A Game is “the” Foot: Mystery Popular Reads for Halloween

Ok, so this year is a bit different than most…you know, just a bit…but the calendar days keep ticking by and for the most part we keep moving along with them. We’re now fast approaching what I consider to be the holiday season.

While I know “holiday season” tends to be synonymous with winter-centric celebrations, to me it starts October 31st and continues until January 1st. We have our Halloween fun, before we know it it’s turkey time (aka Thanksgiving), then the winter holidays are upon us, and we finally wrap it all up with a lovely New Years bow. 

So why not start this holiday season off right. How you ask? With a great book, of course!! With Halloween right around the corner, it’s one of the best times to lower the lights, grab a great read, and lose yourself in a story.

In previous blog posts, I’ve shared some of our more horror or thrilling reads – from our Stephen King collection to our psychological thrillers – and while I’m a personal fan of these genres, I know there are those individuals who would rather steer clear of some of these more extreme edge-of-your-seat reads. I started thinking and I was inspired by one of my fellow librarians, Emily Metcalf, when I was thinking of my Halloween reads recommendations for this year.

Emily reads a variety of books, but one of her favorite genres includes the Agatha Christie/Dorothy L. Sayers mysteries. These books tend to have just the right amount of “whodunit” and intrigue without being grisly or dark. Fans of movies like Knives Out (2019), Clue (1985), or Murder on the Orient Express (1974, 2017) may find themselves drawn to these titles as well.

In 2017, Martha Durrett, “a digital humanities enthusiast with a specific focus in digital literary studies”, completed a project titled “The Agatha Christie Formula”. With this formula, Durrett successfully identified key plot points in all Christie novels (Durrett, n.d.):

  • The murder
  • Introduction to the detective
  • Introduction to the murderer (obviously, before we know they’re the murderer)
  • Introduction to the victim (i.e. the victim never remains anonymous)
  • The “gathering” – this is a classic Christie move. At the end of the novel the detective always gathers together the cast of characters for a dramatic declaration that they have solved the mystery and are about to reveal the identity of the murderer. Often, the murderer is among those who have gathered.
  • The reveal

Durrett even created a few amazing graphs to identify where the key plot points take place in the novel and sure enough, for the most part, all of the titles map out in a similar fashion.


In 2015, as we neared Christie’s 125th birthday, researchers decided to delve into whether they could create a formula to identify the killer in the author’s titles. Not only did they feel they were successful, but they also managed to identify a few patterns – like, if several land vehicles are in the story then the killer is female versus a story with a number of nautical vehicles, which would imply a male killer ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Not wanting to spoil it for anyone who would like to immerse themselves in the book and not be hyperaware of these patterns, I’ll spare sharing more than I already have – but if you’d like to know more, check out this article. Also, if you’d like to know more about the formula the panel of researchers came up with, check out this article.

In general, if you’re looking for a great Halloween read – without diving into anything too dark or gloomy – visit our Popular Reading collection and grab a copy of one of our Christie or Sayers mysteries!

Here are a few options:

Murder Must Advertise: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery by Dorothy L. Sayers

When ad man Victor Dean falls down the stairs in the offices of Pym’s Publicity, a respectable London advertising agency, it looks like an accident. Then Lord Peter Wimsey is called in, and he soon discovers there’s more to copywriting than meets the eye. A bit of cocaine, a hint of blackmail, and some wanton women can be read between the lines. And then there is the brutal succession of murders — 5 of them — each one a fixed fee for advertising a deadly secret.


Gaudy Night: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane by Dorothy L. Sayers

The dons of Harriet Vane’s alma mater, the all-female Shrewsbury College, Oxford (based on Sayers’ own Somerville College), have invited her back to attend the annual ‘Gaudy’ celebrations. However, the mood turns sour when someone begins a series of malicious pranks including poison-pen messages, obscene graffiti, the destruction of a set of proofs and crafting vile effigies. Desperate to avoid a possible murder in college, Harriet eventually asks her old friend Wimsey to investigate.


Strong Poison: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane by Dorothy L. Sayers

The novel opens with mystery author Harriet Vane on trial for the murder of her former lover, Phillip Boyes: a writer with strong views on atheism, anarchy, and free love. Publicly professing to disapprove of marriage, he had persuaded a reluctant Harriet to live with him, only to renounce his principles a year later and to propose. Harriet, outraged at being deceived, had broken off the relationship.


The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: A Hercule Poirot Mystery by Agatha Christie

Roger Ackroyd knew too much. He knew that the woman he loved had poisoned her brutal first husband. He suspected also that someone had been blackmailing her. Then, tragically, came the news that she had taken her own life with an apparent drug overdose. However, the evening post brought Roger one last fatal scrap of information, but before he could finish reading the letter, he was stabbed to death. Luckily one of Roger’s friends and the newest resident to retire to this normally quiet village takes over—none other than Monsieur Hercule Poirot…


The Mystery of Three Quarters: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery By Sophie Hannah

Hercule Poirot returns home after an agreeable luncheon to find an angry woman waiting to berate him outside his front door. Her name is Sylvia Rule, and she demands to know why Poirot has accused her of the murder of Barnabas Pandy, a man she has neither heard of nor ever met. She is furious to be so accused, and deeply shocked. Poirot is equally shocked, because he too has never heard of any Barnabas Pandy, and he certainly did not send the letter in question. He cannot convince Sylvia Rule of his innocence, however, and she marches away in a rage. Shaken, Poirot goes inside, only to find that he has a visitor waiting for him — a man called John McCrodden who also claims also to have received a letter from Poirot that morning, accusing him of the murder of Barnabas Pandy…. Poirot wonders how many more letters of this sort have been sent in his name. Who sent them, and why? More importantly, who is Barnabas Pandy, is he dead, and, if so, was he murdered? And can Poirot find out the answers without putting more lives in danger?

Happy Reading!!

Trisha Hernandez

Durrett, M. (n.d.). The Agatha Christie formula. Martha Durrett. https://marthadurrett.com/selected-work/christie/