Reviews: Hercule Poirot

Curtain: Christie fittingly inverts everything to give Poirot his fitting end

Agatha Christie is the complete master of the mystery novel, to the extent where everyone else seeks to write one mystery novel of her calibre, she can write them as standard and continually create whole new aspects of the genre when she wants. Things like the The ABC Murders, Murder On The Orient Express and Cards On The Table where there are no clues at all, just four murderers sitting at a bridge table with anyone having the capacity and the motive to kill their host, who now sits dead beside them. Curtain deserves to sit along side these as their equal or even master.

Christie wrote this during the war, possibly in fear of her own death and wanting to give Hercule Poirot a fitting end, and then she waited for 30 years until her health had failed and she knew she could write no more before she let it be published. And it works, there has never been such a great and fitting end to a long standing detective. It makes Sherlock's final battle with Moriarty look like a complete piece of hack.

I tried this time, I really did. I was smart and clever, I spotted twists, uncovered traps, carefully eliminated suspects and reasoned through the story, I wasn't playing a game of evidence but the story itself, trying to divine what could be a fitting end. I was determined that for once I was going to win, for this one final book with all the analysis I could bring to it and yet finally when the last pages turned I had to concede defeat. There is no beating Agatha.

Curtains is a lot more philosophical than many mysteries have been as well. There are a lot of genuine touches of character and themes of the past, happiness and most of all ends and beginnings, instead of everything just being a frame for the puzzle.

And what a puzzle! Everything is turned upside down. Poirot knows the murderer already (although we and Hastings don't)! He commits perfect murders, where there is only one possible suspect who everyone acknowledges did it, and yet it's not him. We reside again in Stiles, where everything started, rather than solve a murder we try to prevent one. Instead of seeking him, we seek his victims. Who does everyone believe might well be murdered by someone else?

And then there is a finale as a testament to the might of Hercule Poirot and his perfect nemesis. I will not spoil for you how this turns out.