How did my whodunnit craze start ? It has its humble origins in the Five Find-Outers and Famous Five series by Enid Blyton. I made it a point to finish all the books in those series and once that was done, I had to find new authors.
I started reading Agatha Christie as a teenager and the obsession continued till I finished school. In those years I went through murder mysteries and thrillers with a ravenous hunger. It wasn’t just Agatha Christie – Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Arthur Jr., Sue Grafton, Ngaio Marsh, Colin Forbes, Ken Follett and Jeffrey Archer were all part of my reading routine.
So here are my personal favourites from that lot
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.
My father had found this gem in a used books sale (along with Jane Eyre and White Fang). Its probably been over 10-12 years since I read this book but I still remember it only because of the writing, the drama and the fact that I read it with excitement (it was my first “serious” mystery book). There is also an India angle to it which I guess I found amusing at that time.
Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The interest in Sherlock Holmes is getting resurrected big time thanks to all the movies and TV shows. Which is the best novel ? I know this is thin ice territory because even within my family, each of us has a different answer. Although The Hound of the Baskervilles is the more popular of the 4 novels, my personal preference is towards The Valley of Fear. I can’t exactly elucidate why – I just liked it better as a mystery.The collection of short stories is really a mixed bag – ranging from ordinary to brilliant.
I have read close to 20 of her works till date – equally divided among Miss Marple, Poirot and the miscellaneous titles. When you read a sufficient number of her novels, you will invariably notice a pattern and once that happens, the books gradually begin to lose their appeal. And of course, there is the rather cruel joke – “The Butler did it !”
Before I go to my favourites, here are a few that were disappointing – Elephants can remember, The Pale Horse, Why didn’t they ask Evans?, The Moving Finger and They do it with mirrors
Now to the good ones ! On an average, Poirot mysteries are definitely better and books like Murder on the Orient Express have gone on to achieve cult status and rightfully so. Among the Miss Marple titles, 4.50 from Paddington is among the best. I was always biased against the Tommy and Tuppence titles (the name reminded me of tweedledum and tweedledee) but was pleasantly surprised with By the pricking of My Thumbs (I picked it up purely based on the blurb).
Coming to my all time favourite – And then there were none !
I hardly think anyone can disagree that this is one of her finest works. The fact that she took a small rhyme and turned it into a mind-boggling mystery is indicative of sheer genius ! In typical Agatha Christie style, she places all the clues before you and despite that, this mystery is impossible to crack. After reading this, any subsequent titles pale in comparison. At least thats what happened with me and I ultimately stopped reading Agatha Christie.
Which are your favourite Whodunnits ?