Recommendations for first-time Poirot readers

***Note: plot spoilers below. Intended for those introducing Poirot to others!***  🙂

I have my own methods for introducing a friend to Poirot for the first time.  🙂

If I can give them only one book, I will choose a short story collection like Poirot Investigates.

Ideally, I’d give them three books: Poirot Investigates (for short stories), The A.B.C. Murders (for a Hastings novel), and Death on the Nile (for a non-Hastings novel).

I will not give them Murder on the Orient Express or The Murder of Roger Ackroyd to tackle first, and here’s why.

They are both, I need hardly say, exceptional books and I love them. But I’d prefer to start someone with more typical Poirot, and those two books are anything but typical. The first Agatha Christie book I ever read, some years ago, was And Then There Were None. Although it was a great book and I enjoyed it, it also terrified me. I assumed that Christie was an author of thrillers, and that her books normally featured a large number of dead bodies destroyed by varied, gruesome murders. Not really my genre, I thought. It was years before I picked up a second Christie book.

I once read a Christie fan comment about how Roger Ackroyd was the first Poirot novel she’d read. In every subsequent novel with first-person narration, she immediately suspected that the narrator had dunnit! It became very annoying for her.

If Murder on the Orient Express is the first Poirot novel you read, you would get certain characteristic qualities of a Poirot tale– it is, in some ways, even a quintessential Poirot problem. The set-up is elegant and streamlined, almost clinical; the problem cannot be solved by running about or obtaining information elsewhere, but by pure deduction based on the interviews conducted of the suspects. On the other hand, you might be forgiven if you assumed from this book that Christie’s style leans toward unusually disgusting murder, including horrific (multiple) child murders, as a norm; or that her detective is somewhat on the cold-and-distant side in general. Or, if after putting the book down, you read the next few Christies assuming that everyone is in on the murder plot. In short, the book has many very atypical qualities.

My own recommendations also feature clever and unique problems, but (I think) somewhat more characteristic ones. If interest is piqued from those three books, I’d send the person back to The Mysterious Affair at Styles and recommend that they go through the canon chronologically.

That would be my own recommendation and the reasoning for it. Do you have your own “first recommendations” you prefer?

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The painted miniature books (3)

The eight Hastings novels were finished, but I wasn’t quite finished with putting Hugh Fraser on the book covers. After all, there were five short story collections yet to go, two of which feature the character prominently, as well as Black Coffee. “But Black Coffee is a novelized play, and wasn’t filmed,” you say, sagaciously. Shut up, I’m going to have a complete set, dangit!!

I cheated on Black Coffee by collecting a large number of stills throughout the series of Poirot and Hastings with tea or coffee cups… there are a lot of them… and finally choosing this shot from “The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb” for the cover. There’s a cup on the table, and a Highly Ambiguous Hastings with a Highly Ambiguous Poirot, neither of which have clear faces. This seemed appropriate in light of my shameful trickery.

Is it just me, or is the quote from Black Coffee, like so many other quotes from that book, a duplicate from something in The Murder on the Links or some other book?

Is it just me, or is the quote from Black Coffee, like so many other quotes from that book, a duplicate from something in The Murder on the Links or some other book?

Poirot’s Early Cases, on the other hand, features an honest shot and matching quote from a story in the actual collection: “The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly.” It’s one of my favorite Poirot/Hastings visuals for the sheer loveliness of the surroundings, with Poirot characteristically holding forth. The book color was a sort of “twilight gray,” as it would be the penultimate in book listing, next to the inky-dark Curtain. The image of the two strolling away from the viewer also seemed appropriate in that wistful light.

“A pleasing little problem, obscure and charming,” murmured Poirot. “I will investigate it for you with pleasure.”

And finally, I finished off with Hastings in Poirot Investigates (I’ve given away three copies of that book this year, ma foi). I returned to my deceitful ways by painting a scene from “Murder in the Mews,” which is not in this collection. But I was very keen to paint this shot. The scene is a fun one (although Poirot is not actually investigating as such in this moment). And it’s difficult to find shots of the sort I could use where Hastings and Poirot are so close in size, rather than a less-distinct Hastings hovering behind Poirot’s shoulder; fine for film but harder for miniature painting.

It might be that I used the shot here instead of the Murder in the Mews collection because I’d already decided on a shot from that particular episode that featured Japp, and I wanted to make sure he got on a cover or two as well. There are even fewer Japp novels than Hastings novels. “Then why,” you ask with superior tones, “didn’t you just choose a different Japp shot for Poirot Investigates, since he features in the collection, and use this picture for the Murder in the Mews collection?” …Shut up.

No, actually it was because Hastings doesn’t feature in the stories from the Murder in the Mews collection, though he’s in the episode, and I didn’t want Hastings on book covers in which he wasn’t an appearing character, like Murder in Mesopotamia or Evil Under the Sun.

Poirot investigates... golf. The quote is from

Poirot investigates… golf. The quote is from “The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan.”