here are a few ideas I’ve had about how I’m going to check this resolution off as done.

Book Club LogoJoin a Book Club. Being in a community of readers who are all reading the same book, and knowing that a discussion will take place, will push me to read the book so that I will be able to participate. Did you know you could join the HPB Book Club online, which is a great way to be part of a book club for people who are too busy or uncomfortable in group settings?

Track your progress. I am a list maker, and one of my favorite things to do is to check something off my list. As I read a book, I can add it to the list or create a list of books I want to read and check them off as I have read them. Some websites will help your track your progress online. My favorite is Good Reads.

Lists

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If You Liked A Place for Us, You Might Also Like…

A Place for Us 2.jpgIf you are part of the HPB Book Club, you are currently reading (or perhaps just finished) A Place for Us, by Fatima Farheen Mirza, a heartbreaking story of family, identity and belonging. As all the members of an Indian-America Muslim family gather to celebrate the eldest daughter’s wedding, each family member looks back at crucial moments in their past as the three children have searched for the place they belong in the world, in their culture, in their faith and in their family. Mirza goes back and forth in time and from one perspective to another, letting the reader see the thoughts and feelings behind every circumstance and every consequence, showing how without understanding, even acts of love can turn into acts of betrayal. A Place for Us is the first title published under Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint, SJP for Hogarth.

If you liked A Place for Us, here are a few other books you might like:

 

All We Ever Wanted, by Emily Giffin, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky, by Marisa de los Santos, How Hard, Can it Be, by Allison Pearson, Stay with Me, by Ayobami Adebayo, An American Mariage, by Tayari Jones

 

Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward, Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng, What We Lose, by Zinzi Clemmons, Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate, What We Were Promised, by Lucy Tan (coming out July 10, 2018)

So, what’s your next read?

Check out what we’re reading next. Join the HPB Book Club.

Literary Besties for Best Friends Day

Whether you call them bosom buddies, kindred spirits, BFFs or just besties, one thing is sure: neither life nor literature would be the same without best friends. That’s why we are celebrating June 8, Best Friends Day, with some of the greatest BFFs to ever be written on the page.

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Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, from Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery—Who else but your bosom friend would not pursue a guy because she knew you secretly liked him (although you pretended like you hated him)? Continue reading

If You Liked The Tournament of Mysteries, You Might Also Like…

I am a total book nerd, and I love lists. So, when I was told Half Price Books was having a Tournament of Mysteries as part of Mystery Madness, I set out to read all the books on the bracket, in order to vote for the right book with each pairing. Now that I have read all the mystery books in the tournament, I solve the mystery of what I’m going to read next. Here’s a list of similar books for myself and other book nerds like me who never want Mystery Madness to end.

SherlockIf you liked Sherlock Holmes: The Novels, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

AndThenThereWereNoneIf you liked And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie:

NameOfTheRoseIf you liked The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco:

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If You Liked Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, You Might Also Like…

midnight at the bright ideas bookstoreWhen I found out the HPB Book Club would be reading Matthew Sullivan’s dark and twisty debut mystery novel, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, as part of our Mystery Madness promotion, I was thrilled. I mean, mystery is my favorite genre. Add the fact that the mystery takes place in a bookstore and all the clues come from books, and you have a book that every bibliophile will love.

When bookseller, Lydia Smith discovers the body of one of her favorite patrons dangling at the end of a rope in the Western History section and finds a picture of herself as a 10 year-old girl in his pocket, the memories of being the sole surviving victim of a killer known as the Hammerman come flooding back, and she realizes that she can’t hide from her past forever. Sullivan expertly pieces the past and present together like a puzzle, and the finished product may surprise you.

If you liked Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, here are a few other books you might like.

A Bed of Scorpions, by Judith Flanders
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan
Booked to Die, by John Dunning
The Body in the Library, by Agatha Christie
The Club Dumas, by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
The Bookman’s Tale, by Charlie Lovett
The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
Quiet Neighbors, by Catriona McPherson
Unsolicited, by Julie Kaewert
Death’s Autograph, by Marianne Macdonald

I’ve already pulled Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and The Eyre Affair from the shelves of my local HPB, but I think I may have to go back for a copy of The Club Dumas. What will your next read be?

Want to get in on the conversation? Join the HPB Book Club at hpb.com/bookclub.

Solve the Mystery: 6 Character Riddles

How well do you know your mysteries? Below are clues to six of my favorite mystery novel characters. I challenge you to solve them all without looking at the answers below!

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1. A self-proclaimed hobo, I have no address, no credit cards and no cell phone. I don’t even have a middle name. What I do have is 13 years of military training, dozens of medals and nothing better to do with my time. Who am I?

2. My foppish, upper-class persona and classic good looks may have convinced some that I slept my way into the Yard, but my ability to hide a wealth of feeling behind my aristocratic mask has proven useful whether I’m interviewing a confessed murderer, dealing with my partner’s tortured past or watching the girl I love marry one of my closest friends. Who am I?

3. My motto is: it’s better to be lucky than good. And I need all the luck I can get with my ongoing financial disaster, two men who drive me crazy, a gun-toting grandma and a co-worker who would trade sexual favors for a bucket of chicken, not to mention the fact that my cars keep exploding. I need a Tastykake. Who am I?

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Let’s do the Time Loop Again

February 2 is Groundhog Day, so you’ll find me doing the same thing I do every Groundhog Day, watching the movie Groundhog Day, because Groundhog Day just isn’t Groundhog Day without watching Groundhog Day. (That sentence was brought to you by the people who bet me I couldn’t use “Groundhog Day” six times in a sentence.) Truth is, I have always loved stories that have time loops in them. As someone who constantly gets things wrong, the idea that someone could live the same day over and over again until they get things right appeals to me. Here’s a list of my top five books and movies about people who get stuck in some sort of time loop.

Groundhog Day—Of course we have to start this list with Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. The movie never explains how weatherman Phil Connors gets stuck in a time loop, having to relive February 2 over and over again, but I think the groundhog had something to do with it.

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver—In this debut YA novel, Sam Kingston wakes up the morning after dying in a car accident, fated to relive the day she dies over and over again. Like in Groundhog Day, the story is about redemption and the reason for the time loop is not given, but it sure makes a great story. This book was turned into a movie in 2017, starring Zoey Deutch.

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Adventures Worth Telling: A Book Nerd’s Look at Appreciate a Dragon Day

“Always remember, it’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.” –Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance

January 16 is Appreciate a Dragon Day, and what better way to celebrate than to look at some of our favorite dragons in literature?

beowulfThe Dragon that Slays Beowulf
The epic poem Beowulf is one of the oldest surviving and most important works of Old English literature. It is certainly one of the most important works in regards to dragons, as Beowulf was the first piece of English literature to represent a fire-breathing dragon as we think of them today. This unnamed dragon is the third monster that Beowulf faces and is the monster that deals him the wound that costs him his life. The dragon is slain by Beowulf’s distant cousin Wiglaf, who Beowulf names as his heir as he lays dying.

Smaug

Smaug

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The greedy, wicked worm from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit is probably the most well-known dragon in the world. Described as “the greatest of the dragons of his day,” Smaug attacked against King Thrór without warning and engulfed the dwarf king’s mountain in flames, causing the dwarves to flee. Smaug then moved in, taking the dwarves’ riches for himself and resided in the mountain for 150 years, until a meddlesome wizard and a band of dwarves elicited the help of a simple hobbit to take back the mountain. For more about this dragon and what brought about the quest to recapture the mountain, read Appendix A from The Return of the King and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales.

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