'There are moments when I have felt: Why-Why-Why did I ever invent this detestable, bombastic, tiresome little creature? ...Eternally straightening things, eternally boasting, eternally twirling his moustaches and tilting his egg-shaped head... I point out that by a few strokes of the pen... I could destroy him utterly. He replies, grandiloquently: "Impossible to get rid of Poirot like that! He is much too clever."'
The star of thirty-three books and fifty-six short stories by Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot is one of the most famous fictional detectives in the world. Rightly so, he would say, being also one of the most conceited. His curiously elongated career lasted from 1916 to 1975, although he was at retirement age when it began. This would make him at least 110 when it ended.Originally a Belgian police detective, he became a refugee when the World War I broke out and ended up in the tiny English village of Styles St. Mary. Naturally, while he was there, someone was murdered. It was, Poirot later admitted, quite a common occurrence around him. Solving The Mysterious Affair at Styles revitalized him, however, and he embarked on a career as a private detective.Fastidiously neat, we'd today diagnose him with OCD.Notable associates of his include: Captain Arthur Hastings, war veteran, secretary and later Argentinian farmer; Ariadne Oliver, irritatingly popular mystery novelist; the Countess Vera Rossakoff, possibly an aristocratic Russian refugee, most definitely a talented conwoman; Miss Felicity Lemon, a most efficient secretary; and of course any number of solid, even stolid, English policemen who good-naturedly allow him to take over their crime scenes. After all, Mr Parrot's only a Funny Foreigner. What harm could it do?Many different actors have played Poirot on screen. Peter Ustinov gained some fame for his many appearances as the character in the 1970s and 1980s, Albert Finney was nominated for an Oscar for playing him in 1974, but nowadays the definitive portrayal is believed to be David Suchet's Poirot (though ironically, he first played Inspector Japp in the 1985 adaptation of Lord Edgware Dies before taking the role of Poirot).
Celibate Hero: Poirot does not have a romantic relationship over the course of his literary career. He expresses a strong admiration for Countess Vera Rossakoff, but Christie does not pursue a relationship between them.
Gambit Roulette / Gambit Pileup: The Big Four, where most of the plans (on both sides) counted on their victims seeing through one layer of deception but not one another. Achille Poirot's role also counts.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Poirot frequently plays the dotty old man to disarm suspects, making them more vulnerable to his questioning. He also uses his accent to this purpose, as he explains in Three-Act Tragedy:
"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."
Poirot Speak: Naturellement. Although it's usually justified as being part of an Obfuscating StupidityFunny Foreigner act; Poirot actually speaks very good English, but people tend to let their guard down around someone who doesn't even seem to speak the language clearly.
Sarcastic Devotee: Captain Hastings, at times. Hastings relates a story where (in a shout out to Sherlock Holmes) Poirot failed to solve a mystery involving a box of chocolates. After that affair, Poirot tells Hastings that if he ever acts too conceited, he should use the words "chocolate box" to bring him down a peg. Poirot isn't amused when Hastings uses the code words a minute and a quarter later.
Starbucks Skin Scale: In "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding", there is a young man from an unnamed Eastern country who has a "coffee-coloured face".
Super OCD: Some books hinted at this, but of course, that's what makes him a good detective.
Poirot's insistence on symmetry and neatness, to the point of rearranging ornaments on a stranger's masterpiece, in one case directly leads him to the solution.
Poirot's Super OCD helps solve the mystery of a book he wasn't even in (Towards Zero), when his friend Superintendent Battle looks at something asymmetric and thinks about how much that would have bugged Poirot.
Twist Ending: As Agatha Christie is widely considered one of the masters of the Twist Ending, this is to be expected; several of the Poirot novels are even claimed to have invented some notable twist endings.
Under The Mistletoe: Poirot, of all people, gets caught under mistletoe in "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding", on account of being too busy exercising his little grey cells to notice where he's standing. He doesn't seem to mind the result.
Villainous Breakdown: The murderers in Sad Cypress and Mrs. McGinty's Dead both experience rather dramatic ones.
The Watson: Captain Hastings in the early novels, a variety of one-shot characters in the later books.
What an Idiot: Several stories have the twist ending that the apparent victim or bystander who first called Poirot in actually committed the crime, and wanted Poirot there so the police would assume if he couldn't solve it, no-one could. This despite the fact that Poirot's cases get published in-universe so they should know that this never works.
Where It All Began: The final novel, Curtain, not only returns to the location of the first, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, but for good measure reunites Poirot and Hastings as well.