Book Review: Poirot Investigates by Agatha ChristiePosted: August 28, 2013
Agatha Christie is apparently the highest selling author of all time, having churned out quite a few books which continue to be widely read today. My Dad and big sister are big fans, but I’ve never read any of her stuff before.
The reason I’ve never been tempted to try is because of the television adaptations I’ve seen, which have left me with a dislike of her two biggest characters- Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. My problem with Marple is that her doddery old woman schtick gets old quickly, don’t get me wrong it’s a good idea to have a sleuth who noone takes seriously but if I want that I’ll watch Columbo, the guest stars are better. Also, if you’re the killer and you start to get suspicious of her snooping around she’s an old woman- one nudge down some stairs and problem solved.
As for Hercule Poirot while I find David Suchet’s portrayal mildly amusing, I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that he’s a bit of a Sherlock Holmes knock off, but without Holmes’ sly wit and Arthur Conan Doyle’s genius ideas.
But, I decided it was time to dip my toe into Christie’s work and borrowed this from my sister. It’s a collection of 11 short stories about the Belgian detective tackling various cases.
The stories are diverting enough and Christie writes them in a lively, light hearted way which is quite fun, and a few of the ideas are rather clever, and she writes them in short, entertaining installments. However, I still couldn’t shake my problems with the character.
Firstly, there’s the narrator Captain Hastings, who’s essentially a dimmer Dr. Watson. There are moments when our narrator is suckered in by a pretty face or far fetched tale, and as a reader I found it immensely frustrating that are guide into this world was a blithering idiot. Hastings reacts with surprise when his friend reveals the truth, but the problem is quite often I found I’d already put the pieces together already.
With the stories where I was genuinely mystified until the reveal, I couldn’t help that Christie frequently cheated by hiding information until the end. How is the reader supposed to figure it all out and play along with the whodunit style, when the vital clue is kept in the dark? Poor show.
My major beef is with Poirot himself, the character is insufferably smug and a bit of a douche at times. I know some will say that Holmes was pretty self-assured and pleased with himself, but I never found ACD’s investigator as annoying, I think because there was always some kind of humour under the surface and genuine respect and liking for Watson. Poirot likes to show he’s the smartest man in the room and his penchant for talking of his “little grey cells” and referring to himself in the third person grated on me after a while.
I found myself agreeing with Hastings when he states:
“Do you know, I’d give a considerable sum of money to see you make a thorough ass of yourself- just for once. You’re so confoundedly conceited!”
But these quibbles I can see why Christie’s writing has been so successful, because it does make for a diverting entertaining read and the sort of thing you can easily dip in and out of. Will I read more of her stuff, possibly, but I don’t think the Poirot books will go high on my reading wish list.
Verdict: Quite good fun, even if the lead character is infuriating at times. Christie has a light touch and a sharp mind, but for my money you’re better off with Arthur Conan Doyle. 6/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.