Agatha Christie's first novel, written in 1916 during World War 1, set the pattern for many of her classic books - it is told in the first person by Hastings, set in a large, isolated country manor, has half-dozen suspects, most hiding secrets from their past, and the plot teases us with surprise twists and red herrings. It met with critical acclaim for its ingenuity and plotting and for Christie's knowledge of drugs.
Hercule Poirot, Inspector Japp, and Arthur Hastings are all introduced in this book. Poirot is a Belgian refugee who, helped by Emily Cavendish, sets up home near her, in England. Hastings, an old friend, arrives as her guest. When she is murdered, Poirot demonstrates that he is a skilled detective by solving the mystery. The main suspect is her new and much-younger husband, Alfred Inglethorpe, but it emerges that the evidence against him is contrived. He is, it seems, hated by Evelyn Howard, Emily's paid companion and disliked and mistrusted by her children and the rest of the household. Who would fabricate evidence against him?
This was widely recognised as a very good first novel and, of course, Agatha Christie went on to a sixty year career as a detective story writer. She wasn't the world's greatest literary writer but her plots and her two famous detectives, Poirot and Miss Marple, kept people hungry for more. Her books translate very well to the screen, showing how strongly structured her stories are and how good her characterisation. To be absolutely honest, I prefer the television adaptations of her books to the books themselves, which may just prove that I am a Philistine. However, this is a very good detective novel for its time.