The Man I Love Turned 100 Last Year!!
The year 2020 was infamous for a lot of reasons. But equally, it gave us many reasons to be thankful and celebrate. One thing that happened but was not publicized much last year was Hercule Poirot turning 100. Yes….it was in October 1920 that the Queen Of Crime, Agatha Christie, first introduced the world to the phenomenon that is Monsieur Hercule Poirot. The first story featuring the great detective The Mysterious Affair At Styles was published in the US in 1920. This year marks 100 years of it being published in the UK and ardent fans are celebrating by reading marathons or binge watching the series.
For the unversed (Ahem….OMG….Really??) Hercule Poirot is a detective of Belgian origin, featured in 33 novels of Agatha Christie. He is arguably the best-loved fictional detective. He is the exact opposite of what one would expect a suave detective to be. He is short, with a retreating hairline atop an egg-shaped head and a brilliantly waxed moustache. He is also meticulous and sometimes vain about his appearance.
Christie is an amazing storyteller. Her characterization of this little man with a sharp mind, who takes pride in his intelligence, unapologetically enjoys comforts, and also has some human faults endeared him to readers. I am a sucker for crime fiction & have always admired the mind over body and so, I readily fell in love with him when I was maybe 13 years old – that is when I first read a Hercule Poirot novel. (My love affair with books started when I was maybe 5 years or younger…another blog, for another time).
Though Christie’s novels describe crime and murders, it is never gory. The detective work itself involves intelligence or the use of “little grey cells” as Poirot himself proudly says. There is not much of chasing after criminals, violent fights, or shoot outs. Poirot sees simple mistakes that the criminal makes and uses psychology to stitch together pieces of the puzzle and solve the crime, in most cases with public exposure of the criminal by his/her own hand. Often mistaken for a Frenchman, Poirot uses his “foreign-ness” and physical appearance to his advantage to elicit information and expose what lies beneath the surface.
The core reason why I love him is his cool & calm composure at all times even in the face of danger, his unmatched intelligence, his deep understanding of the human psyche, and his unconventional methods of solving a crime. He does not gather physical evidence like other detectives (Eg: Sherlock, another favourite of mine). His mannerisms (his obsessive attention to his moustache), his chutzpah and usage of unique phrases (Imbecile, Mon Ami, Mon Dieu), his unshakable faith in the truth & his ability to prove it make him my favourite hero even today.
Poirot continues to be a well-loved character that people readily devour. In fact, because of his popularity, Agatha Christie wrote 50 short stories featuring him and a few plays as well. Many movies were also made. Just a few years ago in 2017, a movie adaptation of The Murder On The Orient Express was released and did pretty well in the theatres. This during the times when spy/detective movies with gadgets, violence, and sex are the norm.
Today, Hercule Poirot remains a brand to be reckoned with and his popularity continues to grow. He is timeless and readers across generations connect with him.
Hercule Poirot’s character has been played many times, often by brilliant actors like Kenneth Branagh, Albert Finney, Alfred Molina, and John Malkovich to name a few. But by far, the most memorable and my favourite is Sir David Suchet who played Poirot in the television series Agatha Christie’s Poirot. I remember watching it many years ago and thinking that he fits Christie’s description to the T.
To celebrate this milestone, I plan to binge-watch the series with a friend and fellow Christie-Poirot fan! Of course, the books remain a constant on my reading list and I continue to re-read them every few months.
So…Mon Ami….Are you a Hercule Poirot fan like me? Which of his books have you read? Which book/movie/series was your favourite? Do write to me in the comments below. Would love to connect with you about Monsieur Poirot & The Queen Of Crime.