Book review! Little Grey Cells: The Quotable Poirot

Today I received a new book in the mail– that little book of quotable Poirot that we’ve been hearing so much about. It’s a long-overdue book, really, seeing as Poirot is so eminently quotable, but good things are worth waiting for.

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The book gets an A+ for aesthetics, which is so important in a gift- or coffee table- style book. It is a little thing of beauty, with a light gray, faux-cloth hardcover (slightly textured) and an artful line border on both sides that combine to give it a beautiful, vintage library look. The endpapers are red with a moustache motif that is not quite argyle, but does involve repeating squares in a pattern of connected dots that emphasizes the play on the word “cells”– little building blocks that come together to make a whole. There is a good deal of metallic silver printing on the front and back, and a red ribbon marker, and best of all– that black moustache is flocked! It’s textured and fuzzy. Even the tiny moustache on the binding is flocked! You’ll start stroking the blasted thing like you’re Poirot himself, until you realize how awkward and creepy this makes you, and you stop. But you can’t stop…

Whoever was in charge of design is a genius. It’s an elegant little piece, not cheap, but perfectly styled, and its content is tidy, efficiently arranged, and devoid of clutter. If Poirot were a book, he would actually be this book.

Moving on to content…

There is a foreword and afterword by Christie concerning her character that provide well-conceived bookends for the Poirot quotes, so that the content is entirely Christie. There are also thorough and accurate lists of references before and after, subdivided into categories: books, short stories, and miscellaneous sources in which stories were featured, such as to make Miss Lemon herself weep for joy. I particularly appreciated the inclusion and identified locations of alternate versions of the same basic short stories.

The quotes themselves are laid out in 12 different categories. It’s not a thoroughly exhaustive collection but is meant to represent some of the best, and you’re very likely to find your favorite Poirot quote within. If brevity weren’t as much of a concern, the categories could probably have been expanded to include more subject-specific content (e.g. The Moustache, etc). There were also categories in which I positively expected to find a certain quote, but didn’t: in Les Femmes, for example, I was anticipating the “Bonne mère, très femme” from “Western Star” as one of those iconic summaries of Poirot’s views of femininity, or perhaps something from “The Capture of Cerberus” on women who do (or don’t) make themselves up properly in his estimation.

There are also a couple of quotes that seemed to sit a little awkwardly in their categories. In Romance, for example, we have a statement made to Hastings from “The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan”: “You have the good heart to think of an old man. And the good heart, it is in the end worth all the little grey cells.”  A great quote, but only wildly taken out of context could these lines be construed as “romance,” and it does, in fact, serve as a humorous little dig at Hastings’ lack of mental celerity. And I have no idea why the fun quote about the dentist is in the Truth and Lies section. A few little moments like that are noticeable.

This is fairly small criticism, though. The book is lovely and a worthwhile investment for the Christie fan. Next request: The expanded and illustrated version!  😀

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