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Authors: Agatha Christie

Peril at End House

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Peril at End House

To Eden Philpotts

To whom I shall always be grateful

for his friendship and the encouragement

he gave me many years ago

About Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is known throughout the world as the Queen of Crime. Her books have sold over a billion copies in English and another billion in 100 foreign languages. She is the most widely published author of all time and in any language, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Mrs Christie is the author of eighty crime novels and short story collections, nineteen plays, and six novels written under the name of Mary Westmacott.

Agatha Christie’s first novel,
The Mysterious Affair at Styles
, was written towards the end of World War I (during which she served in the Voluntary Aid Detachments). In it she created Hercule Poirot, the little Belgian investigator who was destined to become the most popular detective in crime fiction since Sherlock Holmes. After having been rejected by a number of houses,
The Mysterious Affair at Styles
was eventually published by The Bodley Head in 1920.

In 1926, now averaging a book a year, Agatha Christie wrote her masterpiece.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
was the first of her books to be published by William Collins and marked the beginning of an author-publisher relationship that lasted for fifty years and produced over seventy books.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
was also the first of Agatha Christie’s works to be dramatised—as
Alibi
—and to have a successful run in London’s West End.
The Mousetrap
, her most famous play, opened in 1952 and runs to this day at St Martin’s Theatre in the West End; it is the longest-running play in history.

Agatha Christie was made a Dame in 1971. She died in 1976, since when a number of her books have been published: the bestselling novel
Sleeping Murder
appeared in 1976, followed by
An Autobiography
and the short story collections
Miss Marple’s Final Cases
;
Problem at Pollensa Bay
; and
While the Light Lasts
. In 1998,
Black Coffee
was the first of her plays to be novelised by Charles Osborne, Mrs Christie’s biographer.

The Agatha Christie Collection
Christie Crime Classics

The Man in the Brown Suit

The Secret of Chimneys

The Seven Dials Mystery

The Mysterious Mr Quin

The Sittaford Mystery

The Hound of Death

The Listerdale Mystery

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?

Parker Pyne Investigates

Murder Is Easy

And Then There Were None

Towards Zero

Death Comes as the End

Sparkling Cyanide

Crooked House

They Came to Baghdad

Destination Unknown

Spider’s Web *

The Unexpected Guest *

Ordeal by Innocence

The Pale Horse

Endless Night

Passenger To Frankfurt

Problem at Pollensa Bay

While the Light Lasts

Hercule Poirot Investigates

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Murder on the Links

Poirot Investigates

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Big Four

The Mystery of the Blue Train

Black Coffee *

Peril at End House

Lord Edgware Dies

Murder on the Orient Express

Three-Act Tragedy

Death in the Clouds

The ABC Murders

Murder in Mesopotamia

Cards on the Table

Murder in the Mews

Dumb Witness

Death on the Nile

Appointment with Death

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas

Sad Cypress

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

Evil Under the Sun

Five Little Pigs

The Hollow

The Labours of Hercules

Taken at the Flood

Mrs McGinty’s Dead

After the Funeral

Hickory Dickory Dock

Dead Man’s Folly

Cat Among the Pigeons

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding

The Clocks

Third Girl

Hallowe’en Party

Elephants Can Remember

Poirot’s Early Cases

Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case

Miss Marple Mysteries

The Murder at the Vicarage

The Thirteen Problems

The Body in the Library

The Moving Finger

A Murder Is Announced

They Do It with Mirrors

A Pocket Full of Rye

4.50 from Paddington

The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side

A Caribbean Mystery

At Bertram’s Hotel

Nemesis

Sleeping Murder

Miss Marple’s Final Cases

Tommy & Tuppence

The Secret Adversary

Partners in Crime

Nor M?

By the Pricking of My Thumbs

Postern of Fate

Published as Mary Westmacott

Giant’s Bread

Unfinished Portrait

Absent in the Spring

The Rose and the Yew Tree

A Daughter’s a Daughter

The Burden

Memoirs

An Autobiography

Come, Tell Me How You Live

Play Collections

The Mousetrap and Selected Plays

Witness for the Prosecution and Selected Plays

* novelised by Charles Osborne

The Mysterious Affair at Styles
;
The Murder on the Links
;
Poirot Investigates
;
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
;
The Big Four
;
The Mystery of the Blue Train
;
Black Coffee
;
Peril at End House
;
Lord Edgware Dies
;
Murder on the Orient Express
;
Three-Act Tragedy
;
Death in the Clouds
;
The ABC Murders
;
Murder in Mesopotamia
;
Cards on the Table
;
Murder in the Mews
;
Dumb Witness
;
Death on the Nile
;
Appointment with Death
;
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas
;
Sad Cypress
;
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
;
Evil Under the Sun
;
Five Little Pigs
;
The Hollow
;
The Labours of Hercules
;
Taken at the Flood
;
Mrs McGinty’s Dead
;
After the Funeral
;
Hickory Dickory Dock
;
Dead Man’s Folly
;
Cat Among the Pigeons
;
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding
;
The
Clocks
;
Third Girl
;
Hallowe’en Party
;
Elephants Can Remember
;
Poirot’s Early Cases
;
Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case

1.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles
(1920)

Captain Arthur Hastings, invalided in the Great War, is recuperating as a guest of John Cavendish at Styles Court, the ‘country-place’ of John’s autocratic old aunt, Emily Inglethorpe—she of a sizeable fortune, and so recently remarried to a man twenty years her junior. When Emily’s sudden heart attack is found to be attributable to strychnine, Hastings recruits an old friend, now retired, to aid in the local investigation. With impeccable timing, Hercule Poirot, the renowned Belgian detective, makes his dramatic entrance into the pages of crime literature.

Of note: Written in 1916,
The Mysterious Affair at Styles
was Agatha Christie’s first published work. Six houses rejected the novel before it was finally published—after puzzling over it for eighteen months before deciding to go ahead—by The Bodley Head.

  • Times Literary Supplement
    : ‘Almost too ingenious…very clearly and brightly told.’
2.
The Murder on the Links
(1923)

“For God’s sake, come!” But by the time Hercule Poirot can respond to Monsieur Renauld’s plea, the millionaire is already dead—stabbed in the back, and lying in a freshly dug grave on the golf course adjoining his estate. There is no lack of suspects: his wife, whose dagger did the deed; his embittered son; Renauld’s mistress—and each feels deserving of the dead man’s fortune. The police think they’ve found the culprit. Poirot has his doubts. And the discovery of a second, identically murdered corpse complicates matters considerably. (However, on a bright note, Captain Arthur Hastings
does
meet his future wife.)

  • The New York Times
    : ‘A remarkably good detective story…warmly recommended.’
  • Literary Review
    : ‘Really clever.’
  • Sketch
    : ‘Agatha Christie never lets you down.’
3.
Poirot Investigates
(1924)

A movie star, a diamond; a murderous ‘suicide’; a pharaoh’s curse upon his tomb; a prime minister abducted…What links these fascinating cases? The brilliant deductive powers of Hercule Poirot in…‘The Adventure of the Western Star’; ‘The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor’; ‘The Adventure of the Cheap Flat’; ‘The Mystery of the Hunter’s Lodge’; ‘The Million Dollar Bond Robbery’; ‘The Adventure of the
Egyptian Tomb’; ‘The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan’; ‘The Kidnapped Prime Minister’; ‘The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim’; ‘The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman’; ‘The Case of the Missing Will.’

Of note: The stories collected here were first published in
Sketch
, beginning on March 7, 1923.
Sketch
also featured the first illustration of the foppish, egg-headed, elaborately moustachioed Belgian detective.

  • Literary Review
    : ‘A capital collection…ingeniously constructed and told with an engaging lightness of style.’
  • Irish Times
    : ‘In straight detective fiction there is still no one to touch [Christie].’
4.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
(1926)

In the quiet village of King’s Abbot a widow’s suicide has stirred suspicion—and dreadful gossip. There are rumours that she murdered her first husband, that she was being blackmailed, and that her secret lover was Roger Ackroyd. Then, on the verge of discovering the blackmailer’s identity, Ackroyd himself is murdered. Hercule Poirot, who has settled in King’s Abbot for some peace and quiet and a little gardening, finds himself at the centre of the case—and up against a diabolically clever and devious killer.

Of note:
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
broke all the rules of detective fiction and made Agatha Christie a household name. Widely regarded as her masterpiece (though perhaps
it may be called her ‘Poirot masterpiece’ since other titles in her canon—notably
And Then There Were None
—are similarly acclaimed),
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
was the source of some controversy when it was published. The
Times Literary Supplement
’s praise of the first Poirot,
The Mysterious Affair at Styles
, ‘almost too ingenious,’ was applied by scores of readers to
Ackroyd
, who were nonetheless enraptured by the novel, and have remained so over the decades.

Fair warning:
There are two things you must do if you know nothing of the book: discuss it with no one, and read it with all speed.

  • H.R.F. Keating: ‘One of the landmarks of detective literature’ (in his
    Crime & Mystery: The 100 Best Books
    ).
  • Julian Symons: ‘The most brilliant of deceptions’ (in his
    Bloody Murder: From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel
    ).
  • Irish Independent
    : ‘A classic—the book has worthily earned its fame.’
5.
The Big Four
(1927)

Hercule Poirot is preparing for a voyage to South America. Looming in the doorway of his bedroom is an uninvited guest, coated from head to foot in dust and mud. The man’s gaunt face registers Poirot for a moment, and then he collapses. The stranger recovers long enough to identify Poirot
by name and madly and repeatedly scribble the figure ‘4’ on a piece of paper. Poirot cancels his trip. An investigation is in order. Fortunately, Poirot has the faithful Captain Hastings at his side as he plunges into a conspiracy of international scope—one that would consolidate power in the deadly cabal known as ‘The Big Four.’

6.
The Mystery of the Blue Train
(1928)

Le Train Bleu is an elegant, leisurely means of travel, and one certainly free of intrigue. Hercule Poirot is aboard, bound for the Riviera. And so is Ruth Kettering, the American heiress. Bailing out of a doomed marriage, she is en route to reconcile with her former lover. But her private affairs are made quite public when she is found murdered in her luxury compartment—bludgeoned almost beyond recognition. Fans of the later novel
Murder on the Orient Express
will not want to miss
this
journey by rail—and Poirot’s eerie reenactment of the crime…

7.
Black Coffee
(1930; 1998)

Sir Claud Amory’s formula for a powerful new explosive has been stolen, presumably by a member of his large household. Sir Claud assembles his suspects in the library and locks the door, instructing them that the when the lights go out, the formula must be replaced on the table—and no questions will be asked. But when the lights come on, Sir Claud is dead. Now Hercule Poirot, assisted by Captain Hastings and Inspector Japp, must unravel a tangle of family feuds, old flames, and suspicious foreigners to find the killer and prevent a global catastrophe.

Of note:
Black Coffee
was Agatha Christie’s first playscript, written in 1929. It premiered in 1930 at the Embassy Theatre in Swiss Cottage, London, before transferring the following year to St Martin’s in the West End—a theatre made famous by virtue of its becoming the permanent home of the longest-running play in history, Agatha Christie’s
The Mousetrap
. Agatha Christie’s biographer, Charles Osborne, who, as a young actor in 1956 had played Dr Carelli in a Tunbridge Wells production of
Black Coffee
, adapted the play as this novel in 1998.

  • Antonia Fraser,
    Sunday Telegraph
    : ‘A lively and light-hearted read which will give pleasure to all those who have long wished that there was just one more Christie to devour.’
  • Mathew Prichard, from his Foreword to
    Black Coffee
    : ‘This Hercule Poirot murder mystery…reads like authentic, vintage Christie. I feel sure Agatha would be proud to have written it.’
8.
Peril at End House
(1932)

Nick is an unusual name for a pretty young woman. And Nick Buckley has been leading an unusual life of late. First, on a treacherous Cornish hillside, the brakes on her car fail. Then, on a coastal path, a falling boulder misses her by inches. Safe in bed, she is almost crushed by a painting. Upon discovering a bullet hole in Nick’s sun hat, Hercule Poirot (who had come to Cornwall for a simple holiday with his
friend Captain Hastings) decides that the girl needs his protection. At the same time, he begins to unravel the mystery of a murder that hasn’t been committed. Yet.

  • Times Literary Supplement
    : ‘Ingenious.’
9.
Lord Edgware Dies
(1933)

Poirot was present when the beautiful actress Jane Wilkinson bragged of her plan to ‘get rid of’ her estranged husband. Now the monstrous man is dead. But how could Jane have stabbed Lord Edgware in his library at exactly the time she was dining with friends? And what could have been her motive, since Edgware had finally granted her a divorce? The great Belgian detective, aided by Captain Hastings, can’t help feeling that some kind of heinous stagecraft is in play. And does more murder wait in the wings?

  • The New York Times
    : ‘A most ingenious crime puzzle.’
  • Times Literary Supplement
    : ‘The whole case is a triumph of Poirot’s special qualities.’
  • Noted crime fiction critic Julian Symons selected
    Lord Edgware Dies
    as one of Agatha Christie’s best.
10.
Murder on the Orient Express
(1934)

Just after midnight, a snowstorm stops the Orient Express dead in its tracks in the middle of Yugoslavia. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for this time of year. But by morning there is one passenger less. A ‘respectable American gentleman’
lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside…Hercule Poirot is also aboard, having arrived in the nick of time to claim a second-class compartment—and the most astounding case of his illustrious career.

Regarding chronology: Agatha Christie seems not much concerned in the course of her books with their relationship to each other. It is why the Marples and the Poirots may be ready in any order, really, with pleasure. However, the dedicated Poirotist may wish to note that the great detective is returning from ‘A little affair in Syria’ at the start of
Murder on the Orient Express
. It is a piece of business after this ‘little affair’—the investigation into the death of an archaeologist’s wife—that is the subject of
Murder in Mesopotamia
(1936). If one wishes to delay a tad longer the pleasures of
Orient Express
,
Murder in Mesopotamia
offers no better opportunity.

Fair warning:
Along these lines, it is advisable that one
not
read
Cards on the Table
(1936) prior to
Orient Express
, since Poirot
himself
casually gives away the ending to the latter novel.

Of note:
Murder on the Orient Express
is one of Agatha Christie’s most famous novels, owing no doubt to a combination of its romantic setting and the ingeniousness of its plot; its non-exploitative reference to the sensational kidnapping and murder of the infant son of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh only two years prior; and a popular 1974
film adaptation, starring Albert Finney as Poirot—one of the few cinematic versions of a Christie work that met with the approval, however mild, of the author herself.

  • Dorothy L. Sayers,
    Sunday Times
    : ‘A murder mystery conceived and carried out on the finest classical lines.’
  • Saturday Review of Literature
    : ‘Hard to surpass.’
  • Times Literary Supplement
    : ‘Need it be said—the little grey cells solve once more the seemingly insoluble. Mrs Christie makes an improbable tale very real, and keeps her readers enthralled and guessing to the end.’
BOOK: Peril at End House
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