The ‘Hercule Poirot’ series is written by British writer Agatha Christie.
Seen as the godfather of fictional detectives by many, Hercule Poirot would lead the way in Agatha Christie’s pioneering mystery novel franchise. A Belgian detective just as well known for his clear analytical insight as he was his iconic handlebar moustache, an industry has built itself around his name ever since his inception in 1920 with The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Solving murders through a series of clues and interrogations, he would pave the way for the modern mystery novel, being featured in a total of 33 novels and 50 short stories during Agatha Christie’s lifetime.
Working alongside various accomplices such as Captain Arthur Hastings, Ariadne Oliver and Inspector Japp, people would often underestimate him, something which he’d use to his advantage when solving a case. With his first case taking place in 1916 and his last in 1949, he would typically follow a formula whereby there’d be a murder, and he’d then use his deductive abilities to find the culprit from a collection of suspects, each usually having their own motivations. This would be a formula that Christie would come to comment on through the character of Ariadne, who would be a fictional stand-in for the author.
One famous example of this structure is the classic Murder on the Orient Express, as Poirot boards the infamous train. When a murder then takes place the stage is then set as he must deduce exactly who did it amongst the first-class passengers, with each of them having a motivation to kill. Set in 1934 it is very much of its time, and has gone on to see various adaptations since, including film, television, radio, stage, and video-game. This is something the character has a seen a lot of over the years, with perhaps the most iconic incarnation of the character being played by actor David Suchet in the ITV television series running from 1989 to 2013. Winning numerous plaudits during its time, Christie has even gone on to inspire her own literary award with the ‘Agatha Award’ started in 1989, focusing on crime and cozy mystery writers.
Best Hercule Poirot Books
In my own opinion, this is what I feel to be the top five books in the Hercule Poirot series are:
See at Amazon#5: Death on the Nile (1937)
With a Nile cruise setting the scene, Poirot must solve the murder of the young and beautiful socialite Linnet Doyle. Apparently a woman with everything, she was on her honeymoon with a man previously engaged to her once best friend Simon Doyle. Who really committed the murder aboard the S.S. Karnak?
In this fast paced novel, nobody is quite who they appear to be, making it an ideal entry point for anyone looking to get in to the world of Hercule Poirot. Whilst the mystery itself is somewhat complex, it manages to keep the reader hooked where other writers might lose them, clearly showing why Christie is a master of the genre.
See at Amazon#4: The ABC Murders (1935)
After Alice Asher is killed in Andover, followed by Betty Bernard being murdered in Bexhill, Hercule Poirot is lead to believe there might be a serial-killer on the loose. Leaving the ABC Railway Guide beside each victim, it appears that they’re working their way through the victims alphabetically. Who will C be though, and where will the killer strike next?
As an early example of the serial-killer novel, this shows Agatha Christie at her boldest, experimenting not just with ideas, but form itself. Using a simple premise, it really took the murder mystery concept in a new and exciting direction, as writers still replicate it to this day.
See at Amazon>#3: Peril at End House (1934)
Meeting Nick Buckley, the owner of End House whilst vacationing off the Cornish coast, Poirot notices a series of mysterious mishaps surrounding the young woman. They all seem to tie to the house itself, which hangs precariously on St. Loo’s rocky cliffs, leading the detective to believe there’s more to this home than just bad luck. Investigating the murky history of the house, it appears that someone wants to see Nick come to harm, but who, and can Poirot stop them in time?
Whilst some may overlook this novel, it’s a great example of a nuts and bolts Poirot mystery, showcasing him at his most acerbic. With its use of location too, it would become the template of many a cozy murder mystery to follow, thanks to its steady pacing and straight-forward logic.
See at Amazon#2: Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
Taking a trip home to London aboard the Orient Express, Hercule Poirot’s journey is disturbed after the train hits a snow drift and a murder takes place. The victim, one Samuel Ratchett, believed his life to be in danger, and now it appears that everyone in first-class appears to have a motivation. It is now up to Poirot to get to the bottom of the case and find the killer before the train reaches its final destination.
So this one may come as no surprise, but it’s a title that really exemplifies Christie’s use of setting and character, with its ensemble cast. Every passenger is finely crafted and you really feel you get to know them all as the mystery unfolds, making the conclusion all the more shocking.
See at Amazon#1: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
Taking place in the village of King’s Abbot, the sudden suicide of a widow has everyone whispering of her murdering her first husband only to be blackmailed for it. Then, the following night, wealthy Roger Ackroyd who she was rumored to be having an affair with is also murdered, but not before receiving a letter identifying the name of the blackmailer. Now Hercule Poirot must get to the bottom of this case, as he interrupts his retirement to find the culprit from the suspects populating the village.
There’s a reason why this book is listed in the ‘1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die’, as it is classic Christie at her best. Not being able to say much about it without giving it away, it contains one of the all time great twists, showing why Christie continues to remain unsurpassed to this day.
Best Books & Series To Read If You Like Hercule Poirot:
Sherlock Holmes: Whilst this may seem obvious to many, Sherlock Holmes really did help pave the way for Agatha Christie when writing Poirot. Often compared to one another, the two of them are both iconic in their own ways, making Holmes a must if you haven’t already read Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels.
Phryne Fisher: As a more contemporary series harking back to the golden era of the 1920s, the original series by Kerry Greenwood, along with the television adaptation, has secured an iconic status for the character of Miss Fisher. A no-nonsense go-getter aristocrat, she operates as an amateur sleuth solving a series of mysteries with the help of her friends, many of whom are recurring.
Philip Marlowe: For the fans of more hard-boiled detective fiction the Philip Marlowe novels by Raymond Chandler are ideal. Whilst they may stray from Hercule Poirot style of cozy mystery novels, it’s interesting to see the later development of the genre into pulp-noir, as well as Chandler’s excellent use of wordplay.
Inspector Maigret: Again from one iconic detective to another, Inspector Maigret was an inspired creation by writer Georges Simeon. Adapted for film too, there were seventy-five novels featuring the French detective, as he’d also solve various mysteries alongside many returning characters.
Miss Marple: Another property from Agatha Christie’s extensive body of work, Jane Marple would solve cases as a single elderly woman residing in St. Mary Mead, operating as an amateur sleuth there. Shrewd and quick-witted, the series is a must for both fans of the author and the genre, delivering more of what Christie did best.
Best Podcasts If You Like Hercule Poirot:
All About Agatha (Christie): A comprehensive look at the life of Agatha Christie, with each episode going over her back catalog of work. This makes the series a must for any fans of the author, as it picks apart every detail, leaving no stone unturned.
World Book Club – Agatha Christie: Focusing on one of her most influential novels ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, this breaks down the story and its influence on literature as a whole. Examining the legacy of the shrewd detective Poirot too, crime writer Sophie Hannah looks closer, with the help of Christie’s great grandson; James Pritchard.
The History Chicks – Agatha Christie: Taking a more laid-back fun look at the life and times of the author, this puts the body of Agatha Christie’s work into a historical context. Informative and entertaining, it provides a lot of unique insights into her and her work.