We love the Queen of Crime, and earlier this summer, to celebrate her 125th birthday, we chose our top 10 Agatha Christie novels every mystery lover should read.
It’s been nearly 100 years since the first Christie novel was published, but thanks to a generation of new authors, the mystery novel is alive and well (although some characters may have died along the way).
Here are some of our favorite books by present-day mystery authors to read if you love Christie, complete with publishers’ descriptions below. We like to think even Christie herself would enjoy curling up in an armchair with this modern collection of amateur sleuths, cold-blooded murders, red herrings, and plot twists.
A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch
Charles Lenox, Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer, likes nothing more than to relax in his private study with a cup of tea, a roaring fire and a good book. But when his lifelong friend Lady Jane asks for his help, Lenox cannot resist the chance to unravel a mystery.
Prudence Smith is dead of an apparent suicide. But Lenox suspects something far more sinister: murder, by a rare and deadly poison. The grand house where the girl worked is full of suspects, and though Prue had dabbled with the hearts of more than a few men, Lenox is baffled by the motive for the girl’s death.
When another body turns up during the London season’s most fashionable ball, Lenox must untangle a web of loyalties and animosities. Was it jealousy that killed Prudence Smith? Or was it something else entirely? And can Lenox find the answer before the killer strikes again — this time, disturbingly close to home?
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life…
When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil — until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?
Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.
Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie
Sidney Chambers, the Vicar of Grantchester, is a 32-year-old bachelor. Tall, with dark brown hair, eyes the color of hazelnuts and a reassuringly gentle manner, Sidney is an unconventional clergyman and can go where the police cannot.
Together with his roguish friend, Inspector Geordie Keating, Sidney inquires into the suspect suicide of a Cambridge solicitor, a scandalous jewelry theft at a New Year’s Eve dinner party, the unexplained death of a well-known jazz promoter and a shocking art forgery, the disclosure of which puts a close friend in danger. Sidney discovers that being a detective, like being a clergyman, means that you are never off duty. Nonetheless, he manages to find time for a keen interest in cricket, warm beer, hot jazz and the works of Tolstoy and Shakespeare — as well as a curious fondness for a German widow three years his junior…
The Christie Caper by Carolyn G. Hart
In honor of Agatha Christie’s one hundredth birthday, mystery bookstore owner Annie Laurance Darling plans a week-long celebration of mystery, treasure hunts, title clues, and Christie trivia. Yet even as the champagne is chilling and the happy guests begin arriving on Broward’s Rock Island, Annie feels a niggling sense of doom. The unexpected arrival of Neil Bledsoe, the most despised book critic in America, was sure to raise a few hackles, but before the first title clue is solved, no less than two attempts are made on Bledsoe’s life. Now Annie and her unflappable husband, Max Darling, find themselves trying to stop a murder in the making — only the first corpse isn’t the one they’re expecting… and it isn’t the last.
Murder on the Leviathan by Boris Akunin
Paris, 1878: Eccentric antiquarian Lord Littleby and his ten servants are found murdered in Littleby’s mansion on the rue de Grenelle, and a priceless Indian shawl is missing. Police commissioner “Papa” Gauche recovers only one piece of evidence from the crime scene: a golden key shaped like a whale. Gauche soon deduces that the key is in fact a ticket of passage for the Leviathan, a gigantic steamship soon to depart Southampton on its maiden voyage to Calcutta.
The murderer must be among its passengers.
Tipping his hat to Agatha Christie, Akunin assembles a colorful cast of suspects — including a secretive Japanese doctor, a professor who specializes in rare Indian artifacts, a pregnant Swiss woman, and an English aristocrat with an appetite for collecting Asian treasures — all of whom are confined together until the crime is solved. As the Leviathan steams toward Calcutta, will Detective Fandorin be able to out-investigate Gauche and discover who the killer is, even as the ship’s passengers are murdered, one by one?
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
Lady Rowan Compton first meets Maisie when she goes into service as a maid at her ladyship’s Belgravia mansion. A suffragette, Lady Rowan takes the remarkably smart youngster under her wing and becomes her patron. She encourages Maisie to study at Cambridge, and is aided in this by Maurice Blanche, a friend often retained as an investigator by the elite of Europe.
The outbreak of war changes everything. Maisie leaves for France to train as a nurse, then serves at the front, where she falls in love with a handsome young doctor.
After the Armistice, in the spring of 1929, Maisie hangs out her shingle: M. Dobbs, Trade and Personal Investigations. Her very first case turns up a tombstone with only a first name — Vincent. And then she finds another. The deceased had lived on a convalescent refuge for those grievously wounded in the war. When Lady Rowan’s son makes plans to join this reclusive community, Maisie hurriedly investigates and finds a disturbing mystery at its core whose resolution gives her the courage to confront the ghost that has haunted her for ten years.
The Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton
Putting all her eggs in one basket, Agatha Raisin gives up her successful PR firm, sells her London flat, and samples a taste of early retirement in the quiet village of Carsely. Bored, lonely, and used to getting her way, she enters a local baking contest. Despite the fact that Agatha has never baked a thing in her life, she is sure the pie she has secretly bought from an upper-crust London quicherie will make her the toast of the town. But her recipe for social advancement sours when the judge not only snubs her entry — but falls over dead!
Wicked Autumn by G. M. Malliet
The quaint town of Nether Monkslip seems to be the perfect new home for vicar Max Tudor, who has fled a harrowing past serving in the British counter-intelligence agency, MI5. But this serenity is quickly shattered when the highly vocal and unpopular president of the Women’s Institute turns up dead at the Harvest Fayre. The death looks like an accident, but Max’s training as a former agent kicks in, and before long he suspects foul play.
It is impossible to believe anyone in his lovely hamlet capable of the crime, and yet given the victim, Max must acknowledge that almost everyone in town had probably fantasized about the poor woman’s death. As he becomes more intricately involved, the investigation stirs up memories he’d rather not revisit; the demons from his past which led him to Nether Monkslip and the reason why he is so heavily invested in keeping it from harm.
Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn
In early 1923, the young Honourable Daisy Dalrymple has made a decision that shocks her social class — instead of living in the Dower House with her mother and being supported by her relatives, she’s decided to make her own living as a writer. Landing an assignment for Town & Country to write a series of articles on country manor houses, Daisy travels to Wentwater Court to research her first piece. There she finds a household in turmoil, filled with holiday guests and recriminations. But that’s nothing compared to the uproar when one of those guests drowns in a tragic early-morning skating “accident.” When it is learned that this was anything but accidental, Scotland Yard is called in and a young Chief Inspector, one Alec Fletcher, is called in to investigate. And therein hangs a tale…
The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun
The world of modern art is a mystery to many. But for Jim Qwilleran, it turns into a mystery of another sort when his assignment to the art beat for The Daily Fluxion leads down the path to murder. A stabbing in an art gallery, vandalized paintings, a fatal fall from a scaffolding — this is not at all what Qwilleran expects when he turns his reportorial talents to art. But Qwilleran and his newly found partner, Koko the brilliant Siamese, are back in their element — sniffing out clues and confounding criminals intent on mayhem and murder.
Are there any new authors you’d add to the list? Tell us in the comments!