I’ve read 65 of Agatha Christie’s novels. I remember how the first Christie I read, Death In The Clouds, blew my mind and made me sit for half an hour doing nothing but marvelling at how skilfully the author had woven the intricate plot. I had literally suspected every single person but the culprit. The next week, I read Murder On The Orient Express in one sitting, and I was mindblown, again. I was hooked! Every other day, I would rush to the library, grab another Christie novel and read it the same night.
As I voraciously continued to read her novels, I started to compete with Poirot and tried to figure out the identity of the murderer before he did. I did manage to figure out who the culprit was, in The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd and Peril At End House, but every other time, I was stumped, astonished and flabbergasted. Now, I may call myself a seasoned reader, but the denouement almost always catches me unawares when I read a new novel. The Queen Of Crime Fiction never fails to surprise!
Now, I’ve read all the Poirot novels but one, and I wish there were more left for me to dive into. I enjoy all his peculiarities – his love for symmetry, method and patent leather shoes, his tendency to remain a ‘tight lipped oyster’ until the last chapter, his liking for sirop de cassis (much to popular surprise and probably, disgust) and his conceit, although he doesn’t hesitate to call himself an ‘imbecile’ when his ideas are disarranged.
“Lanscombe looked disapprovingly at Hercule Poirot’s back as the latter climbed the stairs. Poirot was attired in an exotic silk dressing-gown with a pattern of triangles and squares.” – After The Funeral.
When he reveals the solution to the mystery, one goes over the novel once more and realises that Poirot is right when he tells Hastings repeatedly that all the facts necessary are right there before one’s nose, and it is up to one to employ one’s little grey cells. Ah, that expression!
I’d always wondered how Poirot managed to never get bumped off, when his identity as a detective was openly declared. I guess that it’s because Poirot makes himself appear as an exaggerated, comic figure, who is not to be taken seriously. That, and his being a foreigner do make him a figure to whom the characters wouldn’t mind letting slip details.
“And it’s not so bad telling you because you’re not English.” says Miss Gilchrist in After The Funeral.
A character I find as lovable as Poirot is Mrs Oliver. I love how she’s Agatha Christie’s exaggerated self-caricature. I’m particularly fond of her own share of peculiarities – her talkativeness, the way she calls her own writing ‘frightful tripe’ and spouts out ideas from the top of her head, her firm belief in feminine intuition, (“You men. Now if a woman were the head of Scotland Yard–“) and her firm dislike for drink, literary lunches and the character of her own creation, Sven Hjerson. I can definitely relate when Mrs Oliver becomes frustrated about a plot twist that, on retrospect, she shouldn’t have written! (“–and now he’s just detected deadly poison in the sage-and-onion stuffing of the Michaelmas goose, and I’ve just remembered that French beans are over by Michaelmas.”)
There are a lot of characters in the Agatha Christie universe that I’m fond of, so I’m not quite done yet. But I just remembered I’ve two unread Christie novels waiting on my bookshelf for me. So I’m going to curl up with one now… 🙂