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"There are moments when I have felt: 'Why-Why-Why did I ever invent this detestable, bombastic, tiresome little creature?...Eternally straightening things, eternally boasting, eternally twirling his moustaches and tilting his egg-shaped head...I point out that by a few strokes of the pen...I could destroy him utterly. He replies, grandiloquently: 'Impossible to get rid of Poirot like that! He is much too clever.'"
The star of thirty-three books and fifty-six short stories by Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot is one of the most famous fictional detectives in the world. Rightly so, he would say, being also one of the most conceited. His curiously elongated career lasted from 1916 to 1975, although he was at retirement age when it began. This would make him at least 110 when it ended.
Originally a Belgian police detective, he became a refugee when the First World War broke out and ended up in the tiny English village of Styles St. Mary. Naturally, while he was there, someone was murdered. It was, Poirot later admitted, quite a common occurrence around him. Solving The Mysterious Affair at Styles revitalised him, however, and he embarked on a career as a private detective.
Fastidiously neat, we'd today diagnose him with OCD.
Notable associates of his include: Captain Arthur Hastings, war veteran, secretary and later Argentinian farmer; Ariadne Oliver, irritatingly popular mystery novelist; the Countess Vera Rossakoff, possibly an aristocratic Russian refugee, most definitely a talented conwoman; Miss Felicity Lemon, a most efficient secretary; and of course any number of solid, even stolid, English policemen who good-naturedly allow him to take over their crime scenes. After all, Mr Parrot's only a Funny Foreigner. What harm could it do?
Many different actors have played Poirot on screen. Peter Ustinov gained some fame for his many appearances as the character in the 1970s and 1980s, Albert Finney was nominated for an Oscar for playing him in 1974, but nowadays the definitive portrayal is believed to be David Suchet's Poirot.
Novels in this series
- The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920).
- The Murder on the Links (1923).
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926).
- The Big Four (1927).
- The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928).
- Peril at End House (1932).
- Lord Edgware Dies (1933).
- Murder on the Orient Express (1934).
- Three Act Tragedy (1935).
- Death in the Clouds (1935).
- The ABC Murders (1936).
- Murder in Mesopotamia (1936).
- Cards on the Table (1936).
- Dumb Witness (1937).
- Death on the Nile (1937).
- Appointment with Death (1938).
- Hercule Poirot's Christmas (1938).
- Sad Cypress (1940).
- One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (1940).
- Evil Under the Sun (1941).
- Five Little Pigs (1942).
- The Hollow (1946).
- Taken at the Flood (1948).
- Mrs McGinty's Dead (1952).
- After the Funeral (1953).
- Hickory Dickory Dock (1955).
- Dead Man's Folly (1956).
- Cat Among the Pigeons (1959).
- The Clocks (1963).
- Third Girl (1966).
- Hallowe'en Party (1969).
- Elephants Can Remember (1972).
- Curtain (1975).
Tropes that were created to describe the great Hercule Poirot include:
- Affectionate Parody / Deconstruction: "The Veiled Lady" is a literary Shot for Shot Remake of the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton", but with an extra Twist Ending.
- Always Murder
- Always Someone Better: subverted, since of course there is no one better than Hercule Poirot. Not even his brother Achille. Who doesn't exist.
- Badass Moustache: Agatha Christie liked the 1974 adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, and had but a single complaint: Albert Finney's mustache wasn't magnificent enough!
- Big Screwed-Up Family: The Boyntons in Appointment with Death.
- Brain Fever: in Murder on the Links. Interestingly, in The Big Four, a doctor dismisses brain fever as an invention of writers.
- Busman's Holiday: Multiple times, sometimes lampshaded.
- The Butler Did It: subverted.
- Call to Agriculture: Poirot, in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
- Celibate Hero: Poirot does not have a romantic relationship over the course of his literary career. He expresses a strong admiration for Countess Vera Rossakoff, but Christie does not pursue a relationship between them.
- Clueless Mystery: The novel is always fair to the reader in that it is conceivable for a genius to solve it. It is not Poirot's fault that he is cleverer than the reader.
- The Corrupter: Stephen Norton in Curtain
- Creator Backlash: as the quote at the top of this article suggests, Agatha Christie much preferred her other character, Miss Marple.
- Dead Man's Chest: "The Adventure of the Clapham Cook"
- Death in the Clouds: Christie's 1935 novel of that title is the Trope Namer.
- Detective Patsy: Poirot is far too clever to fall for this, but occasionally he despairs of Hastings.
- Eagle-Eye Detection
- Fair Play Whodunnit: The astute reader should be able to keep up. Part of the way at the very least.
- Fridge Horror: At the end of Three Act Tragedy, Mr Satterthwaite and Poirot both realise that either of them could have died - and given that they're the sleuths, the murderer may well have got away with it. It gets worse - if Poirot had died, the murderer may or may not have managed to get away with it, but think of how many other criminals would have escaped if Poirot hadn't been there to figure out their crimes...
- Funny Foreigner: a deliberate front, as pointed out in Three-Act Tragedy.
- Gambit Roulette / Gambit Pileup: The Big Four, where most of the plans (on both sides) counted on their victims seeing through one layer of deception but not one another. Achille Poirot's role also counts.
- Genteel Interbellum Setting: Poirot leaves the time of his death up to le bon Dieu.
- Great Detective
- The Hero Dies: Though having penned this adventure, Christie set it aside for thirty years while she continued to turn them out.
- Idiot Ball: Beautiful women tend to have this effect on Hastings (such as leaving one alone among critical evidence in Murder On the Links...)
- Insistent Terminology: Poirot is Belgian, not French.
- Insufferable Genius: Sometimes comes off as this.
- It's for a Book: Poirot feels that if one must tell lies, they should be excellent lies.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Poirot often comes off as an arrogant, vain egotist, but he's got a good, kind heart underneath it all.
- The Lestrade: Inspector Japp. Giraud from Murder on the Links is a parody of this type.
- Long Runners: Fifty-five years' worth of novels is not so bad.
- Mad Artist: Michael Garfield, Mad Landscape Gardener, in Hallowe'en Party.
- Malicious Slander: Poirot's main motivation for solving crimes involves protecting the innocent from this.
- The Matchmaker: It's astounding how many relationships and marriages were influenced by the fastidious hand of Monsieur Poirot.
- Mistaken Nationality: He is Belgian, not French. It annoys him, although Hercule Poirot does not forget his dignity so far as to call it a Berserk Button.
- Needle in a Stack of Needles: This is the point of The ABC Murders: the first two murder victims were only killed as cover for the third.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Poirot frequently plays the dotty old man to disarm suspects, making them more vulnerable to his questioning. He also uses his accent to this purpose, as he explains in Three-Act Tragedy:
"It is true that I can speak the exact, the idiomatic English. But, my friend, to speak the broken English is an enormous asset. It leads people to despise you. They say - a foreigner - he can't even speak English properly. It is not my policy to terrify people - instead, I invite their gentle ridicule. Also I boast! An Englishman he says often, 'A fellow who thinks as much of himself as that cannot be worth much.' That is the English point of view. It is not at all true. And so, you see, I put people off their guard."
- One-Tract Mind: Mr. Ferguson in Death on the Nile, who regards any activity not tending towards the Communist utopia as fiddling While Rome Burns.
- Out-Gambitted: Poirot is a master at foiling the murderer's Evil Plan.
- Poirot Speak: Naturellement. Although it's usually justified as being part of an Obfuscating Stupidity Funny Foreigner act; Poirot actually speaks very good English, but people tend to let their guard down around someone who doesn't even seem to speak the language clearly.
- Pretty Little Headshots: Someone is killed by this method in Poirot's last case, Curtain. It turns out to be a major Chekhov's Gun
- Sarcastic Devotee: Captain Hastings, at times. Hastings relates a story where (in a shout out to Sherlock Holmes) Poirot failed to solve a mystery involving a box of chocolates. After that affair, Poirot tells Hastings that if he ever acts too conceited, he should use the words "chocolate box" to bring him down a peg. Poirot isn't amused when Hastings uses the code words a minute and a quarter later.
- Serial Killings, Specific Target: The ABC Murders, Three Act Tragedy
- Starbucks Skin Scale: In "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding", there is a young man from an unnamed Eastern country who has a "coffee-coloured face".
- Super OCD: Some books hinted at this, but of course, that's what makes him a good detective.
- Poirot's insistence on symmetry and neatness, to the point of rearranging ornaments on a stranger's mantle, in one case directly leads him to the solution.
- Poirot's Super OCD helps solve the mystery of a book he wasn't even in (Towards Zero), when his friend Superintendent Battle looks at something asymmetric and thinks about how much that would have bugged Poirot.
- Third Person Person: Often crosses with a pat-my-own back But He Sounds Handsome.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Madame! WHO DO YOU THINK KILLED YOUR HUSBAND?", from Lord Edgware Dies.
- Thriller on the Express: Murder on the Orient Express and The Mystery of the Blue Train.
- Twist Ending: As Agatha Christie is widely considered one of the masters of the Twist Ending, this is to be expected; several of the Poirot novels are even claimed to have invented some notable twist endings.
- Under the Mistletoe: Poirot, of all people, gets caught under mistletoe in "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding", on account of being too busy exercising his little grey cells to notice where he's standing. He doesn't seem to mind the result.
- The Watson: Captain Hastings in the early novels, a variety of one-shot characters in the later books.
- We Would Have Told You But: He pulls this constantly. Hastings finds this as intensely irritating as the readers do.
- What an Idiot!: Several stories have the twist ending that the apparent victim or bystander who first called Poirot in actually committed the crime, and wanted Poirot there so the police would assume if he couldn't solve it, no-one could. This despite the fact that Poirot's cases get published in-universe so they should know that this never works.
- Where It All Began: The final novel, Curtain, not only returns to the location of the first, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, but for good measure reunites Poirot and Hastings as well.
- You Just Told Me:
Poirot: But we do know who the murderer is. We found fingerprints on the vial of poison used to kill the victim.
- You Look Familiar: Prior to playing the famous detective himself, David Suchet appeared as Inspector Japp opposite Peter Ustinov's Poirot in a 1985 TV adaptation of Lord Edgware Dies.
- You Said You Would Let Them Go / I Lied: Casetti in Murder on the Orient Express.
- You Watch Too Much X: in "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding":
Poirot surveyed her gravely for some minutes.
- Similarly, after Hastings outlines an elaborate theory of the crime in Murder on the Links and asks what Poirot thinks, Poirot says, "I think you should write for the cinema."
- In Death on the Nile, when they find an initial over the bed written in the victim's blood, Poirot points out that this has been done so often as to be a Dead Horse Trope and essentially says that the murderer has been watching too many old-fashioned melodramas.
- He might have read A Study In Scarlet.
- In several stories, characters complain that investigating a real life case is never as neat as a detective story.