I found Poirot’s ring, you guys.

In the television series, as in the books, Poirot has some fancy bling. In the series it takes the form of what appears to be silver-and-amethyst coordinates with faceted oval gems, including the famous “Virginie” brooch, the fob, the cuff links, and what a police inspector in The Veiled Lady calls “one fancy ring.”  🙂 🙂 🙂  These pieces are ubiquitous throughout the series. Here are a few shots of the ring:

Well, dear blog readers, I found the ring…

…At least, a remarkably similar one. 🙂  Mine came from a store in India. The design is appropriate for either men or women and amethyst also happens to be my birthstone, so I didn’t even feel too weird about getting it.  😉  It is the closest I could find to what is seen in the series– and it really is VERY similar. Here is the link to a listing of the identical product. If you visit with an aim to purchase and find that it’s sold, don’t worry; they apparently re-list it each time. It is the 3-carat version.

I love props and wardrobe stuff.

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18 actors who play more than one character in the Poirot series

I don’t know about you, but I’m not always good with faces. There are many actors over the quarter-century run of the Poirot series who have played two different characters in the series– and most of them I didn’t recognize from their previous role. Sometimes, the discovery was quite a shock! Here are 18 that are worth taking note of… (Spoilers for everything, as usual)

1) David Yelland

Perhaps the most obvious place to start. The brilliant David Yelland played Charles Laverton West, a stuck-up and self-centered MP, in the second-ever episode of the series, Murder in the Mews. Of course, he is more readily recognized as Poirot’s valet George from Season 10 to the very last episode, Curtain. (George is still a snob, but much more likeable.) 🙂 Yelland has the distinction of being the “longest-running” of those with multiple roles in the series. Yet, he does not boast the biggest gap between appearances. That honor goes to…

2) Danny Webb

My jaw hit the floor when I discovered that the cheeky, sarcastic porter of The Adventure of the Clapham Cook ended up “promoted” to Superintendent Bill Garroway in Elephants Can Remember! He always did have good observation skills… 🙂  Webb is one of only three multiple-role cast members who appear in both the first and the last season of Poirot. He, Yelland, and one other…

3) Sean Pertwee

I received another mammoth shock at not having recognized Sean Pertwee from The King of Clubs. The inoffensive-looking Ronnie Oglander seemed such a far cry from Dead Man’s Folly‘s Sir George Stubbs. And yet, the hair has remained exactly the same! Another curious similarity between the characters: both are killers who are trying to hide a blood relationship with one of the Cusack sisters. Ha!!!

4) Frances Barber

Barber’s first role in the series was as (faux) Lady Millicent Castle-Vaughan in The Veiled Lady. Her second was in The Clocks as Merlina Rival, who falsely identifies the murdered man as her ex-husband. Both characters are scheming crooks relying on their own acting skills to try to deceive the authorities.

5) Carol MacReady

First, she’s an Australian forger in Peril at End House; finally, she’s a flask-toting matron at an English girl’s school in Cat Among the Pigeons. I’d call that a reforming of life. 😀  I jest about the characters, but really, this little blog exercise gives one a tremendous appreciation for character acting– how very different the roles, and how well the actors disappear into them. As if you didn’t already know that Poirot was a sterling exemplar of character acting.

6) Pip Torrens

I don’t remember whether or not I’d spotted the disgruntled “Major Rich” from Spanish Chest when he popped up as the disgruntled Jeremy Cloade in Taken at the Flood. But I really should have. I love these side-by-side photos… it makes Torrens look like he’s been to a really, really long party and is a little confused as to how he got home. LOL

7) Geoffrey Beevers

Did you recognize Mr Tolliver from Problem at Sea as the lawyer advising Elinor Carlisle after the death of her aunt in Sad Cypress? Nope.

8) Beatie Edney

OH MY GOSH MARY CAVENDISH RETIRED TO WILBRAHAM CRESCENT AND BECAME A CRAZY CAT LADY!!!!!!!!!!

It’s a long way from The Mysterious Affair at Styles to The Clocks!

9) Haydn Gwynn

From Coco Courtney in The Affair at the Victory Ball to Miss Battersby in Third Girl, Gwynn brings her own lovely ironical quality to the roles.

10) Barbara Barnes

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that Mrs Charles Lester from The Lost Mine is one of my least favorite minor characters in the series. The voice and performance just grate on me. I think that Barnes pulled off Louise Leidner in Murder in Mesopotamia much better. Both characters have extremely problematic husbands, to say the least.

11) Catherine Russell

One can hardly believe that the troubled Russian companion Katrina Reiger from How Does Your Garden Grow? is played by the same woman who became the smarmy editor of The Sunday Comet in Mrs McGinty’s Dead! Truly a transformation of Poirot-esque magnitude.

12) Simon Shepherd

Shepherd has a go as disillusioned playwright David Hall in Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan, and appears later as Dr. Rendell in Mrs McGinty’s Dead.

13) Richard Lintern

Because EVERYONE comes back for Mrs McGinty’s Dead! 😉  Lintern is John Lake in Dead Man’s Mirror and Guy Carpenter for McGinty. He is, I think, one of the most recognizable of the returning cast members to the series. These two shots, in fact, are remarkably similar.

14) Beth Goddard

Another unexpected jolt: seeing Violet from The Case of the Missing Will transform into the very strange Sister Agnieszka from Appointment With Death. Headstrong feminist turned human trafficker… okay then…

15) Nicholas Farrell

From The A.B.C. Murders to The Mystery of the Blue Train, Farrell is alternately Donald Fraser and Major Knighton. Got a bit of a temper in each of them as well as girl trouble, but he’s only a baddie in one of the episodes.

16) Patrick Ryecart

Ryecart plays Charles Arundell in Dumb Witness, and Sir Anthony Morgan in The Labours of Hercules. He’s got this terrific shifty expression that he brings fully to bear in each of these characters, who are none too scrupulous. Weird little detail that the characters share: they are both alerted to disaster by means of a painting that is no longer where it should be on the wall!

17) Fenella Woolgar

Woolgar is Ellis in Lord Edgware Dies and Miss Whittaker in Hallowe’en Party. I think she is one of the easiest to recognize between roles.

18) Lucy Liemann

Last but not least (although latest in the series!) is Lucy Liemann, who takes the roles of two useful assistants: Miss Burgess in Cards on the Table, and Sonia in Third Girl. Miss Burgess is guileless, a bit naive, easy to pump for information. Sonia is the opposite!

Attempts on Poirot’s life: book, play, and film

Agatha Christie writes comparatively few forward-thinking criminals who connive to permanently remove the threat of Poirot. In fact, I deal with the issue in my own Poirot novel, attempting to answer the “Why?” Some of it is evident: Christie frequently makes Poirot more “famous in his own mind” but not taken seriously by criminals– until it’s too late. He uses his perceived ridiculousness at times as camouflage. At some points in the series, Poirot actually is virtually unknown in London (“Kidnapped Prime Minister”). But at other points (e.g. “The Veiled Lady,” “Hunter’s Lodge,” “Western Star,” etc) it is very evident that he is well-known as a blazing success by society and criminals alike. My story, The London Syndicate, takes the question on as a challenge: why don’t enterprising criminals make a little more effort to get him out of the way? For my own solution, consult the text!  😉

But for interest, Christie does throw in some examples of these people who, through cunning, panic, or even sheer ignorance, try to do in our favorite Belgian detective. Here’s a little compare/contrast on how it’s tackled in book, TV, and stage.

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1) The Big Four. I’m just going to count this as “one.” The book is full of anecdotes of Poirot and Hastings battling it out with this international menace, with not a few dramatic brushes with death. Most notable is the explosion which Poirot uses to fake his own death (because like Sherlock Holmes he’s a bit of a jerk to his friend in that respect). 🙂 Many Christie readers dislike The Big Four for a variety of reasons– Christie did as well– but I find it hard not to enjoy the more energetic and risk-filled anecdotes of this very bizarre, Bond-esque Poirot account. It’s great fun because it’s so unique and different.

2) Mrs McGinty’s Dead. In this story, Poirot’s investigations into the McGinty case results in Dr Rendall getting the wind up and trying to push him under a train. The irony is that although Poirot delightedly assumes that McGinty’s murderer attempted to murder him and that this proves that he is on the right track, it’s actually a completely different crime that Dr Rendall is attempting to cover up. (In the adaptation, it is Mrs Rendall who does this, and she actually succeeds in shoving him onto the line.)

3) “The Case of the Egyptian Tomb.” The serial murder decides to try to add a meddling Poirot to his list of victims who are popularly supposed to be cursed by proximity to the opened tomb of an ancient pharaoh. Somehow Poirot manages to anticipate the spiking of his evening tisane with cyanide. His murder attempt failing, the murderer commits suicide instead (in the book).

4) “The Erymantian Boar.” This wild and crazy incident from The Labours of Hercules formed a large part of the conglomerate television adaptation, in which the killer Marrascaud is lurking in the Swiss establishment of Rochers Neiges. In the book, members of Marrascaud’s gang attack Poirot in his room at night, threatening to cut him with razor blades. They are thwarted by American tourist Schwartz and his fortuitous revolver, earning profound gratitude (not inexplicable annoyance– really, TV script?) from Poirot.

5) Black Coffee. In this one and only Poirot play by Christie, the murderer attempts to poison Poirot in a whisky and soda. Luckily, Poirot is as usual a step ahead of the game, and has arranged a substitution with Hastings ahead of time as part of his dramatic denouement.

6) Three Act Tragedy. This is not a deliberate targeting of Poirot, but he is fully cognizant (as the final lines of the novel reveal) that he could have easily been the recipient of the first poisoned cocktail. Almost everyone in the room was a potential murder victim. This last scene is really beautifully dramatized and delivered by Suchet, who manages to simultaneously bring out both the humor of Poirot’s vanity and the pathos of being betrayed by his friend.

7) Evil Under the Sun. This is an example of pure rage from the murderer when his crime is revealed by Poirot. Usually Poirot is deft enough to simply skip out of the way, but this time the killer manages to get his hands on the other’s throat before he is held at bay. Accurately portrayed in the television adaptation as well.

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Honorable mentions (including television additions):

Death in the Clouds: The jury at the inquest nearly convicts Poirot of the murder on the plane! The verdict gets thrown out by the coroner.

He said, ‘I wonder what was on that paper that the coroner wouldn’t have at any price?’

‘I can tell you, I think,’ said a voice behind him.

The couple turned, to look into the twinkling eyes of M. Hercule Poirot.

‘It was a verdict,’ said the little man, ‘of wilful murder against me.

‘Oh, surely– ’ cried Jane.

Poirot nodded happily.

Mais oui. As I came out I heard one man say to the other, “That little foreigner– mark my words, he done it!” The jury thought the same.’

The A.B.C. Murders: At the beginning of the book, Poirot recounts to Hastings that not long ago he’d had a narrow escape, having been “nearly exterminated.” Hastings is impressed: “An enterprising murderer!” Poirot suggests that the better word would be “careless,” not enterprising. Some think that this incident is a direct reference to the jury in Death in the Clouds (above), but in my opinion, it seems much more likely to refer to Three Act Tragedy. Poirot does not claim that he was deliberately targeted for death, but does accept Hastings’ use of the word “murderer,” and “careless” is a good word to describe that particular murderer. But there is always the speculative possibility that Poirot could be describing an unknown incident that Hastings never learns about and records for us.

Sad Cypress: In the television adaptation, the murderer attempts to poison Poirot in the same manner that Mary Gerrard was poisoned. But Poirot has always hated tea! 😀 Interestingly, this delightful addition to the original story appears to have been lifted directly from the pages of Black Coffee! In both scenarios, Poirot is given a poisoned drink which he substitutes, and he also fakes symptoms of impending death. Then the murderer, off their guard, launches freely into a smug confession of nefarious deeds, only to be overheard by the nearby police. I’m very pleased that this device from Black Coffee made it into the TV canon. The only downside to the TV addition is: how can the murderer possibly think that she’ll get away with this?

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: In the adaptation, the murderer takes some gratuitous pot shots at Poirot and Japp after his cover is blown.

Curtain: The TV telling of Curtain includes Norton engaging in a dangerous cat-and-mouse power play with Poirot, seeming to threaten to withhold the latter’s medication.

‘It would be most unwise on your part to attempt to silence me as you silenced M. Ackroyd. That kind of business does not succeed against Hercule Poirot, you understand.’

-The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

An audiobook listen-through of the Poirot canon

For the past several weeks, I’ve been doing a thorough “listen-through” of ALL the Poirot stories. I finished Curtain, again, a few days ago. And wow, what a great time it’s been.  🙂

The audiobooks have been sourced from cassettes, CDs, and Audible (with a heavy preference for CDs, mostly obtained from Book Depository at very good prices). I had listened to the majority of these audiobooks before, sometimes many times, but this time the task was undertaken in a concentrated way and in chronological order. My preference for audiobooks are the ones narrated by David Suchet and Hugh Fraser– not only for the television associations, but because they really are the best, IMHO. They are pleasantly conversational, less stiff than Moffatt, with wonderfully-done voices and a certain “committed insight” into various characters. For the book purist, such audiobooks are ideal for those stories where you encounter disappointment that a TV adaptation failed to include some of your favorite scenes or lines. In this way lies the best of both worlds– the drama, the familiarity of the character voice, and the textual accuracy!  🙂

One can, I believe, do such an audiobook listen-through via Suchet and Fraser for all the Poirot stories with the exception of Murder in Mesopotamia (a novel with a female narrator), Black Coffee (John Moffatt and others), and “Murder in the Mews” (Nigel Hawthorne). HIGHLY recommended, my dear blog readers, is this ridiculously-affordable set of the complete short stories. Because I’m a lunatic, I’ve tracked down short story obscurities (some dating back to 1988!) in order to find both Suchet and Fraser tellings of the same stories– including, for example, “Four and Twenty Blackbirds,” “The Third-Floor Flat,” “The Chocolate Box,” “The Incredible Theft,” “The Lost Mine,” and “The Underdog.”

You can, with some searching, find both Suchet and Fraser narrations of The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Because the overwhelming number of Poirot audiobooks were undertaken by Fraser, who has done astonishingly with the entire Agatha Christie canon, I included the Suchet renditions in my listen-through where possible.

So, where do I begin? I don’t really want to try to “review” everything at once; it would be better to tackle various audiobooks individually in separate posts. But I can give an impression of the whole project and note some highlights…

The scope of a project like this involves tracing book characters over the course of nearly 60 years! To read, or listen through, the series is to begin with Poirot in World War I and to end in the Swinging ’70s. The cultural shifts that take place over the series of Poirot books are enormous. What stood out to me in this is the very consistency of the character of Poirot. He’s a character that remains so uniquely himself amidst the chances and changes of the world, including his approach to detecting crime and his understanding of human nature. By the time you get to Hallowe’en Party and Elephants Can Remember, the characters in the books are both lamenting the changes around them while observing that human nature itself has remained consistent. The consistency of the universe Christie created is lovely, too. Different books make reference to past cases; people in one book are friends or relations of those in another. Recurring characters who work with Poirot, such as Mr Goby or Superintendent Spence, were delightful to trace in this listen-through.

My favorite audiobook? It’s so hard to choose… For Suchet audiobooks, I think I will have to go with Death on the Nile. I *think* that this audiobook, like Murder on the Orient Express and others, was recorded and initially released fairly close to the time the television series was first beginning. (How on EARTH was there time???) Death on the Nile, like other Suchet readings, is notable for its seriously impressive range of character voices. Christie introduces very many characters, but has the gift of making them distinct in a few brief descriptions and in unique manners of speech. How so many voices can be kept track of for a read-through absolutely boggles the mind. This reading of Death on the Nile is also notable for bringing out a good deal of laugh-out-loud humor alongside the more serious, angsty notes. Joanna Southwood, Mrs Otterbourne, Mrs Van Schuyler, and Mr Ferguson are memorably hilarious.

My favorite Hugh Fraser audiobook is even harder to choose, as there are so many more. I will say that I found this reading of Curtain to be particularly memorable– especially the penultimate chapter. The entire novel is incredibly sad, and even more obviously so when listened to, and again more so when listened to at the end of the entire book series! The audiobook appears to have been recorded at least a full decade before the final episode of the series was filmed and released. It gives one a greater appreciation for the knowledge and experience that went into the culmination of that final production. But to the point of the audiobook– such was the sobering nature of the tale and its telling, that I found myself encountering several moments when I forgot completely that the narrator was telling a story, and really believed I was hearing a first-hand account of a personal experience. What higher praise can I give?

I tend towards the “completist,” so it’s easy for me to recommend read-throughs– or listen-throughs. Currently I’m doing a 2018 read-through of the complete Shakespeare. These sorts of projects give such a good sense of scope and perspective. Audiobooks makes projects of this kind easier than ever, as you can bike, commute, etc as you listen.

Dead Man’s Folly vs. Greenshore Folly, and the mystery they solve together

As many Poirot fans know, Christie’s novel Dead Man’s Folly began its life in a different format: a novella called Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly. This 1954 story was intended as a fundraiser for Christie’s church, but it was never originally published as such, and the similarly-titled Miss Marple story “Greenshaw’s Folly” was used for the fundraiser instead. Christie fleshed out her Poirot novella and it became Dead Man’s Folly, published in 1956.

Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly was finally published in 2014, in a cute little hardcover edition with lovely artwork from Tom Adams. I was eager to read it and see how it compared with Dead Man’s Folly. (Spoilers to follow!)

The overall plot and much of the content were identical. The first chapter of GF reads almost verbatim as Chapter I, Part I of DMF. After that, the “missing content” became much more evident, and those familiar with the novel DMF will notice that most of the interesting, character-probing dialog between Poirot and the various suspects is nowhere to be found. The sub-plot with the Legges’ personal and political difficulties is gone, as is the majority of the police investigation, including their run-ins with Hattie’s visiting cousin. The murder of Marlene doesn’t actually take place until about two-thirds of the way through the novella.

There are also several name and character changes. “Nasse House, Nassecombe” was originally “Greenshore House, Lapton.” Etienne de Sousa was “Paul Lopez,” red-headed Sally Legge had been a blonde “Peggy Legge” (an incredibly fortunate change, one feels), Captain Warburton was “Warborough,” and Merdell was “Merdle.” The rest of the Tucker family, including Marlene’s sister, disappear entirely. Mrs Legge takes the name of Esmerelda instead of Zuleika for her fortune-telling persona, after all. 🙂

There are a few more interesting alterations. In the short novella, the girl hiker persona adopted by the false Hattie had not only the chestnut curls and the peasant scarf, but also spectacles. (Nerdy side-note: Poirot speaks both French and Italian, so if he had wanted to share a few words with the Italian signorina who was hitching a ride in his car, he could have done so. DMF makes it sound like there’s an insuperable language barrier there. But anyway…)

In the novella and unlike the final novel, Poirot actually recommends Mrs Oliver to the police as a suspect, in order to be properly thorough! 😀

There is a bit of shifted dialog between GF and DMF when Poirot and Hattie are discussing Devonshire. In the original novella, Hattie asks Poirot if he likes Devonshire; he replies that it is nice in the daytime, but that there aren’t any nightclubs! This dialog is swapped for the characters in the final novel, which seems rather more in keeping with the characteristics of Poirot and Hattie.

But of all the differences, there was one really fascinating detail that stood out to me, and helped me to make sense of a bit of Dead Man’s Folly that I’d never really understood. In the novel, there is a part of Poirot’s denouement where, speaking with Mrs Folliat, he says: “…When you talked of ‘Hattie,’ you were talking of *two different people*– one a woman you disliked who would be ‘better dead,’ and against whom you warned me ‘not to believe a word she said’– the other a girl of whom you spoke in the past tense, and whom you defended with a warm affection.” I had never understood where Poirot was getting the “better dead” comment, because Mrs Folliat never tells him anything like that in DMF. BUT! In Greenshore Folly, Mrs Folliat says the following: “Oh! How I hope that she will never come back” and “It would be better if she were dead– so much better.”

Mystery solved! Mrs Folliat’s words somehow didn’t make the edit into Dead Man’s Folly (not my edition, anyway), so we only have vestiges of that original bit of GF hinted at in the novel. (Interestingly, in Greenshore Folly, Poirot never does point out to Mrs Folliat that she herself gave him the clue to Hattie by seeming to describe her as two different people.)

Greenshore Folly is an interesting read for the Poirot completist– but Dead Man’s Folly certainly comes across as the properly-edited and expanded form of the story, especially when it comes to points of crucial character development. The artwork and the added notes appended to the novella are as much worth the price of admission as the rest of it. 🙂

Cinema Sins does Murder on the Orient Express

Cinema Sins is a YouTube channel that runs a “counter” and commentary on various plot holes, goofs, weirdness, or just bad moves in various films. They title their projects “Everything Wrong With [film title] in [number] Minutes or Less” (with a spoiler warning). They are frequently spot-on in analysis, sometimes a little more ornery than is called for, and always hilarious. Bad language is bleeped out, but if they’re really annoyed, there will be much bleeping. As a channel, probably not advised for younger viewers.

Anyway, their Murder on the Orient Express (a la Branagh) commentary can be seen here. Some of the queries that they dock points for do have legitimate explanations, such as why the handkerchief and pipe cleaner were dropped or why the train was chosen as the setting for the murder, but it may be that these things weren’t explained well, or at all, in the film. Anyway, there is much to agree with here. I almost choked on my drink at “Deus Ex-Bouchina.”  😀 😀 😀

Death on the Nile quilt top

I’ve made another Poirot-themed quilt top, because what better theme for a cozy lap quilt than a cozy mystery to read or watch while cuddled up on the sofa? 🙂

My Poirot projects all seem to share similar color schemes: black, white, red, neutrals. The “square” motif is, of course, a given when it comes to Poirot-themed quilting. 🙂  Most of the fabrics you see here are custom designs made at Spoonflower, which is a brilliant company for those who like to make highly-specialized theme projects. My own Spoonflower design– the “Poirot words” fabrics in the four corners– is a personal favorite and is ubiquitous in my Poirot sewing projects.

“The Chocolate Box” and Curtain: a compare/contrast

***SPOILERS for both stories!***

In Christie’s Poirot canon, one of the most obvious side-by-side story comparisons one can do is The Mysterious Affair at Styles and Curtain. Christie herself, in Curtain, takes pains to point out the similarities between the first and the last of the Poirot novels. In this way, she brings Poirot “full circle.”

A less-obvious comparison might be “The Chocolate Box” and Curtain. But again, we have a matter of extremes: “The Chocolate Box” is the earliest chronological case that we ever hear about, when Poirot is a policeman in Belgium, while Curtain is the final case of Poirot’s life. You mightn’t think it at first– and I don’t suggest that this was all deliberate on Christie’s part– but there are some really unique points shared in these stories. Let’s do a little compare/contrast! 🙂

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-In each story, there is a “big reveal” murderer who is a sympathetic figure (Madame Déroulard, Poirot). This person has killed the “secondary” murderer (a villain) out of beneficence: to avenge untraceable murder and to protect future victims. We only discover how dirty the secondary murderer played when the big reveal comes.

-Each of these involve the rare cases of Poirot stories in which murderers get away with their crime without the general public ever knowing. And yet, in Christie (as Poirot often states), no murderer ever really gets away with it. The author is scrupulously fair and is careful when working in her contingencies. Both murderers are sick and elderly– they ARE going to die imminently regardless, long before a trial could ever be held for them. This also happens in “Dead Man’s Mirror,” and is a tactic Christie sometimes uses when the reader is especially sympathetic to the killer. The killer pays for their crime in a way and has a reckoning, but without being exposed to public disgrace. As a contrast, the sick, elderly killers in each story have this difference: as per Christie, Poirot allows nature to take its course with his death, not wishing to become the sort of egomanic, brilliant vigilante murderer that his own nature could have succumbed to. (Sorry, TV adaptation, but I don’t buy the idea that refraining from the amyl nitrite was itself “suicide remorse” and an attempt to avoid the hangman; I give my reasoning here.) Madame D. has not (as far as we know!) orchestrated her own impending death.

-Comparing and contrasting motive and struggle: Poirot and Madame D. are both devout Catholics. There is some measure of religious motivation in the murder of “TCB,” but none in Curtain. (Although I think an excellent paper could be written about Norton as satanic archetype, and how Poirot’s unusual line in the TV adaption about wanting to “damn him to hell” works well along those lines. That’s another blog post…) There is, however, faith-centered soul-searching going on with both characters, and given visual cred in the TV episodes. There is both a personal and a communal– even nation-wide– threat that the villains present to those who eventually murder them. The “last straw” for each of the beneficent killers is, you might say, when things get personal with new, would-be threats to loved ones that are both physical and existential. Paul D. not only killed a woman’s body (his wife), but aims to kill another’s soul (Virginie). Likewise, Norton goes after Hastings as a victim by not only attempting to pin murder and its fatal consequences on him, but by what Poirot sees as a real corruption and distortion of Hastings’ own essence, which is not that of a killer. Also, Poirot and Madame D. are each burdened with the contemplation that in refraining from action, they themselves had complicity with the villains’ murders. Only Madame D. had seen and knew of her son’s murder of his wife, but she was powerless to bring him to justice, as no one would believer her. Only Poirot had the deductive powers to perceive Norton’s game, but was likewise powerless to bring him to justice and (more importantly) to protect his many innocent victims.

-You could say, therefore, that both the beginning and the end of Poirot’s detective career as we know it are stories of failures. There is a sense in which Curtain is a “success,” insofar as Poirot’s plan is carefully weighed, flawlessly executed, and intellectually satisfying. But it is certainly not a happy triumph, but more of a sad inevitability, perceived as a lesser-of-two-evils necessity. This is ironic when one considers how the rest of Poirot’s career reads as unbroken success. What the failures in these two stories reveal is the character’s relation to humility. In “TCB,” Poirot has a humorously short-lived brush with modesty, asking Hastings to say “chocolate box” as a cure for any future conceit on his part. In my opinion, the issue of modesty and humility really finds its full circle for Poirot from “TCB” to Curtain. A contrast between the characters is that Madame D. confesses with her head held high, perfectly willing to answer for her murder before the good God. Poirot, faced with limited options for justice and the protection of the innocent in Curtain, gives in to murder, but does so without such certainly of rectitude and justification. His appeal is to God’s mercy.

-The medication used as a poison in “TCB” was trinitrin, a medicinal form of nitroglycerin that relieves angina pain and is used with various heart conditions. In Curtain, Poirot uses amyl nitrite, a similar substance, as treatment for his angina. The application of the heart med is what kills the victim in “TCB”; the withholding of the heart med seems instrumental to the acceleration of the hero’s death in Curtain. Paul D. was thought to have died of heart failure, which Virginie strongly disbelieves on account of his otherwise excellent health. Poirot actually does die of a heart attack, and no one but Hastings seems to suspect foul play, and that only because Poirot was after the killer, X.

-Let’s talk about the role of chocolate! John Wilson’s tiny trinitrin tablets, used by the murderer were made of chocolate, presumably to disguise the awful taste. Drugged chocolate kills the victim in “TCB.” Drugged chocolate saves Hastings from worse than death in Curtain; it also incapacitates Poirot’s victim!

-Virginie M. and Elizabeth Cole have special roles in their respective stories. Each have a personal intuition that something is not quite right with a past death. Virginie asks Poirot to investigate Paul D.’s death, suspecting murder; Elizabeth Cole confides in Hastings that somehow, she always felt that “it wasn’t Margaret,” her sister, who killed their father. In the TV adaptation TCB, Poirot introduces Virginie (unknowingly) to her future husband. In Curtain, Poirot deliberately introduces Elizabeth Cole to Hastings and later encourages a match.

-In the TV adaptation TCB, Virginie gives a very Judith-like spiel to Saint-Alarde (trying to entrap him) about how some murders are morally justifiable if it means saving others.

-Both stories, including their dramatizations, show Poirot sneaking around houses to burgle and whatnot. This is ALWAYS fun. 🙂

-This might sound trivial, but it is still significant in the adaptations: Poirot’s definite lack of extra padding in both stories, due to either youth or old age. And some significant scene contrasts: just watch Poirot booking it down the stairs of his apartment building in TCB, compared to being carried down the staircase by Curtiss in Curtain!

-Both stories in their televised adaptations are notable for their emphases on Poirot’s loneliness. Not only is he forced to act in a lone-wolf capacity as an investigator due to the unique nature of the cases, but his lack in the area of personal relationships is hard to miss as well.

-Finally, both stories share a factor that sets them apart from all other Poirot stories: a substantial, first-person narrative confession to Hastings. The story “The Lost Mine” also contains a long first-person narrative of Poirot’s, but it is not a confession of error or wrongdoing.