The ghost that took over his life: Poirot’s handwriting in Curtain

“I am writing a letter to Hastings to explain all that has happened, and what makes it extraordinary is that the art department have discovered a way to create my handwriting so that I do not have to write every word myself time after time. It is as though a ghost has taken over my life.”

-David Suchet, Poirot and Me

This little detail about the final scenes of Curtain, mentioned in passing in Suchet’s book, intrigued me when I first read it. Art departments and handwriting are always of special interest! But it was only when I took a close look at what is shown on screen in this episode that his meaning became clear. (In advance: please understand that in this post, I’m not attempting any sort of “gotcha!” to said fine art department– I may have never noticed, had it not been obliquely pointed out by Suchet himself. I merely note this as something that interests me.)

It began simply by noticing that the letter that Poirot was writing to Hastings looked an awful lot, but not quite, like Suchet’s own handwriting. Curious, because the letters all looked like he wrote them, but something seemed a bit off about it. Then I remembered the quote from his book. Do you notice?

Font-lovers may notice what is so curious about the FIRST sentence of Poirot’s writing here: what we’re looking at is essentially a “David Suchet’s Poirot” font. Zoom in (click on the picture) and look at any single letter– try the lower-case “h,” “y,” “m,” for easy examples. Every one of those letters looks exactly the same as every other in that sentence! That’s what looks unusual– the first part of the page is uncommonly smooth and regularized. Now starting at “But really, my friend,” look at the rest of the words. Those are hand-written by Suchet himself, and contain variations on the letters rather than uniformity, appearing much looser that the words that came before. The camera had to show him actually writing with his own hand for these shots, but a font was made of his handwriting for the first part of a paragraph so he wouldn’t have to write it all out each time. Presumably print-outs were made to which he added. This is what his quote at the top of the post meant. If you look carefully, you may even notice that the color of the ink appears slightly different between the “font” and the true handwriting.

Once you see this pattern, you can’t un-see it in the other paragraphs of writing shown. I’ve highlighted the real handwriting in blue brackets; the rest is a printed font.

There are at least two possible reasons I can think of as to why the art department would go to the bother of creating this font in the first place. Either it really was merely to convenience their actor; or it might be that doing too much handwriting in those arthritis-heavy prosthetics does not-nice things to them. There may have been other reasons.

The font works perfectly well for the few moments it appears on screen. If, however, you really wish to forge someone’s writing successfully (or even to create a slightly more believable handwriting font for closer scrutiny, though it is far more expensive to do so), always remember to use multiple variants of letters.  Poirot himself knows enough about forgery to let you in on that.  😉

The 10 most “Poirot” fabrics you’ve EVER seen

I’m a multi-crafter. As quilting is one of my many hobbies, I enjoy hunting for fabrics in unusual themes and motifs that are of interest to me. Poirot has been no exception.

If making Poirot-themed throw quilts is too strange for you (and why should it be? I’m on my fourth or fifth one), perhaps you’ve been thinking of sewing up a tote bag or laptop cover. Why not make one that reminds you of your Agatha Christie interests?  🙂

My criteria for selecting the following fabrics for this post was that each one must represent at least two things that point to Poirot. All fabrics are 100% cotton. I can’t promise that you can necessarily track them all down, but I’ll provide information to help you with your own searching. One or two of these fabrics are somewhat dubious copyright-wise, and one or two aren’t for sale at all. But I hope all will inspire you as fabric-loving Poirot fans.  😉

1.) “Ladies and Gentlemen” fabric by David Textiles

For generic fabric, it hardly gets more Poirot-esque than this black-and-cream fabric. The texts say: “A gentleman is always well-groomed” (moustache), “A gentlman is always well-dressed” (hat and wing collar), “A gentleman is always well-prepared” (umbrella), and “A gentleman is always well-mannered” (hand writing courteous notes). I think you’ll agree that this is Poirot all over! I used this fabric, cut into strips, for my A.B.C. Murders quilt top.

2.) “Longfellow” by Windham Fabrics

I stumbled upon this particular print from the “Longfellow” line while searching for fabric with magnifying glasses (not easy). This one, representing some gentleman-scholar’s desk, features several things suggestive of Poirot: the glass, the pocket watch, old books, maps, and correspondence. The “Longfellow” line also has two other coordinating fabric prints with only pocket watches all over.

3) “Poirot Words” by Kelly Klages (Spoonflower)

I created this fabric– also in black on white– via Spoonflower for personal use (a.k.a., not for sale, sorry). At first glance they are just random French words and expressions, but careful Christie readers know that they are all very Poirot-esque utterances. I used a font reminiscent of that used in the television series. This fabric gets used in just about all of my Poirot projects.  🙂

4.) Moustache batik

I have no information on this multi-color batik fabric, but I was genuinely astonished at how POIROT it was. Many such moustache prints will throw in a motif or two that is not suggestive of our favourite Belgian, such as a pipe or hipster glasses. But this fabric stays so Poirot that you wonder if they didn’t actually have him in mind when designing it.

5.) “Murder on the Orient Express” fabric, by scrummy (Spoonflower)

This Spoonflower custom fabric obviously takes a lot of its imagery from the Albert Finney Orient Express film. The references to Christie and the novel are overwhelming, and include the title, Poirot, the train, the suspects, a view of Istanbul, the murder weapon, a newspaper clipping about the Armstrongs, the last words of the book, the clues, etc etc.

6.) “Poppy Lane” by Timeless Treasures

I love this particular retro advertising fabric in the “Poppy Lane” line, as it gives a nice, 1920s kind of setting to a Poirot project. I used it for this throw pillow. Some of the line drawings are rather art nouveau, and the fancy restaurant and car make you feel like you’re stepping right into Christie’s London. Some of the ads are in French, too. And I find that the black, white, and red go very well with many other fabrics I’ve found for these kinds of projects. These sorts of fabrics are really not easy to find.

7.) “Toile de Christie” fabric by artgarage (Spoonflower)

This Spoonflower fabric is fun because you can spy ALL of Christie’s famous sleuths– Poirot, Marple, Tommy and Tuppence. Yet it’s very subtle and doesn’t scream the fact to high heaven.

8.) “Gentleman’s Club” by Fabscraps

The “Gentleman’s Club” line (available in three colorways, if you can track it down) has a variety of vintage prints, but I like this one the best. It portrays an assortment of fancy waistcoats, with French script in the background.

9.) “Poirot” by erinejanosik (Spoonflower)

This Spoonflower fabric shows imagery that was most obviously taken from the television series. Shown are (Suchet’s) Poirot, the silver-topped swan cane, the vase brooch, a cigarette case, pince-nez, a tisane glass, and a quote from The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

10.) Assorted moustache fabrics by Riley Blake

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For #10, I’m breaking my rule about only showing fabrics with two or more Poirot characteristics to bring you my personal favorite of all-moustache fabrics. Riley Blake’s come in a vast array of variation, including black-on-white, multi-color, tiny white on red, and tiny pink on grey. Very fun, colorful, and versatile!

Black Coffee at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

Last week, Alex and I took a spin up to Winnipeg’s Exchange District to see Black Coffee, Christie’s first play (and her only one with Poirot). The Royal MTC put on this play in contribution to the 17th annual Master Playwright Fest, which this year featured Agatha Christie (dubbed ChristieFest). Many Winnipeg theatre companies tried their hand at Christie plays, including The Mousetrap and The Hollow. Free events during ChristieFest included public viewings of the PBS documentary The Mystery of Agatha Christie (with David Suchet) and the films Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express.

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Now, I was very excited, as this was my own first Christie play. I’d read both the script of Black Coffee as well as Charles Osborne’s novelization– but of course, plays really do need to be seen! The reviews had been a bit lackluster, but their critique was more directed toward a perceived dullness in Christie’s play itself, not the performance. Well, knowing what to anticipate, I could live with that.  🙂

The cast included Lorne Kennedy as Poirot, Arne MacPherson as Hastings, Ross McMillan as Sir Claud Amory (and Japp), and Claire Armstrong as Lucia Amory. Kennedy gave an especially good performance of Poirot– sometimes, I swear, channeling Suchet. And MacPherson was a likeable, if highly excitable, Hastings. 🙂  One particularly noticeable deviation from the original play is that the secretary Raynor was changed to a woman– “Edwina,” played by Miriam Smith. This was perhaps to balance the male/female ratio.

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The pince-nez and lapel vase are distinctively Suchet’s Poirot. But Lorne Kennedy wore them well.

The set and lighting were really beautiful. Having myself specialized in trompe l’oeil in university and having done some set painting, I was particularly interested in the forced perspective garden scene beyond the French windows. For some reason, I was also mesmerized by the reproduction of a painting of Samuel Johnson high on the wall. It seemed to lend a comfortable, fitting, 18th-century “Sir Joshua Reynolds” sort of air to the distinguished country house set.

Christie herself was not particularly fond of this play, and by all accounts it’s not among her best. It’s a typical cozy mystery with conventional stock characters– the noted scientist, the misunderstood girl, the blackmailer, the vamp, etc. Anyone who is familiar with the story The Mysterious Affair at Styles will notice some pretty obvious plot-borrowing. Christie also borrowed the occasional quote from her own stories. This line in Black Coffee can be found almost verbatim in the story “The Chocolate Box.”

POIROT: Madame, it is sometimes difficult to set a dog on the scent. But once he has found it, nothing on earth will make him leave it. Not if he is a good dog. And I, madame, I, Hercule Poirot, am a very good dog!

Charles Osborne’s adaptation included even more lifting of dialog from Christie stories, including “The Adventure of the ‘Western Star'” and several others. C’est curieux! Also curious is Hastings’ apparent eagerness to be vamped, considering that he’s already been out in Argentina which means he’s already married at the time this play is set. Oh, Hastings…

It was an enjoyable evening and the audience seemed to have fun with the performance. The program was cute, too, including not only Christie facts but suggestions on how to make great coffee!

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My only real regret was not being able to get to more of ChristieFest this February. We didn’t learn of most of the events until it was too late, and being the self-professed greatest Poirot fan in at least Manitoba  😉  this was an embarrassing oversight on my part. But well done, Royal MTC, on an enjoyable interpretation of Black Coffee.  🙂

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More ambigramming: Death in the Clouds

My apologies for being WAY behind on blog posting. I’ve been making new things and sharing elsewhere, but I’ve been remiss here. So I’ll start with one of a series of new ambigrams I’ve done lately: the Christie title, Death in the Clouds.

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I’ve been doing various book titles as mirror ambigrams lately– that is, there is a vertical axis and both halves of the image are identical. The benefit to this kind of ambigram is that you don’t have to physically turn the thing to get the full effect.  🙂  This particular image bears some similarity to the first Christie title I painted, The Hollow. Both painted mirror ambigrams take advantage of story-appropriate imagery, traced through the center letters, to aid in the overall ambigram design. I’m looking forward to trying more of these.  🙂

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Triangle at Rhodes: episode overview

***Spoilers as always***

Things I Loved

1.) Location! Perhaps the most noticeable thing about the episode is the wonderful location. It is the first time in the series that we see Poirot vacationing off in exotic places (yet perpetually unable to escape the murderous English). The filming was really done in Rhodes, and there are many amazing shots of famous landmarks. In Christie’s original short story, the only landmark to speak of is the Mount of the Prophet, and adding more touristy eye candy spices up the story.

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L: The castle of Monolithos. R: The temple of Apollo.

2.) Music. Admit it– you’ve always wanted to hear the Poirot theme song on a santouri!

3.)  The wardrobe.  🙂  What marvelous costumes…

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4.) Making it a real mystery with discernible clues. Christie usually does play fair, but “Triangle at Rhodes,” like “The Veiled Lady” and a couple others, really don’t include fair clue-dropping for the reader. In the original short story, Poirot just seems to know instinctively that Marjorie Gold is a baddie because, as he tells us at the very end, he’s known nice, respectable women criminals like her before. In the episode, his suspicion is first aroused by Mrs. Gold’s claim that it was her husband’s idea to come to Rhodes when Poirot knows it wasn’t (but see “Things That Really Confused Me” below), and he becomes sure when he realizes that the Catholic Mr. Gold would have been unlikely to demand a divorce from his wife, again contra her claims. A plot device borrowed, perhaps, from Lord Edgware Dies.

5.) Poirot crossing himself at the chapel at Monolithos. An early display of an important character trait of our favorite detective.

6.) Poirot speaking Italian! Christie’s canon (e.g. Black Coffee) reveals that Poirot is fluent in Italian, and this might be the only episode where we hear him speaking the language. When it is discovered that certain passports are missing, he asks the desk what happened, and is answered, in that language. He also asks at the harbor about the boat departures when he and Miss Lyall are chasing the villains. One wonders why he mightn’t have used those linguistic skills with those obstinate customs officials, to score a few more points.  🙂

7.) These glasses. That is all.

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Things I Didn’t Love

1.) Chase scene? Poirot on a speedboat, zipping out of Rhodes harbor to nab the villains as they try to book it to Turkey. I understand that it makes for an exciting chase scene (with dynamite, no less) but I cannot in a million years imagine this actually happening. The mal de mer!

2.) Hunting down the poison-seller. Considering the fact that Poirot warns Mrs. Gold before the murder takes place, why does he waste time after the murder by personally hunting about for who sold the poison to whom when he knows perfectly well whodunnit already? I know, I know… TV pacing. But really, by the time he gets back to the hotel, the villains have left and they have to go running after them, nearly missing them. Seems a little inefficient for Poirot.

Things That Really Confused Me

1.) Douglas Gold’s grumpiness on arrival. Poirot overhears Gold grumbling as he and his wife enter the hotel; one gets the impression that his wife insisted that they come to Rhodes, and he himself wasn’t keen. Later on the beach, Marjorie Gold mentions that it was actually HIS idea to come. Poirot looks up in surprise at this contradiction. It makes sense for the wife to have insisted that they come, since she and Chantry have a plot they’re hatching, and for her to make a pretense that it was her husband’s idea, not hers, to divert suspicion from herself. Well and good. But why doesn’t Douglas Gold  contradict his wife when she says this, since he knows better? In the original story, Mr. Gold does make a couple of comments about what a long way to come it is and such like, but it’s not portrayed as grumpiness, just conventional commentary. Also, when explaining the solution to Miss Lyall in the episode, Poirot doesn’t mention the above contradiction as one of the things that alerted his suspicions– just the Catholic thing. But he certainly suspected Mrs. Gold before mention of divorce came about.

2.) Miss Pamela Lyall. It didn’t really confuse me, but it’s a curious anomaly in the Poirot TV series and is worth commentary. In the book, Christie’s own Miss Lyall is an enthusiastic young tanner who wears minimal bathing dress and gets Poirot to rub oil on her back! The scriptwriters turn her into a Poirot fangirl who uses Major Barnes’ unwanted advances as a way to attach herself to Poirot, thus providing him with a necessary and ever-present sidekick for crime-solving. Still, this leads to a couple moments of (in my opinion) a curious awkwardness, particularly the scene below, which needs to be filed under “Failed Poirot pick-up lines” for a future blog post.  🙂

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***************

Overall? An enjoyable romp with notably spectacular visuals.  🙂

Prize giveaway: pocket watch pendants!

Hi all! Inspired by the Etsy seller whose merchandise I previously blogged about here, I decided to make a few “Christie text” pieces of my own. I offer two samples here for a prize giveaway– a 24″ ball chain necklace with a magnetic-opening, glass-faced pocket watch pendant, and a small pocket watch key fob. Both feature text from pages of a real vintage Poirot novel (sorry, book purists). The larger pendant measures about 1 3/4″, by the diameter of the silver circle, and I’m including a few charms that you can keep in or take out as you like– a key, a tiny enameled moustache, and five faceted emerald beads. The text of the key chain pendant is covered with a protective acrylic dome. The winner gets BOTH. Fun!

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To enter this prize giveaway, all you have to do is share one of your favorite Poirot photos, here or on Twitter (in reply to contest tweet). Do this any way you like, even if you can only link to one you find online. It can be from the television series or something else– artwork, an original Christie cover, Albert Finney, whatever you’d like. Next Saturday, I will draw a name at random from the entries. You’ve got one week!

Good luck!  🙂

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Twelve of Christie’s best references to the STACHE.

Several of my personal favorites, anyway.  🙂  In no particular order…

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___________________

“If only, Hastings, you would part your hair in the middle instead of at the side! What a difference it would make to the symmetry of your appearance. And your moustache. If you must have a moustache, let it be a real moustache– a thing of beauty such as mine.”

Repressing a shudder at the thought, I took the note firmly from Poirot’s hand and left the room.

-Peril at End House

___________________

“Dear me,” I said, recovering from the shock. “I suppose next time I come home I shall find you wearing false moustaches– or are you doing so now?”

Poirot winced. His moustaches had always been his sensitive point. He was inordinately proud of them. My words touched him on the raw.

“No, no, indeed, mon ami. That day, I pray the good God, is still far off. The false moustache! Quel horreur!”

He tugged at them vigorously to assure me of their genuine character.

“Well, they are very luxuriant still,” I said.

“N’est ce pas? Never, in the whole of London, have I seen a pair of moustaches to equal mine.”

A good job too, I thought privately. But I would not for the world have hurt Poirot’s feelings by saying so.

-The A.B.C. Murders

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“I assure you, I am really a very humble person.”

I laughed.

“You– humble!”

“It is so. Except– I confess it– that I am a little proud of my moustaches. Nowhere in London have I observed anything to compare with them.”

“You are quite safe,” I said dryly, “you won’t.”

-Lord Edgware Dies

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[Mrs Oliver]: “Mrs Ap Jones Smythe, or whatever her name is, did make a codicil to her Will leaving all her money to the au pair girl and two witnesses saw her sign it, and signed it also in the presence of each other. Put that in your moustache and smoke it.”

-Hallowe’en Party

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“Japp!” exclaimed Poirot, disengaging himself from the Countess’s arms.

“It would be better, perhaps, if I went into the other room,” said the Countess.

She slipped through the connecting door. Poirot started towards the door to the hall.

“Guv’nor,” wheezed Mr Higgs anxiously, “better look at yourself in the glass, ’adn’t you?”

Poirot did so and recoiled. Lipstick and mascara ornamented his face in a fantastic medley.

“If that’s Mr Japp from Scotland Yard, ’e’d think the worst– sure to,” said Mr Higgs.

He added, as the bell pealed again, and Poirot strove feverishly to remove crimson grease from the points of his moustache: “Wha do yer want me to do– ’ook it too?”

-The Labours of Hercules, “The Capture of Cerberus”

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“Doubtless she has been informed of my identity,” said Poirot, trying to look modest and failing.

“I think it is the famous moustaches,” I said. “She is carried away by their beauty.”

Poirot caressed them surreptitiously.

“It is true that they are unique,” he admitted. “Oh, my friend, the ‘tooth-brush’ as you call it, that you wear– it is a horror– an atrocity– a wilful stunting of the bounties of nature. Abandon it, my friend, I pray you.”

-Lord Edgware Dies

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“And then, figure to yourself, Hastings, an idea of the most unreasonable seized this Mr. Pearson! Nothing would suit him but that we should go ourselves to this eating house and make investigations. I argued and prayed but he would not listen. He talked of disguising himself– he even suggested that I– I should– I hesitate to say it– should shave off my moustache! Yes, rien que ça! I pointed out to him that that was an idea ridiculous and absurd. One destroys not a thing of beauty wantonly. Besides, shall not a Belgian gentleman with a moustache desire to see life and smoke opium just as readily as one without a moustache?”

-“The Lost Mine”
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While the Lovely Young Thing made a suitable reply, Poirot allowed himself a good study of the hirsute adornment on Mr. Shaitana’s upper lip.

A fine moustache– a very fine moustache– the only moustache in London, perhaps, that could compete with that of M. Hercule Poirot.

“But it is not so luxuriant,” he murmured to himself. “No, decidedly it is inferior in every respect. Tout de meme, it catches the eye.”

-Cards on the Table

___________________

He looked at himself in the glass. Here, then, was a modern Hercules– very distinct from that unpleasant sketch of a naked figure with bulging muscles, brandishing a club. Instead, a small compact figure attired in correct urban wear with a moustache– such a moustache as Hercules never dreamed of cultivating– a moustache magnificent yet sophisticated.

-The Labours of Hercules

___________________

What was even more humiliating was that he had no real ideas, even now, as to what had actually happened. It was ignominious. And tomorrow he must return to London defeated. His ego was seriously deflated– even his moustaches drooped.

-Dead Man’s Folly

___________________

Poirot stroked his own magnificent mustache tenderly. “It is an art,” he murmured, “the growing of the moustache! I have sympathy for all who attempt it.”

It is always difficult with Poirot to know when he is serious and when he is merely amusing himself at one’s expense. I judged it safest to say no more.

-“Double Sin”

___________________

“Poirot,” I said, as he remained rapt in thought. “Hadn’t we better go on? Everyone is staring at us.”

“Eh? Well, perhaps you are right. Though it does not incommode me that people should stare. It does not interfere in the least with my train of thought.”

“People were beginning to laugh,” I murmured.

“That has no importance.”

I did not quite agree. I have a horror of doing anything conspicuous. The only thing that affects Poirot is the possibility of the damp or the heat affecting the set of his famous moustache.

-Lord Edgware Dies

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More anagrams: Poirot novel titles

Bringing back more Agatha Christie wordplay with some fiendish and strangely prophetic anagrams of some of her Poirot titles!

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(Okay, Mr. Suchet certainly wasn’t debarred from anything, so that’s more “anti-prophetic”… but dash it all, it’s funny! Many of the anagrams below seem to actually refer to the plot of the book. See previous name-related anagrams here.)

Death on the Nile:
Oh, heated Linnet
Ah, he toed Linnet

Murder on the Orient Express:
Mr. Poirot’s entered her nexus
Monsieur expends the terror
Oh, Monsieur renders pretext
Render expert shot, monsieur

The Mysterious Affair at Styles:
A feisty Mary shouts flatteries

Dead Man’s Folly: 
Malady enfolds
Fall adds money

The Murder on the Links:
Hint: mother needs lurk

Lord Edgware Dies:
Dreaded wig roles
Sir glowered; dead

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd:
Hark, forgo my terror: deduce!
Doctor faked my huger error

Peril at End House:
Die upon a shelter
Sleuth idea-prone
I need a pro sleuth

Poirot’s Early Cases: 
Ace a story’s spoiler
A solo spy careerist
A sly sir cooperates
Soirees; a scary plot
Ya, plot crises arose

Elephants Can Remember:
Mental pen embraces her

Appointment With Death:
Hated Ma within tent, Pop

Evil Under the Sun:   
Unveiled hunters
Vulture heeds inn
Unnerved, I sleuth

Hickory Dickory Dock:
Coy chick or dorky kid?

Five Little Pigs:  
Gives title flip [what these anagrams are literally doing…]

The Big Four:
Tough fibre
Tribe of Ugh [hehehehe]

Hallowe’en Party:
Lethal weaponry
Aha– well entropy [read the book, it’s true]

The A.B.C. Murders: 
Butcher’s dream
Bad schemer rut
Debar Mr. Suchet
Bad here, Mr. Cust

Death in the Clouds:
Loaded hint, Suchet!
Oh, Suchet landed it
Suchet had not lied
Not a chided sleuth
A coded sleuth hint
Sleuth hidden coat

After the Funeral:  
Uh, fatal referent
Affluent art here
Her artful tea fen

Cards on the Table:
Broached talents
Blatant docs here

[Aside: There are, additionally, a huge number of humorous and insane, if not always appropriate, anagrams for this title. That might have to be its own blog post someday, but I think my favorite is “Clone the bastard.”]

Three Act Tragedy:  
Regret yacht date
Cheated– great try

Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case:
A tactician’s poor results