I've been interested in two discussions in recent days on that perenially entertaining (if subjective and inconclusive) topic of "favourite books". Those excellent bloggers Christine Poulson and Clothes in Books started a thoughtful discussion about five favourite Agatha Christies, while Mike Linane, a very knowledgable Golden Age fan, drew attention on Facebook to the thoughts of yet another leading blogger, Crimeficlover, on "top ten Golden Age novels." I couldn't resist the temptation to join in. So today I'll focus on Christie. Thoughts on ten favourites from the Golden Age will follow on Wednesday. As Christine and others have said, however, not only do different people make different choices, one's own views tend to shift on these selections. And I expect mine will before long!
With Christie, however, I'm going to vary things a bit. I really want to choose six titles, rather than five (and I was very tempted to go for ten.) In reverse order, then:
6. Five Little Pigs - this is a Christie that I first read when I was young, and it didn't work especially well for me at the tender age of about nine. I was persuaded by the late Robert Barnard to revise my opinions, and I now think that the image of the murderer watching the victim die is one of the most chilling in Golden Age literature.
5. Cards on the Table - this is a very clever story, and it's one of those Christies (Three-Act Tragedy, Why Didn't They Ask Evans? and The Sittaford Mystery are others) which strike me as surprisingly under-rated. The idea of confining the suspects to just four is a good one, and the detective work is very nicely done. Even though I don't like bridge, I've always enjoyed this book.
4. Peril at End House - a brilliant spin on a device that is now rather familiar. The clueing is excellent, and the way that suspicion shifts from one person to another - for me, that's one of the tests of a Golden Age classic - is splendidly done. I like the seaside setting, and Poirot and Hastings are in great form.
3. Curtain - because this book was posthumously published at a time when "mere ingenuity" was unfashionable, its cleverness has, I think, generally been under-rated. The central idea is fantastic and it influenced my otherwise very different book, Take My Breath Away. An extraordinary book in many ways, not least because of what Poirot does near the end.
2. The ABC Murders - the best Golden Age serial killer whodunit, and a book whose plot twist has inspired many other wirters, past and present. A gripping mystery, with neat clues and a level of tension and suspense that Christie surpassed only once, in my number one choice.
1. And Then There Were None - I've written several times about my admiration for this book. It is in many ways the ultimate Golden Age whodunit, and yet neither Poirot nor Marple appear. It was one of the first adult novels I ever read, and it made a lasting impression on me.
Yet somehow I've omitted The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder is Easy, Murder at the Vicarage, and Murder on the Orient Express. And... well, go on, then - what are your favourites?