Happy One Hundredth Birthday, M. Poirot! It was 1920 when Hercule Poirot first appeared in The Mysterious Affair At Styles, and to celebrate 100 years of the great Belgian detective, we have this book by Mark Aldridge celebrating every year and every aspect of Poirot’s career.
Dividing the book into each decade of his career, Aldridge considers the books, the plays, the films, the television series, the video games, the new books, the new films… everything that makes Poirot great (and in some cases, not so great). If there’s anything about Poirot, then it’s probably here.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t read this book cover to cover – it’s not that sort of book, although to be honest, I probably could. Every time I’ve dipped into it to look at a certain title, I’ve found myself coming up for air fifty pages and several books later. For a reference book, this is an incredibly readable book, with Aldridge’s voice a very entertaining and informative one. That’s exactly what I would have expected having read his superb Agatha Christie On Screen, but it’s nice to have that confirmed.
Poirot is very important to me – he (via The ABC Murders) was my entry into adult crime fiction and he’s still my favourite fictional sleuth (sorry, Anthony Bathurst, but it’s true). This is clearly a labour of love and it’s great to read Poirot’s history chronologically – so each decade has each novel in publication order, but interspersed with films, radio, etc. The text is decorated with various covers and film posters, by the way, adding some extra interest, not that it needs it. The primary focus of the chronology is the English-language versions of the great detective, but there is an extensive section later in the book on other versions.
It’s also impressively spoiler-free. Aldridge does a really good job of not blowing the surprise of any of the books while still talking knowledgeably about the plot for those of you who know whodunit. That’s not an easy thing to do, but even such classics as The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd remain unspoiled. I’m not entirely sure why anyone who hasn’t read The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd would be reading this book, but even so, that’s a considerate thing to do. I’m not very good at skipping “SPOILER” sections in such books, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
He brings things all the way to 2020 – a shame COVID delayed the release of Branagh’s Death On The Nile to 2021 as that’s mentioned as this year’s entry. If I had a niggle, I’d have liked to have seen an analysis of the Sophie Hannah books on a level closer to that given to the originals – he relies here primarily on other reviews from people who may or may not be Christie experts for the first title and then mentions the others in passing. I don’t know what his opinion on those books is, but given this is published by the same people as the continuations, I understand his reticence in pointing out their flaws (if indeed he thinks they have them).
All in all, this is an outstanding piece of work that every Christie fan is going to want to get their hands on. An in-depth analysis of the greatest detective in the world (and yes, I’m including that Victorian bloke in that) littered with fascinating titbits for those who think they already know everything – did you know that Suchet didn’t do the whole canon as Poirot, as one short story was missed out completely? I didn’t.
Oh, and at time of writing, it’s currently reduced to £12.50 on Amazon, should you be interested…