Twelve of Christie’s best references to the STACHE.

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

bluetrain5

___________________

“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

___________________

“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

___________________

[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

___________________

“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”

___________________

“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

___________________

“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”
___________________

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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A quote from Dead Man’s Folly

‘[Absorption in one’s personal life] is, you know,’ Poirot persisted, ‘a form of humility. And humility is valuable. There was a slogan that was written up in your underground railways here, I remember, during the war. “It all depends on you.” It was composed, I think, by some eminent divine– but in my opinion it was a dangerous and undesirable doctrine. For it is not true. Everything does not depend on, say, Mrs Blank of Little-Blank-in-the-Marsh. And if she is led to think it does, it will not be good for her character. While she thinks of the part she can play in world affairs, the baby pulls over the kettle.’

‘You are rather old-fashioned in your views, I think. Let’s hear what your slogan would be.’

‘I do not need to formulate one of my own. There is an older one in this country which contents me very well.’

‘What is that?’

‘ “Put your trust in God, and keep your powder dry.” ‘

-Dead Man’s Folly

A favorite passage

‘Is it really necessary to tell such elaborate lies, Poirot?’ I asked as we walked away.

Poirot shrugged his shoulders.

‘If one is going to tell a lie at all– and I notice, by the way, that your nature is very much averse to lying– now, me, it does not trouble at all– ‘

‘So I’ve noticed,’ I interjected.

‘–As I was remarking, if one is going to tell a lie at all, it might as well be an artistic lie, a romantic lie, a convincing lie!’

-Dumb Witness

Hypochondria, and patronizing Poirot to your peril (a.k.a. “Hastings gets told”)

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the paternalistic tendency of Poirot to organize other people’s lives for them, and the condescending way this sometimes played out in his interactions with Hastings in the series.

What happens when a character dares to do the same with Poirot? Much entertainment!  In short, whenever there is fuss, Hastings invariably gets told off.

In the books, Poirot sometimes allows himself to be condescended to by behaving more naively “foreign” than he really is, to deceive others in the course of an investigation. For all his vanity, he is willing to buy success by (temporarily) enduring scorn, or being thought a mountebank.

‘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.’

-Three Act Tragedy

Not much of this particular quality makes itself blatant in the course of the series, but other forms of condescension present themselves– sometimes welcome, and sometimes not.

Hypochondria is just one of Poirot’s irritating-but-much-loved traits, and one particular expression of his vanity. Generally, he is only too delighted to be fussed over. But there are various scenarios in which he dislikes the attentions, such as when his personal dignity is affronted, or when being fussed over prevents him from doing what he would rather be doing (such as investigating), or when blatant opportunists want to take advantage of him. In those situations, coddlers, fussers, and patronizers beware. Unless you’re Miss Lemon, who can get away with anything.

Classic examples in The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge…

Hastings: “You get back into bed now. You can leave this to me.”
Poirot: “Comment?”
Hastings: “This investigation. You can leave it to me. I’ll report back to you, of course. I know these people, Poirot. I’ve got one or two ideas already.”
Poirot: “What are these ideas, Hastings?”
Hastings (holding up a finger): “You just relax.”
Poirot: “Hastings, will you please stop tapping your nose in that theatrical manner and tell me all that you know!”

Hastings gets told.

Likewise, he later snaps at Japp who asks him if shouldn’t be in bed: “Possibly, but please, do not fuss!” But he happily accepts blackberry tea from a paternal railway operator as he wheedles information out of him for the sake of the case.

Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan is comprehensive in showing how Poirot deals with “fusses” of both the patronizing and non-patronizing variety. The first time he encounters someone playing the newspaper game of hunting for “Lucky Len,” he is pleased at being recognized as someone whose face has often been in the papers (later to be disillusioned). But when Mr. Opalsen uses Poirot’s presence at his play for the sake of newspaper publicity, he is outraged and takes his revenge by later getting the otherwise innocent Mr. Opalsen arrested. Comparatively, in The A.B.C. Murders, Poirot receives somewhat unflattering newspaper coverage to Hastings’ concern, but does not himself seem to mind, as he hopes it will help the murderer relax his guard.

Jewel Robbery suggests something else of Hastings’ very occasional patronizing air. Extremely laid-back compared to his ever-interfering and micro-organizing friend, Hastings only seems to present this attitude in the case of serious illness or, notably, faced with the terrifying prospect of Miss Lemon coming down on him like a ton of bricks for dereliction of duty.

Hastings: “This was meant to be a rest, you know. Heaven knows what Miss Lemon’s going to say when she arrives.”

Miss Lemon (arriving later and meeting Hastings with a snarl): “I thought this was meant to be a holiday, Captain Hastings. I’ll talk to you later.”

Hastings gets told... again. Chap just can't win.

Hastings gets told… again. Chap just can’t win.

Then there’s Evil Under the Sun, in which the script writers decided to invent the pretext of a health concern for sending Poirot and Hastings off to the Sandy Cove Hotel. While Poirot sits in leisure, conversely moaning pitifully and then complaining that everyone knows he’s ill, Miss Lemon is at her most sternly efficient. Call it maternal rather than paternal– she’s in league with the doctor and brooks no denial as she arranges for the pair to head to the island without a word of consent from either of them. Undoubtably, Hastings’ subsequent hovering at the hotel is due largely to the fear of the wrath of Miss Lemon.

Hastings: “How are you feeling, Poirot? Not too tired after the journey?”
Poirot: “Hastings, I am recovered, I am not the invalid. There’s no need to act like a mother chicken.”

No longer under the spectre of Miss Lemon, Poirot tells off Hastings. Again.

No longer directly under the spectre of Miss Lemon, Poirot– surprise– tells off Hastings.

Later, we have further evidence of what lies behind Hastings’ concern…

Hastings: “So, how are you feeling, Poirot?”
Poirot: “Do you refer to my health, Hastings, or to my feelings concerning the events on this island to which I am confined?”
Hastings: “Well, both, really. I’m going to have to phone Miss Lemon today. She wanted a daily report.”
Poirot: “You may tell to her that I am not sure.”

Miss Lemon eventually shows up, grumbling: “He was meant to be having a rest.” But as Christie readers (and viewers) know, Poirot does not actually need coddling to get better– just opportunities to exercise the little grey cells, a tisane or two, and a good boost to the ego. The opening scenes of The Third Floor Flat feature more of Miss Lemon making a fuss.

Miss Lemon: “Ah– Mr. Poirot. You’ve only done seven minutes. You’ll never cure your cold if you don’t obey the instructions.”
Poirot: “I can’t imagine a method so undignified can cure anything, Miss Lemon. And now also I have the backache, eh!”

Hastings doesn't get told here, but he gets told later when Poirot blames riding in the Lagonda for his "present malady." #BlameHastings

Hastings doesn’t get told here, but he gets told later when Poirot blames riding in the Lagonda for his “present malady.” #BlameHastings

Sure enough, the stimulation of the case soon has him on his feet again: “Poirot does not have colds, Miss Lemon. It is well-known that Poirot scorns all but the gravest afflictions.”

Then, again, there’s Curtain. So many of these themes that wind through the Poirot canon come full circle in that book and episode. In the final story, Poirot is faced with the ultimate in coddling, and expresses his disgust openly at being treated like a child– although some of it is a ruse. And of course, he’s forever howling at Hastings, alternately for his stubbornness, his denseness, or even his inability to coddle properly.

One thing is not a ruse: Poirot’s arthritis. In the critical scene of Hastings’ confession to Poirot of his nearly-attempted murder, something is happening throughout the course of the conversation. It is not commented on, but in many ways, it is just as meaningful and gut-wrenching as the dialog. Poirot is sitting in front of an ancient mirror, attempting to tie his perfect bow tie. He can’t quite manage it. Finally, wordlessly, he appeals to Hastings for help– the one whose tie he had been straightening for so many years.

Full circle.

Full circle.

A favorite passage

‘Mille tonnerres! what is that?’

He dragged me back — just in time. A tree had crashed down on to the sidewalk, just missing us. Poirot stared at it, pale and upset.

‘It was a near thing that! But clumsy, all the same — for I had no suspicion — at least hardly any suspicion. Yes, but for my quick eyes, the eyes of a cat, Hercule Poirot might now be crushed out of existence — a terrible calamity for the world. And you, too, mon ami — though that would not be such a national catastrophe.’

‘Thank you,’ I said coldly.

-The Big Four

A favorite passage

I’ve been thinking of the various sorts of posts and content I could include on this blog, and decided it would be fun to share some favorite quotes and passages. This first one will be from Curtain, the end of chapter 12. All the more poignant on the second read-through of the book. (As always, if you haven’t read through Christie’s works, be aware of possible spoilers on this blog.)  🙂

***

I followed Curtiss across the passage.

‘Eh bien!’ exclaimed Poirot. ‘So you desert me, hein?’

I forced a yawn and an apologetic smile. ‘Awfully sorry, old boy,’ I said. ‘But to tell the truth I’ve got such a blinding headache I can hardly see out of my eyes. It’s the thunder in the air, I suppose. I really have been feeling quite muzzy with it– in fact, so much so I entirely forgot I hadn’t been in to say good night to you.’

As I had hoped, Poirot was immediately solicitous. He offered remedies. He fussed. He accused me of having sat about in the open air in a draught. (On the hottest day of the summer!) I refused aspirin on the grounds that I had already taken some, but I was not able to avoid being given a cup of sweet and wholly disgusting chocolate!

‘It nourishes the nerves, you comprehend,’ Poirot explained.

I drank it to avoid argument and then, with Poirot’s anxious and affectionate exclamations still ringing in my ears, I bade him good night.

I returned to my own room, and shut the door ostentatiously. Later, I opened it a crack with the utmost caution. I could not fail now to hear Allerton when he came. But it would be some time yet.

I sat there waiting. I thought of my dead wife. Once, under my breath, I murmured: ‘You understand, darling, I’m going to save her.’

She had left Judith in my care, I was not going to fail her.

In the quiet and the stillness I suddenly felt that Cinders was very near to me.

I felt almost as though she were in the room.

And still I sat on grimly, waiting.

***

Compilation: The best of “Hastings snark”

Hastings isn’t the snarkiest of characters in the Poirot canon, particularly in the series. In the books, it is true, we can hear every last annoyed thought that passes through his head, but in general, we regard him as an unusually good-natured character. In fact, surely a large part of our admiration for him is the incomprehensible fact that he doesn’t smack Poirot in the face on a daily basis.

Clive Exton (and others) gave Hugh Fraser some wonderful zingers from time to time, however, all the more delightful for their comparative rarity and memorable delivery. Here’s a collection of some of my favorites. Sorry if I missed yours; no time to re-watch all the episodes.  😉

*****

Poirot: “Hastings, a favour… Whatever I should say, you will nod in agreement.”
Hastings: “Did I ever do otherwise, Poirot?”

-Dumb Witness

Both delightfully self-depricating and self-referential.

Both delightfully self-depricating and self-referential.

Maid: “I beg your pardon, sir?”
Hastings: “What colour were they, if you can remember?”
Maid: “Mr. Loewen’s trousers, sir?”
Hastings: “Well, I know it’s a rather odd question, but a rather odd person would like to know.”

-The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim

This script gets all the cookies. Forever.

This script gets all the cookies. Forever.

(Extensive damage to Hastings’ car, caused by murderer, is surveyed)
Hastings: “Hanging’s too good for some people.”

-The Third Floor Flat  

thirdfloor4

Hee hee hee.

Poirot (lining up a golf shot): “Am I allowed to hit the flag?”
Hastings: “Yes, yes, that’ll be fine.”

Murder in the Mews

This little exchange on the links makes me laugh more than just about anything...

I don’t know exactly why, but this whole little exchange on the links makes me laugh more than just about anything…

Hastings: “I’m not surprised she had gastritis.”
Poirot: “Comment?
Hastings: “Well, if she’s going to run around after chaps half her age…”

-The Cornish Mystery

Ouch...

Ouch…

Lazy guy at the dock: “I just told all I know to that police inspector; I ain’t got time to tell that all again.”
Hastings: “No, quite, I can see you’re a very busy man, Mr. Merritt.”

Mr. Davenheim

ALL THE COOKIES.

ALL THE COOKIES.

Hastings: “What’s up?”
Poirot: “You do not know who is Marie Marvelle?”
Hastings: “Can’t say I do, no. These look good, Poirot…”
Poirot (repressively): “Dah!! …Marie Marvelle is the greatest film star Belgium has ever produced.”
Hastings: “I should think she’s the only film star Belgium’s ever produced.”
Poirot: “You do not remember ‘La Tendresse Religieuse’?
Hastings: “The what?”
Poirot: “And ‘Drôle de Coeur’?”
Hastings: “I didn’t even know they made films in Belgium.”
Poirot (disgusted): “Why is it the fate of Hercule Poirot to live among such Philistines?”

-The Adventure of the “Western Star”  

No, really, they make films in Belgium?

No, really, they make films in Belgium?

Hastings: “Well hang it all, Japp, what are we going to do next?”
Japp: “Eh?”
Hastings: “Well, we can’t let Poirot die in vain. We’ve got to stop them.”
Japp: “Now hang on, Captain Hastings–”
Hastings: “We can’t be faint-hearted now, man. Are you with me or not? For Poirot’s sake, together, we have to stop the Big Four!”
Japp: “Listen, these people mean business. They’ll stop at nothing. If even Poirot couldn’t stop them–”
Hastings: “Good Lord, man. I never thought I’d hear such conchy talk from you. Well, if you won’t do anything to stop these brutes, then I certainly will. And I’ll leave no stone unturned. Good day.”

-The Big Four

"Good old Hastings"... and conchy is my new favorite word, I think.

More serious snark from “good old Hastings”… and conchy is my new favorite word, I think.

Hastings: “Well, he’s always been middle-aged. Have you seen that photograph of him at his christening?”
Miss Lemon (smirking): “I know!”
Hastings: “He looks as though he’s about to address a board meeting.”

-Double Sin

CRIKEY, I love this script, too. And not an easy short story to adapt to screen.

CRIKEY, I love this script, too. And not an easy short story to adapt to screen. Totally going to get nightmares from this screen shot, though…

(Hastings is ditched on the dance floor by the aristocracy-stalking Mrs. Mallerby, who has spotted Lord Cranshaw)
Ackerly: “Been stood up, Arthur?”
Hastings: “No title, I’m afraid!”

-The Affair at the Victory Ball  

ZAP. Bonus points for the face that he makes just before turning to go back to the table...

ZAP. Bonus points for the face that he makes just before turning to go back to the table.

Hastings: “Well, the pub’s so crowded, I’m having to share a room, and you’ll never guess who with.”
Poirot: “No Hastings, I will not.”
Hastings: “Japp.”
Poirot: “With the Chief Inspector Japp?”
Hastings: “And the room has only got one bed.”
Poirot: “I wonder why the Chief Inspector Japp is here.”
Hastings: “You’re not very sympathetic!”

Hastings: “Poirot, my dear fellow, I promise you, you’ve never heard anything like it. You know those boots he wears? Bang. And the other one– crash. When he finally gets into bed, it’s worse!”
Poirot: “Worse?”
Hastings: “He talks in his sleep. ‘Now I’ve got you, young fellow, me lad. Japp of the Yard strikes again!’ I thought I’d go mad. Every time I managed to drop off, he’d start shouting. ‘Stand back, lads, he’s got a blancmange!’ Some of the things he was saying were enough to make a cat laugh. I can’t take much more of it, Poirot. I’ve been through three days of a jerry barrage.”

-The Incredible Theft 

I think this one wins the snark-fest, not only for the sheer volume of dialog, but the delicious needling of Japp, the convincing delivery (while eating), and the BLANCMANGE. Bravo everyone, and cookies.

I think this one wins the snark-fest, not only for the sheer volume of dialog, but the delicious needling of Japp, the convincing desperation of the delivery (while eating, no less), and the BLANCMANGE. Bravo everyone, and cookies.

Proof positive that David Suchet is Achille Poirot.

The man beside me was not Hercule Poirot.

He was very like him, extraordinarily like him. There was the same egg-shaped head, the same strutting figure, delicately plump. But the voice was different, and the eyes instead of being green were dark, and surely the moustaches– those famous moustaches–?

…The countess leant forward and snatched at Poirot’s moustaches. They came off in her hand, and then, indeed, the truth was plain…

‘This is Achille Poirot,’ I said slowly. ‘Hercule Poirot’s twin brother.’

-The Big Four

suchetpoirot

 

A mystery concerning Curtain… and The Princess Bride.

***Major spoilers, but for the record… if you’re on this site, assume that I’ll be regularly “spoiling” plots anyway because I assume you know them.***  😉

It is, perhaps, the one thing about the television adaptation of Curtain that baffles me completely.

In that striking scene where Poirot unmasks Norton one-on-one, and Norton begins funneling the venom into his rival, he makes this comment: “Murder me… And then what– suicide to avoid the ignominy of hanging?”

Poirot does not respond in words, but his eyes say something like, “Well yes, that’s basically what I had in mind.” That this was intended as a sincere reaction by Poirot seems to be confirmed by a statement Suchet makes backstage in the opening scenes of the documentary Being Poirot: “He knows he has to die. He could never take the ignominy of being accused of a murder and then [hanged].” It would seem from this that Poirot really means to help his death along in some way, to avoid the shame of both conviction of a crime and being sent to the gallows.

There is one small problem, though: Poirot is never in any danger of the gallows to begin with.

princessbride6 copy

It makes sense, perhaps, for a startled Norton to come up with this idea when he first realizes what’s going on. But Poirot has had months, possibly even years, to think this through. He must have known that he has no danger of being hanged.

Point #1: Poirot is in practically zero danger of being caught at all. And in fact, he isn’t caught. He’s worked this out with remarkable efficiency.

princessbride14 copy

In that awesome aforementioned scene, Poirot suggest to Norton that he himself might fail in his attempt to serve justice, but does Poirot really believe that he’s likely to fail? It reads more like a “humble-bluff” to me. Despite revealing himself to be a clever devil who “does his homework,” Poirot still comes across to Norton as a “pathetic, self-important little man.” As Christie often tells us, this is a favorite ruse of Poirot’s to cause his enemies to underestimate him.

bluffing

Whether he’s bluffing there or not, he certainly is by the time they get to the chocolate. Norton feels he has won a spar with Poirot (“Shots in the dark”) and is then apparently clever enough to take Poirot’s cup of chocolate instead of his own when suspiciously offered a drink. Unfortunately for Norton, he never saw The Princess Bride.

iocane

He could have learned some important life lessons…

trap

I mean, Poirot’s ingenuity with drugged chocolate has already previously saved Hastings from worse than death.

princessbride19 copy

And of course, Poirot has other substantial tricks up his sleeve, including an intricate plan involving a fake moustache and (most importantly) full use of his limbs. No, I cannot believe that he really has any intentions at all of being caught. He’s going to hop out of the wheelchair and commit the deed, and no one will know the full truth– until he reveals it.

princessbride26 copy

Point #2: In the unlikely event that Poirot’s actions were discovered by the authorities, it seems that the most probable way would be if he actually turned himself over to the police. Supposing that he subsequently found his actions so unbearable that he felt he had to give himself up immediately. Would he have been hanged in that case? No. Would he have been hanged even if someone else had turned him in? No.

princessbride4 copy

Why? The simplest reason is that he would not have lived long enough for a trial. Christie knows this theme well; consider the following passage from the end of “Dead Man’s Mirror”:

    ‘That was– rather noble in a way. I hate to think of her going through a trial for murder.’
Poirot said gently:
‘Do not distress yourself. It will not come to that. The doctor, he tells me that she has serious heart trouble. She will not live many weeks.’

For good measure, here’s “Problem at Sea,” in which Poirot deliberately kills the murderer with an extra-shocking denouement:

    Ellie Henderson was beside him. Her eyes were dark and full of pain. ‘Did you know his heart was weak?’ she asked.
‘I guessed it…’
Ellie murmured: ‘So you thought– it might end– this way?’
‘The best way, don’t you think, mademoiselle?’ he said gently.

In “The Chocolate Box,” Poirot allows the killer to walk free, a very rare move, knowing she will die very shortly. In Curtain, Poirot knows he’s about to die from his heart condition. We know from the book that he has deliberately timed this crime so that it will be approximately the last thing he does.

   ‘I knew that my time was short– and for that I was glad. For the worst part of murder, Hastings, is its effect on the murderer. I, Hercule Poirot, might come to believe myself divinely appointed to deal out death to all and sundry… But mercifully there would not be time for that to happen. The end would come soon.’

‘I am very tired– and the exertions I have been through have strained me a good deal. It will not, I think, be long before…’

princessbride22 copy

In short, Poirot knows perfectly well that he is not going to live long beyond his murder, and he must have known that hanging was not a possibility for him. He was going to die first regardless.

Point #3: Let us speculate even further… even if Poirot was not likely to have a heart attack at any moment, would he have ever been convicted and hanged? I think that even that is questionable. Ironically, (movie-)Norton’s own words help explain why Poirot would not hang:  “You can see them now: ‘Went off his rocker, in the end, you can never trust a foreigner.’”

Poirot’s own opinion, in the book, is that he could have killed Norton quite openly with a “gun accident” and it would have never been suspected as murder; that Poirot indeed would have had the sympathy of people who considered him to be a poor, gaga old man who simply didn’t realize the gun was loaded. Such a person would not have been hanged. Of course, Poirot does not choose that route for one particular reason:

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And despite Norton’s dig at Poirot’s foreignness, and Poirot’s clear breaking of the law, he has the reader’s sympathy in his quest to protect the innocent, and would likely have a good deal of sympathy in England, too. He has an excellent long-standing reputation there in apprehending criminals, and again, he is a very old and ill man at this point. At worst, it might be said that his mind was going and he needed institutionalizing.

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But as Poirot is, in fact, at the brink of death, Point #3 is just added speculation on what could have been. In the end, Poirot is just smarter than Norton. And pretty much everyone else. And he knows it.

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So, in summary…

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#1: Poirot is in no great danger of being hanged because he probably won’t even get caught. #2: Even if he does get caught– or, more likely, turns himself in– he would be dead long before he gets a trial and sentence, assuming that the sentence IS death. #3: The sentence probably wouldn’t be death, since he’s a sick, very elderly man with a great track record in England and a provocation that is reasonable enough to draw plenty of sympathy from the reader– and the public. Poirot may, possibly, fear criminal conviction and a blow to that reputation, but surely not the shame of execution by hanging.

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How does this affect the reading of the film? Personally, to make sense of the scene, I have to read Poirot’s initial reaction of assent to Norton’s suggestion of “suicide to avoid hanging” as deliberately deceptive rather than sincere on Poirot’s part, and Norton’s mark only truly hitting home when he mentions the judgment of God a few moments later. There is enough of a difference in those wordless reactions that I think such an interpretation can stand. Funnily enough, the first two fans I discussed this with said that they read this scene exactly the same way, and NOT as Poirot actually intending to escape hanging via medicinal neglect. Yet, this preferred interpretation of mine seems to be at odds with Suchet’s own intentions for his performance. Am I missing some vital point? What say you, intrepid reader?

This strikes me as an important question for other reasons that seriously affect the story: Why does Poirot refrain from taking the meds? What are his words “Forgive me” exactly in reference to? To some extent, questions like that turn on this point.

(Continued later…)

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.”