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Hercule Poirot (again and again)
Happy go Lucky with Murder
I met Hercule Poirot on screen.
The first movie I remember was Death on the Nile – starring Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot end of the 70s. Even today it’s one of my favorite movies concerning comfort movies – hard on its heels Evil under the Sun (also with Peter Ustinov). Subsequently I bought the novel about the Nile murder adventure and enjoyed a relaxed reading time. However, only very few Poirot novels made their way in my home over the next years.
Until now, I admit, I followed Hercule mainly on the screen: there are the movies – Hercule Poirot appeals to filmmakers even today – think of Kenneth Branagh – although the novels started to be published about hundred years ago. There is also a long-living TV series which I adore when in need for some relaxing entertainment (aka binge watching) to rest my mind.
Coming from these experiences I always envision Hercule Poirot living an easy, but exciting life during the years between the wars in London. Hercule is always impeccably dressed and always shows his good manners. (Sometimes it’s … ridiculous …) He loves to wine and dine, but he is also an avid home cook.
Born in Belgium Hercule moved to England during WWI and decided to stay in London forever. When leaving Belgium he was a police inspector and he decided to become a private investigator in England. He found a nice and prestigious apartment in London where he lives and works and receives clients.
During his police work he developed his ability to observe, to analyse and to deduce. He acquired a reputation.
So far, so good.
Did he ever trail a philandering husband? Did he ever care who might have stolen some pence out of the kitty of a church choir in a godforsaken village in the English countryside? Did he ever chase a stolen bike?
Hercule’s main job is murder. Even if there isn’t any murder in the beginning you can be sure that a murder will happen soon enough, even more than a single one.
So let’s take a deep dive into the good old English countryside and their comfort crime novels …
Hercule lives in a world many people dream of: all people are well off, almost nobody needs to work for his living, unless you count some occupation for amusement or out of academic interest. Of course there are servants who are working for their living, but they are only like decorative accessories concerning the crime.
Most of the people have a country residence with lots of rooms and a vast, well-groomed garden. Hercule is often invited for the legendary weekend in the countryside. Otherwise there are luscious dinner parties in town houses or convivial gatherings in posh restaurants … When traveling it’s in first class luxurious train compartments or in spacious cabins on ships (although Hercule isn’t seaworthy). He also likes to go on holiday in some luxury resort near the sea walking along the promenade.
I cannot remember ever having seen so many men in dinner jackets and so many women in evening gowns fully laden with jewels than in Hercule’s investigations. All people seem to be smoking … and drinking cocktails or champagne.
I think you get it: Hercule works mainly in social circles out of upper middle class or lower upper class – or even upper class. Because of his reputation and his social networking well-heeled clients beat a path to his doorstep.
Why should these people kill?
In short: It’s mainly because of money … of inheritances … of enviousness … of revenge (for whatever) …
It’s inevitable that rich people attract less rich people, impostors, gigolos – and therefore crime is inevitable – crime resulting in murder at the end. Sometimes it gets a somewhat ridiculous concerning the motives, the possibilities …
… and when they kill it’s always a clean killing. Some blood, some poison: there are never these cruel slaughterings of any noir novels which might be more realistic than these tales from the Golden Crime Age.
Nevertheless Hercule’s investigations are good entertainment. Just good entertainment.
How does he approach murder?
There is no scientific approach. Hercule observes, talks – he is a master of smalltalk. People tend to trust him and to open her secrets. He evaluates and draws conclusions – and finally he presents his results and addresses the evildoer.
… and Hercule is not always on his own: there is his good friend Captain Arthur Hastings who shares the London apartment with Hercule. He is some sort of Sherlock Holmes’ Dr. Watson. Often he isn’t up to date with the whole crime, but he’s got a fresh approach and remarks some hints propelling Hercule to the solution.
Both would have been lost without the help of Miss Felicity Lemon organizing the office, the archive and the rest of Hercule’s life. She even investigates sometimes … looking into public archives or even private bank accounts after having enchanted the bank manager with her loveliness. (Later on there is a respectable butler.)
… and finally there is Chief Inspector James Harold Japp from Scotland Yard who likes to operate his cases with help of Hercule and Hastings. Often Hercule is better in dealing with upper class members than a simple police inspector, even when from famous Scotland Yard. In short: they solve all their cases.
Sometimes Ariadne Oliver joins the team and the investigation: she’s a successful author of crime novels.
During the novels you may accompany Hercule during several decades until his death. He dies in the last novel.
Some last note:
There are four movies with Margareth Rutherford starring Miss Jane Marple, another creation of Agatha Christie. Two of the novels which made the basis for the movies are in fact Hercule Poirot novels – just in case you wonder … about the list of novels.