Agatha Christie is called the Queen of Crime for a reason; her novels are masterpieces of mystery, often hooking readers by trapping characters in an enclosed space to solve a crime, using red herrings to misdirect, building suspense by slowly revealing secrets, and shocking them with double-whammy twists. These hallmarks, popular to this day, keep readers up late into the night — they simply must know how it ends, sleep be damned!
That’s why I was so excited to write Lying in the Deep, a loose retelling of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile — a story of jealousy, love, and betrayal on a luxury cruise. This was the most fun I’ve ever had writing a book. In Lying in the Deep, Jade embarks on a Semester at Sea-inspired cruise, hoping to recover from heartbreak after her ex-boyfriend dumped her for her best friend. But when she discovers they’re also on board, her obsession with them festers, leading to a shocking murder. As their friends begin to drop like flies, Jade and her new crush must race to clear her name and find the killer they’re trapped at sea with before anyone else winds up dead.
As a loose retelling, there are parallels aplenty. In both books, the murder victim is a wealthy heiress who stole her best friend’s lover, and the suspects are a diverse group of travelers with their own secrets and motives. Both books feature a complex, intricate mystery, though—spoiler alert—my puzzle’s solution is different. I kept some of the iconic plot beats as well, such as the near-miss at a tourist attraction where the heiress nearly gets clobbered in the head, and it’s unclear whether it’s an accident or if someone was targeting her.
But retellings should appeal to the modern audience, so I incorporated tropes and themes popular among readers today. There’s a swoon-worthy romance subplot, fake dating, a reforged friendship, commentary on Big Pharma… and the Semester-at-Sea-inspired setting will appeal to teen readers. Plus, there’s no equivalent to Poirot, Nile’s protagonist and key investigator. Instead, the protagonist is the jilted lover, Jade, who shares the detective role with her love interest, Felix, giving agency to messy, flawed characters who learn and grow from their experiences on board.
Christie’s influence persists throughout so many modern stories, whether directly as retellings or books about her, or indirectly by using tropes and plot elements she made popular and have remained so timelessly appealing to readers.
Here are seven other books published within the past five years that illustrate Agatha Christie’s lasting influence on modern stories… whether intentionally inspired by the Queen of Crime or not.
An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
This murder mystery is set at a mountain lodge in the Catskills, where a group of guests arrive for a relaxing weekend getaway. When a blizzard cuts off the power and phone lines, they’re trapped with no connection to the outside world… and someone is murdered. As the body count rises, the guests must figure out who among them is the murderer before they all wind up dead.
They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall
In this thriller, a mysterious host invites seven diverse strangers to a private island of the coast of Mexico. After they arrive, strange accidents befall the guests one-by-one, and they realize they’ve been lured to the island for a sinister purpose: they’ve each committed a crime that’s gone unpunished, and now they’ll pay with their lives.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
This murder mystery is set on a remote island in West Ireland, where a glamorous wedding turns into a nightmare when someone turns up dead. The novel alternates between the past and present and follows the perspective of different characters—the bride, groom, best man, wedding planner, and a plus one—as they reveal their secrets and motives connecting them to the murder.
We’ll Never Tell by Wendy Heard
In this upcoming young adult mystery, a group of four YouTubers break into an infamous abandoned house in Hollywood, bloodstained and untouched since a shocking murder/suicide in 1972. But someone trips an alarm, and it’s a mad dash to get out before the police arrive—but only three escape, while one is slain inside. The three escapees must scramble to find out whether his attack is connected to the historic murder… or if one of them is responsible.
The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson
This young adult mystery is about two teenage girls who try to solve a real murder in their town using clues and methods inspired by Agatha Christie’s novels… because if there’s anyone who can teach them how to solve a mystery, it’s the Queen of Crime herself. As they get closer to uncovering the truth, the killer targets them as well.
The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict
In 1926, Christie notoriously went missing, and after an investigation and a manhunt to find her, she reappeared 11 days later claiming she had amnesia and providing no explanation for her disappearance. While the mystery of her temporary disappearance persisted over the years, this book is a fictional account of what might have happened to her during that time.
Murder at Mallowan Hall by Colleen Cambridge
This cozy historical mystery novel is about a fictional housekeeper for Agatha Christie who tries to solve a murder at the novelist’s manor, Mallowan Hall. This novel is the first in a series featuring Phyllida Bright, the housekeeper and amateur sleuth.
If you get a chance to read any of these, or if you decide to pick up Lying in the Deep when it comes out on 5/2, I’d love to hear your thoughts — you can find me at @DianaUrban on Instagram and Twitter.