Recommendations for first-time Poirot readers

***Note: plot spoilers below. Intended for those introducing Poirot to others!***  🙂

I have my own methods for introducing a friend to Poirot for the first time.  🙂

If I can give them only one book, I will choose a short story collection like Poirot Investigates.

Ideally, I’d give them three books: Poirot Investigates (for short stories), The A.B.C. Murders (for a Hastings novel), and Death on the Nile (for a non-Hastings novel).

I will not give them Murder on the Orient Express or The Murder of Roger Ackroyd to tackle first, and here’s why.

They are both, I need hardly say, exceptional books and I love them. But I’d prefer to start someone with more typical Poirot, and those two books are anything but typical. The first Agatha Christie book I ever read, some years ago, was And Then There Were None. Although it was a great book and I enjoyed it, it also terrified me. I assumed that Christie was an author of thrillers, and that her books normally featured a large number of dead bodies destroyed by varied, gruesome murders. Not really my genre, I thought. It was years before I picked up a second Christie book.

I once read a Christie fan comment about how Roger Ackroyd was the first Poirot novel she’d read. In every subsequent novel with first-person narration, she immediately suspected that the narrator had dunnit! It became very annoying for her.

If Murder on the Orient Express is the first Poirot novel you read, you would get certain characteristic qualities of a Poirot tale– it is, in some ways, even a quintessential Poirot problem. The set-up is elegant and streamlined, almost clinical; the problem cannot be solved by running about or obtaining information elsewhere, but by pure deduction based on the interviews conducted of the suspects. On the other hand, you might be forgiven if you assumed from this book that Christie’s style leans toward unusually disgusting murder, including horrific (multiple) child murders, as a norm; or that her detective is somewhat on the cold-and-distant side in general. Or, if after putting the book down, you read the next few Christies assuming that everyone is in on the murder plot. In short, the book has many very atypical qualities.

My own recommendations also feature clever and unique problems, but (I think) somewhat more characteristic ones. If interest is piqued from those three books, I’d send the person back to The Mysterious Affair at Styles and recommend that they go through the canon chronologically.

That would be my own recommendation and the reasoning for it. Do you have your own “first recommendations” you prefer?

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6 thoughts on “Recommendations for first-time Poirot readers

  1. Interesting topic for a post and I am glad I have come across your Christie themed blog, being a big Golden Age detective fiction fan. You’ve certainly picked some interesting choices for your 3 books to recommend a Christie novice and I’d be tempted to also include The ABC Murders as one of my choices for if I were to also pick 3 books. Though perhaps you should include a spoiler warning for your paragraph on The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, otherwise someone who hasn’t read the book may find out more than they wanted to know.

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  2. It’s just possible I read Murder on the Orient Express before I got to the in-laws’ Christie collection, but if so, the memory is very hazy indeed. The first Poirot I specifically remember reading is After the Funeral (of all things), then maybe some of the short stories, then The Big Four.

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  3. I don t know what my first AC book was, and I have to say: i often forget who did it….because for me: i like to read the books for other things, for example, the books comfort me when i feel sad. And i enjoy the way AC use the modern science in her book. If you know how far psychology as a science was in the early years of the last century, and when you see how AC use that modern thinking…
    She had such a good image about people…So i like all the books.

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