I needed some light reading for free so figured I'd re-read a lot of Agatha Christie books
. Downloaded a lot of them and waded in. Then I realized it might be more fun to go back and read them in the order they were written so I can keep their historical and literary context more firmly in mind. As I read the early mysteries and thrillers I am reminded of John Buchan. When I was around 11 I went through a heavy phase of reading mysteries along with SF, because my piano teacher had walls lined with issues of asimov's and Ellery Queen and a ton of cheap paperbacks. She would lend me armloads and we would waste my parents' money talking about books. I owned a bunch of the later ones like Halloween, The Clocks, etc.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920): Poirot is a WWI refugee. He meets Hastings who is there on medical leave staying with his friend John Cavendish. Germans are evil (the war is still on). Beards very suspicious. Diagrams of the house! Does not pass Bechdel test. "Oh, yes, having a little weekend house party, I think I'll invite the local chap who happens to be a worldwide expert on POISONS" Amazing how much strychnine is just floating around.... like candy.
The Secret Adversary (1922)
Tommy and Tuppence meet in London, post-war, demobilized, & jobless. They form The Young Adventurers. Rich American friend. Evil worldwide criminal mastermind who shall not be named (Mr. Brown) & powerful global conspiracy! Women doing lots of competent action hero action, which I found satisfying. It is easy for organized crime lords and criminal masterminds to put people into insane asylums for years. It is not difficult to get "good servants" but it is impossible to find a place to live, as there is a housing crisis, and there are also no jobs.
Murder on the Links (1923)
Hastings and Poirot are roommates. They go rushing off to France in response to a letter. There are some murders. A will... maybe more than one will.... Hastings picks up a 17 year old girl on the train. Long-ago political murder suddenly becomes relevant.
The Man in the Brown Suit (1924)
(I accidentally skipped this and had to go back to it.) Intrepid young woman at loose ends gets caught up in thrilling adventures, murder, jewel heists, spying, and romance. Voyage to South Africa. I think this nearly passes the Bechdel test but not quite. This time the teenage girl picks up the grizzled action hero. (No Poirot, Inspectors, or Hastings in this one) Important life lesson, to be learned over and over in many Christie novels: When you see someone get on a train, and you see the train pull out of the station, NEVER BELIEVE they are on that train.
The Secret of Chimneys (1925)
Halfway through this. It has Bundle, a young aristocratic young woman with a love of impulsive adventure, and an intrepid, forthright Australian man who is probably someone in disguise. Royalty and diplomats from a fake European country. Children appear in the story.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
Narrated by a Dr. Sheppard whose sister is very smart and Miss Marple-like. It isn't clear to me why she almost never leaves the house. Ackroyd has a big house with lots of servants and an extended family with a lot of tension around money, affairs, and their inheritances. Gossip is power! Male narrators and authority figures (all unreliable) mostly come out looking like fools. I liked this book.
The Big Four
Hastings faces yet another giant international criminal conspiracy with Several People Who Must Not Be Named. If there are four anythings, expect trouble. Semiotics everywhere! Hastings has inexplicably left his 17 year old wife (or whatever) in Argentina while he lives with Poirot FOR SIX MONTHS. Then, even longer. I hope she enjoyed life on the ranch. China is evil. There are formidable, world-famous women scientists who may be making long range weapons of mass destruction, with radium and electricity and some sort of focusing lens in secret lairs they dig out from under a mountain range. This book needs to be completely rewritten from Madame Olivier's point of view.
The Mystery on the Blue Train (1928)
Poirot and Hastings. People ineptly having affairs and threatening to divorce each other. Jewels. Rich Americans. Murder on a train. France.
The Seven Dials Mystery (1929)
Yet another giant international criminal conspiracy with Several People Who Must Not Be Named. "Bundle" appears again, this time as an even more intrepid action hero/spy/investigator than she was before. She loves fast cars. Her dad is basically Bertie Wooster. Starts as a jolly house party with weird mashup of Wodehouse fun-loving youth and Strathmeyer syndicate boarding house hijinks. Then gets into politics, spying, and intrigue! If there are seven of anything, expect trouble. There were characters named Oswald and George which made me think of George Orwell and Oswald Moseley but they don't seem related. Surely Christie is making fun of some specific political circle!
Murder at the Vicarage (1930)
The Sittaford Mystery (1931)
Peril at End House (1932)
(Read out of order: Murder on the Orient Express, The Clocks)