Curtain: Poirot's Last Case
is a 1975 novel by Agatha Christie
, and the final story to feature the detective Hercule Poirot
. It was published in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club. The novel was written by Christie in the 1940s and locked away, as she was unsure of her own survival and wanted a proper conclusion for Poirot. She authorised its release shortly before her death.
The novel returns to the same location as The Mysterious Affair at Styles
, Poirot's first story. The elderly and crippled Poirot tells his old friend Arthur Hastings that one of the guests at the house is a serial killer, whom he calls "X", and he must act quickly to thwart the killer of their prey before it is too late...Curtain
contains examples of the following tropes:
- Acquired Poison Immunity: Hercule Poirot drugs the murderer using his own sleeping pills, which he has been taking for many years. He uses the same gambit as Westley does in The Princess Bride, poisoning both cups while implying that only one cup is poisoned.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: The Luttrells.
- Beneath Suspicion
- Calling the Old Man Out: Judith calls Hastings out on interfering in her life.
- The Chessmaster
- Detective Mole: Poirot, sort of. He committed murder for the best of reasons though.
- Epilogue Letter
- Evil Genius: Norton has perfected the technique for which Iago was famous.
- Evil Plan
- Exact Eavesdropping
- False Friend / Poisonous Friend: Norton, to several characters.
- Flaw Exploitation
- Genteel Interbellum Setting: Averted, as Curtain actually does provide a timeframe for her stories (or at least the ones about Poirot, though this would probably drag a lot of others into the mix as well by proxy due to overlapping characters), placing them in the period of the early 1920s through the early 1940s. This may not always be consistent with the details of all of her stories but at least it's established.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Poirot knew he possessed both the ability and the ego to become the very kind of serial killer he was always working to put behind bars. He deliberately averts this trope by orchestrating his own death, after having committed murder.
- The Hero Dies
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Mrs Franklin, thanks to Hastings' unwitting intervention.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Hastings, and many others.
- It's Personal: Hastings does not take Judith's flirtation with Allerton well. Norton exploits this to induce him to poison him.
- Lampshade Hanging: "I was tired of this silly joking about my 'speaking countenance'. I could keep a secret as well as anyone. Poirot had always persisted in the humiliating belief that I am a transparent character and that anyone can read what is passing in my mind."
- The Last Dance: Poirot, dying of natural causes and dealing with a murderer he could not bring to justice through proof, kills the man himself and then accelerates his own death through medications.
- Manipulative Bastard: Norton is a doozy of an example.
- The Matchmaker: Poirot, again, at the end of the novel.
- May-December Romance: Judith and Dr Franklin.
- Murder by Mistake: Hastings turns around a bookcase, inadvertently swapping Mrs Franklin's coffee cup with a poisoned cup she had prepared for her husband.
- Murder Suicide: Committed by Poirot.
- Necessarily Evil: Poirot sees himself as this.
- Obfuscating Disability: Poirot pretends to be wheelchair-bound, but is in fact still able to walk.
- Papa Wolf: Hastings. Goaded by Norton, he even plots murder in order to save his daughter.
- The Perfect Crime: Even Poirot calls the murderer the perfect murderer, as he could never be tried, couldn't even be connected to the crimes, and gets away with over six murders. In fact, the only way to stop him was to kill him.
- Pretty Little Headshots: Norton. The headshot turns out to be the clue to the identity of Norton's killer: Poirot himself whose legendary fastidiousness caused him to make an unnecessarily symmetrical headshot.
- Rule of Symbolism: The result looks like the traditional interpretation of the brand of Cain.
- Reverse Psychology
- Sissy Villain: Poirot speculates that it was Norton's resentment at his own "sissiness" and people's reactions to it that drove him to villainy.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Poirot himself kills Stephen Norton, in order to prevent him from continuing his string of murders-by-proxy. A string which nearly turned Hastings into one of Norton's dupes. After killing Norton, Poirot lets himself die by not taking his medication.
- Thanatos Gambit: Poirot neatly arranges his own death by putting his medicine out of reach, in order to atone for the murder he committed, leaving behind clues and a letter to Hastings.
- Torch the Franchise and Run: Agatha Christie killed off Hercule Poirot to give the character a definite ending and prevent other writers from writing more books with him after her death. She actually wrote Curtain during World War II, worried about the possibility of being killed in the London Blitz, but as she wasn't, she continued writing for several decades, and Curtain was not published until a few months before her death in 1976.
- Treacherous Advisor
- Unwitting Pawn: Colonel Luttrell, Hastings, and Barbara Franklin.
- Villain with Good Publicity
- Where It All Began: Set at Styles, the location of the first Poirot story.
- Who's Laughing Now?: Norton's backstory implies this.