Monday, August 28, 2006

News: The Strange Case of Hercule Poirot

P. D. James investigates an enduring mystery: Just how has Agatha Christie's best-loved fictional detective survived so long? That is a mystery that might defeat the bizarre Belgian himself.

Hercule Poirot made his debut in Agatha Christie's first detective story, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which was written during World War I but did not come out until 1920, after being rejected by a number of publishers. The story foreshadows the development of Christie's art, but her hero, far from developing, remains essentially the same. He appears in over 30 novels and 50 stories, and we learn that his eyes appear green in moments of excitement, that he acquires a chauffeur, George, and an efficient secretary, Miss Lemon. He lives in Whitehaven Mansions, a starkly modern London flat which satisfies his love of symmetry and order. We are never privy to his private thoughts and we see and know him only through the eyes of other characters.

But the fact that we feel we know Poirot intimately while actually knowing very little is an advantage. He is at the center of the novel, yet we are never distracted from his purpose - the solving of the crime - nor does he compete for psychological interest with other characters.

Read the rest of this fascinating article on Telegraph.co.uk here.

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