Hercule Poirot is one of the most famous detectives in fiction. He was created in 1916 by Agatha Christie in her first novel “The Mysterious Affair at Styles.” Poirot has appeared in 33 novels and 65 short stories. He is the only fictional character to be honored with an obituary in the New York Times.
Poirot prefers to use the grey cells of his brain in his work. He believes that any crime can be solved by putting the puzzle pieces together correctly and thinking about them. He believes that fingerprints and cigarette stubs never give the entire picture. He is extremely proud of his waxed black moustache and is meticulous about his dress. He rants if his collar has too much starch in it.
David Suchet - Wikimedia
David Suchet portrays the Belgian detective and Hugh Fraser plays his less-than-brilliant sidekick Captain Hastings. They are aided in their work by Chief Inspector Japp played by Philip Jackson. The most recent series features Pauline Moran as Poirot’s efficient secretary, Miss Lemon.
I recently viewed two episodes from Season 1 which are typical of the methods used by Poirot to solve crime. Episode 1 is entitled:
The Adventure of the Clapham Cook
Hercule Poirot was consulted by an attractive lady named Mrs. Todd whose cook, Eliza Dunn had disappeared suddenly. Poirot informed her that he only took cases of national importance and he could not devote his time to searching for Eliza Dunn. After much wrangling, Poirot agreed to take on the disappearance with the stipulation that Chief Inspector Japp must never hear that he had looked into Mrs. Todd’s problem.
Hercule Poirot's Home - Whitehaven Mansions Wikimedia
The Cook Disappears
It seems that Eliza Todd walked out and never came back. But she sent for her luggage. Poirot interviewed another young employee of Mrs. Todd named Annie, and also a paying guest in the house named Arthur Simpson, who worked at the bank. Mrs. Todd suddenly changed her mind and decided not to employ Poirot, but sent him a guinea for his trouble. Poirot was incensed at that and remained determined to get to the bottom of the situation. With Hastings’ help, Poirot was able to track down Eliza Dunn and they paid her a visit at a place she called Fair Cottage. Eliza told the men that a bearded lawyer named Benjamin Crotchet informed her that a friend of her grandmother had left her a legacy which included the house called Fair Cottage. The one stipulation was that she should not continue in domestic service, which is why she left Mrs. Todd hastily. She claimed to have left her a note, but no note had been found.
Poirot’s Powers of Observation
Using his usual creative machinations, Poirot was able to uncover the fact that Arthur Simpson disguised himself as the bearded Mr. Crochet (a small piece of sealing gum was attached to his temple) in order to get possession of her battered suitcase for his own purposes. Poirot’s efforts foiled Crochet’s plan to steal 90,000 pounds from his bank by killing a fellow employee and stuffing his body in Eliza Dunn’s oversized trunk which he sent to Glasgow.
Needless to say, Simpson (aka Crochet) had leased Fair Cottage for only six months in order to carry out his plan.
The fun in watching Poirot’s escapades is enhanced by his ability to use his “grey cells” even while maintaining his meticulous appearance. Agatha Christie’s creation has a following unlike any other modern fictional detective in the media.
Hugh Fraser - as Captain Hastings Wikimedia
Episode 2 in Season 1 is entitled:
Murder in the Mews
The Bardsley Garden Mews is the setting for Poirot’s solution to a mystery revolving around an apparent suicide, except that the deceased lady was not left-handed and the gun was being held in her left hand. The lady’s name was Barbara Allen and she was engaged to be married, and appeared to have no reason to take her own life. Chief Inspector Japp asked Poirot to look into the matter since foul play was a strong possibility.
Poirot Begins His Investigation
Poirot interviewed Miss Jane Plenderleith, Barbara Allen’s good friend. The two had met abroad and decided to share a flat together. Miss Plenderleith stated that Barbara’s fiancé was Charles Laverton West, a pompous and commonplace man. She also contributed the fact that Barbara Allen was not left-handed. A man’s cuff link was found on the floor.
A young neighborhood boy, Freddie Hogg told Poirot that Mrs. Allen had gone to the post office about 6 ‘o’clock. When she returned, a military-looking man about 45 years old came to visit and an hour later, slammed the door and got in the car quickly.
Poirot spoke briefly to Charles Laverton West, who was surprised at the news of his fiancée’s death. He too agreed that Mrs. Allen was not left-handed.
A Visit from Major Eustace
In the flat occupied by Mrs. Allen and Miss Plenderleith, Poirot found that her check stubs revealed that she had drawn out 200 pounds this month, and the same amount last month. Miss Plenderleith revealed that Mrs. Allen had had a visitor, Major Eustace, the day before. He was probably the 45-year old man that Freddie had observed. In speaking with Major Eustace, Poirot learned that he had advised Mrs. Allen on some investments. It was Major Eustace’s cuff links that were in the bedroom where Mrs. Allen was murdered. Poirot asked Major Eustace to accompany him to the police station.
On the day of Mrs. Allen’s funeral, Poirot learned that Miss Plenderleith had gone to play golf in the morning, which seemed unusual. He and Hastings followed her around the course and noticed that she was getting rid of broken golf clubs in a place where it would not be noticed. Why?
Agatha Christie - Wikimedia
Was it Suicide or Murder?
Further investigation revealed that Mrs. Allen tried to hide a part of her past from Charles. Blackmail had driven her to take her own life, but her suicide was made to look like murder by having the gun placed in the wrong hand.
No spoiler here. This complicated ending was crafted by Agatha Christie in a most astonishing way. We never know what to expect when she uses Hercule Poirot to simulate her own fastidious characteristics to solve even the most problematic cases.
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