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Literature / Hercule Poirot

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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.note 

Originally a Belgian police detective, he became a refugee when 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 OCPD.

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 played him five times 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 (amusingly, he first played Inspector Japp in the 1985 adaptation of Lord Edgware Dies). Kenneth Branagh introduced his own interpretation in 2017 and intends to continue his own cinematic run as the Belgian. On television, John Malkovich took on the role for the BBC in 2018, playing a bearded Poirot in an adaptation of The ABC Murders.


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    Novels in this series 

Tropes featured in this series include:

  • Adaptation Decay: In-universe in Mrs McGinty's Dead, Ariadne Oliver works on a theatre adaptation of her book, and complains that the characters are completely changed. (Ironically, in real life, Agatha Christie's main complaint about early stage adaptations of her plays was that they stuck too closely to the books, as she felt that a murder mystery should surprise people.)
  • Always Murder: Most of the stories with occasional aversions. Lampshaded in "Dead Man's Mirror":
    Riddle: "As you are on the scene, it probably would be murder!"
    For a moment Poirot smiled.
    Poirot: "I hardly like that remark."
  • Always Someone Better: There is, of course, no one better than Hercule Poirot. Not even his brother Achille. Who doesn't exist. Poirot often swoops in as the Always Someone Better to various other sleuths, though in something of a subversion he generally gives great credit to the intelligence, diligence, and capability to the police force (as a former detective in the Belgian police himself) and is quick to correct the common British notion of the policeman as being stolid and slightly stupid.
  • Animal Motifs: Poirot's fastidious nature, his clever scheming, love of personal comfort, perception of fine details, and green eyes have all led him to be compared to a cat, often by Hastings.
  • Badass Moustache: Agatha Christie liked the 1974 adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, and had but a single complaint: Albert Finney's mustache wasn't magnificent enough! Subverted in The Big Four and Curtain, in which Poirot has shaved his mustache to pretend to be someone else.
  • Bluffing the Authorities: In the story The Stymphalian Birds, an English diplomat accidentally kills a young woman's jealous husband while on vacation in Central Europe. The woman's mother knows how things happen around there and is certain that everything can be smoothed over with enough bribery, including a police officer who came by the hotel. However, it's all a scam (including the "death" of the husband, who was in fact the mother in disguise); banking on the fact that the diplomat didn't speak the language, the women had called the cop about missing jewelry.
  • Book-Ends: The novel Curtain is this for the whole Poirot cycle — the plot takes place in the same location as The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the first book in the cycle.
  • Brain Fever: In The Murder on the Links, Jack Renauld collapses with fever, which Hercule Poirot attributes to the shock of being disowned on top of ongoing mental strain following the death of his father. By the time of The Big Four, however, Christie has a doctor dismiss brain fever as an invention of writers.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Charles and Theresa Arundell from Dumb Witness frequently scheme to squeeze money out from their aunt. Exemplified in the TV adaptation, which Adapted Out Theresa's fiance, leaving the two to work together more often.
  • Busman's Holiday: Multiple times, sometimes lampshaded. For instance, Murder on the Orient Express, when he finds himself involved in a murder mystery while traveling home from solving another (and to another).
  • Cassandra Truth: There are several stories/novels where Poirot attempts to dissuade someone from following their chosen course of actions, telling them that it'll only end badly for them even if they manage to achieve their goals. His warnings are not listened to, and the person is duly caught in the end.
  • Catchphrase: Once per Episode, Poirot will invoked his "little grey cells". If not, someone else will.
  • Chemically-Induced Insanity: The Cretan Bull (part of The Labours of Hercules): the "bull" in this case is a huge and energetic young man named Hugh who is suffering from hallucinations and sometimes wakes up with bloodied hands and the news that animals have been found butchered nearby. As his family has a history of congenital madness, he's afraid of going off the deep end and resolves to commit suicide when he thinks he's close to harming his fiancé. He's perfectly sound in mind, the hallucinations being produced by drugs in his shaving cream. The actual madman is his father- or rather, his mother's husband, who does suffer from the family insanity and resolved to drive Hugh to suicide in revenge, having murdered his wife years ago. He shoots himself once found out.
  • Christmas Episode: The novel Hercule Poirot's Christmas and the short story "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (a.k.a. The Theft of the Royal Ruby)".
  • Clear Their Name:
    • Poirot himself is suspected of murdering Madame Giselle in Death in the Clouds after the real killer plants a poison blow pipe, of all things, beside his seat.
    • In Mrs. McGinty's Dead, Poirot works to clear the name of a man accused of murdering the titular victim before he's hanged, as a favour to the local superintendent who doesn't feel right about the verdict, in spite of the evidence he himself collected.
    • Five Little Pigs offers a postmortem version, where the daughter of Carolyn Crale, convicted of murdering her artist husband Amyas sixteen years before the story began, hires Poirot to prove her mother's innocence. Poirot has to work backwards, comparing the differing accounts of five witnesses who were at the house the day of the murder.
  • Comic-Book Time: Poirot is supposedly old and retired in the early 1920s, but is still detecting over forty years later, as Third Girl is explicitly set in Swinging '60s London.
  • Death in the Clouds: The 1935 novel of that title is the Trope Namer. A wealthy moneylender is killed with a poisoned dart aboard a flight from Paris to London, with Poirot himself among the suspects.
  • Deconstructive Parody: "The Veiled Lady" is a literary Shot-for-Shot Remake of the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton", but with an extra Twist Ending.
  • Demoted to Extra: As Christie's dislike towards Poirot increased, his importance in the cases began to diminish as well. Many of Poirot's later novels actually feature very little of the Belgian detective, where he would have minimal involvement in the plot and only served to Info Dump the solution of the mystery during the denouement. Some examples include Cat Among the Pigeons, where Poirot only shows up in the last third of the books, and The Clocks, where he barely exists outside the reveal.
  • Eureka Moment: Poirot will often say such things as "Ah, the light shines on the case" when he discovers a vital clue that leads to his solving the case.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: The astute reader should be able to keep up. Part of the way at the very least.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Nigel Chapman in Hickory Dickory Dock does what is called "double-bluffing". Numerous other examples are described on their respective work pages.
  • 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. Poirot's brother Achille's role also counts in the sense that he's a complete fabrication on Poirot's part.
  • Genteel Interbellum Setting: The novels began in 1920 and lasted till 1975. A majority of them have this setting in mind, with their upper-class casts and manor house backdrops.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • "Gay" and "queer" are frequently used in their old meanings of "happy" and "peculiar". In Hercule Poirot's Christmas, one of the supporting characters is from Spain, and frequently wonders why the English don't seem to be "gay".
    • One of the novels involving Poirot is called Dumb Witness, with "dumb" as in "mute".
  • He Knows Too Much: The surest way for an Agatha Christie character to sign his own death warrant is by attempting to blackmail a killer. Amberiotis of One, Two, Buckle My Shoe learned this the hard way. Also goes for anyone who didn't know that they knew anything significant (such as Celia from Hickory Dickory Dock), or who didn't know the whole story but knew something vital (like Miss Johnson from Murder in Mesopotamia). It happens twice in Death on the Nile to the maid and Mrs. Otterbourne. Basically, if you're in an Agatha Christie novel, you'd better hope and pray that you either don't have a major part, don't find anything out, aren't confided to by anyone; or if you do find something out, you know how to keep your mouth shut.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: In The Hollow Dr. John Christow has finally gotten closure on the love affair he fled years before, and has an epiphany about how much of a jerk he's been to the women in his life. He resolves to atone for his past behavior—and is promptly shot to death.
  • Hereditary Curse: In The Lemesurier Inheritance, the Lemesurier family had a curse since medieval times that no first-born son would ever inherit. The curse was caused by Baron Hugo who walled up his wife and son after suspecting her of being unfaithful and that his son was not his (the wife was later proven innocent). The wife in response cursed the Baron and his descendants before she died.
  • Idiot Ball: Beautiful women tend to have this effect on Hastings (such as leaving one alone among critical evidence in The Murder on the Links...)
  • Incriminating Indifference:
    • Subverted in Hickory Dickory Dock. Nigel Chapman, after Patricia is found dead, is incredibly upset, and because of this, the police say that he can't be the killer. Poirot points out that his tears were indeed genuine, and probably more so because he loved her and had to kill her.
    • Used unexpectedly in "Problem at Sea": This trope is in play, not after the murder, but before it. The saintly way the Asshole Victim's husband put up with her behaviour incriminates him after her murder — everyone wondered how he could be so patient with the awful woman. The truth was, he'd already worked out how to kill her.
    • Played with in The Murder on the Links, where the victim's wife initially appears suspiciously calm about her husband's disappearance, only to completely break down when called upon to identify his body in such a way that removes any possible doubt that she could have been involved in his death. Poirot is confused but then later realises that the husband had planned to fake his death and the wife was in on it. She was initially playing it cool because she thought it was all part of the plan, but when she saw his body she was utterly horrified to realise that someone actually had murdered him before he could finish faking his death.
  • Insistent Terminology: Hercule will always remind people he is not French, nor German. He is a proud Belgian.
  • Inspector Lestrade: Various officers fall into the role of policeman as sidekick and Watson depending on the novel, some of them recurring such as Superintendents Spence and Battle, but Poirot's most frequent collaborator is Inspector (later Chief Inspector, later Commissioner) James Japp. In something of a Reconstruction, while Poirot is Always Someone Better, both Christie and Poirot himself take pains to point out that Scotland Yard's men are far from stupid, and in most cases they are more than sufficient to the task. But they are heavily taxed by the sheer number of crimes they have to solve, and the cases Poirot solves in the books are often somewhat difficult even for him to untangle, and often rely on manipulations and experiments rather than hard evidence, meaning that working as a private citizen there are avenues of investigation open to Poirot that would simply be outside the law as far as an actual police officer is concerned.
  • It's for a Book: Poirot feels that if one must tell lies, they should be excellent lies.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Christie's novels occasionally revealed the solutions of previous works, a habit which vexed her publishers. For instance, in Cards on the Table, Poirot makes a reference to the solution to Murder on the Orient Express. The reference is very subtle, but enough to spoil it for someone who has not yet read that novel. Even worse, in Dumb Witness, Poirot casually mentions the names of the guilty parties from four previous novels in a single sentence. Seriously spoilers, these are the names (Evelyn Howard, Norman Gale, Doctor Shepard, and Major Nighton).
  • Long-Runners: Fifty-five years' worth of bestselling novels isn't bad.
  • Malicious Slander: Poirot's main motivation for solving crimes involves protecting the innocent from this.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: In the end of The Lemesurier Inheritance, Poirot is strongly implying that Ronald Lemesurier's real father is John Gardiner, secretary to Hugo Lemesurier, based on the similarity in hair color of Ronald and John.
  • Market-Based Title: Several of the novels had their titles changed for their US editions, for cultural reasons (US readers wouldn't know what a mews was, so the collection Murder in the Mews was titled Dead Man's Mirror after a different story in the collection), or to avoid consumer confusion (Murder on the Orient Express was changed to Murder in the Calais Coach because a mystery novel by the title of Orient Expressnote  had come out in the US that same year). The editions currently in print have restored the original British titles.
  • Masquerading As the Unseen: In The Big Four, one of the Four is a Master of Disguise. One of those disguises is an old Russian chessmaster, back from the gulags after many years of harsh treatments. The actual guy died in the gulags, and the Four are impersonating him to snatch up his huge inheritance.
  • Medication Tampering: In Dumb Witness, the victim’s liver pills are doctored with phosphorus. The hint is given by the ‘aura’ seen around the woman: the phosphorescence of her breath.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: "Triangle At Rhodes" has two. Marjorie Gold and Tony Chantry want to get married, but they're both already married. They decide to fix this problem by orchestrating a pretend love triangle between Tony, Marjorie's husband Douglas and Tony's wife Valentine, and then killing Valentine, making it look as though Douglas did it while trying to kill Tony, and letting Douglas be hanged for it. Unluckily for them, Poirot sees through it.
  • Mushroom Samba: In "The Flock of Geryon", one of the protagonists infiltrating the cult has what she believes to be a genuine religious experience; it turns out later that one of the cult's rituals involves secretly dosing the followers with liquid THC.
  • Noodle Incident: Poirot's vacation in Istanbul is cut short by a telegram alerting him of a development in the "Kassner case" in London, prompting him to book a trip home on the next Orient Express. We all know how that turned out, but never learned any further information about the Kassner case itself.
  • Out-Gambitted: Poirot is a master at foiling the murderer's Evil Plan.
  • Poirot Speak: Naturellement. Although it's usually justified as being part of an Obfuscating Stupidity Funny 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.
  • Put on a Bus: Hastings would make his last regular appearance in Dumb Witness, retiring to his farm in Argentina. He would not return again until Curtain.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Madame! WHO DO YOU THINK KILLED YOUR HUSBAND?", from Lord Edgware Dies.
  • Retcon: The Murder on the Links gives Hastings a love interest named Dulcie Duveen, whom he eventually marries. When he mentions his wife in a later book, Hastings calls his wife "Bella", who is actually Dulcie's twin sister and the fiancee of Jack Renaud.
  • Serial Killings, Specific Target: Three Act Tragedy and The ABC Murders.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare:
    • Taken at the Flood (and, of course, its US title There Is a Tide...) is a reference to Marcus Brutus' line from William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: "There is a tide in the affairs of men / Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune" (IV, iii).
    • In Curtain, Poirot leaves behind two clues upon his death, one of them being Othello, which indicates the identity of the serial killer as Stephen Norton, the False Friend and Manipulative Bastard who fits the characteristics of Iago in that play.
    • And on a related note, according to the obituary on the August 6, 1975 edition of The New York Times, Poirot misquotes Shakespeare in the play Macbeth, whose actual line is spoken by Prince Malcolm to his father Duncan regarding the execution of the thane of Cawdor (and the same line holds true of the great Belgian detective): "Nothing in his life / Became him like the leaving it" (I, iv).
  • Society Marches On:
    • As the novels went on, from the '50s and into the '60s, Poirot becomes increasingly disillusioned with 'pop' culture and perceived coarseness of the younger generation.
    • In "The Capture Of Cerberus", the short story begins with Poirot on a subway looking at how mousy and uncaring people are about their appearance, and misses when women in his opinion were flamboyant and elegant.
  • Starbucks Skin Scale: In "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (a.k.a. The Theft of the Royal Ruby)", there is a young man from an unnamed Eastern country who has a "coffee-coloured face".
  • Spiteful Suicide: "Wasp's Nest" has a man named Harrison plot to destroy a romantic rival's life by committing suicide and making it look like a murder (Harrison has terminal cancer anyway). Fortunately, over the course of a conversation with him (having anticipated the plot), Poirot is able to switch out the poison with baking soda, ending with the would-be murderer tearfully thanking Poirot.
  • Stealth Insult: In Death in the Clouds Poirot muses bitterly that his travel sickness means that when travelling "he has no little grey cells, he is reduced to a normal human being of rather below average intelligence" and then immediately segues into asking after Giraud, his rival from Murder on the Links.
  • Stopped Clock: Subverted in at least two Poirot stories, where a smashed watch is found at the scene to give a false time for the crime.
  • Strictly Formula: Every Poirot novel has a character at some point say/think 'The man's a mountebank,' 'The old man's gaga, of course,' or 'Well, he's just a foreigner,' only to be promptly proven wrong.
  • Taking the Heat: Done numerous times to provide red herrings.
    • In Appointment with Death, the Boyntons all lie about their final encounters with the victim, the family matriarch. Each had their own ideas about who the murderer is, and lied to protect the other. None of them were the murderer. The killer was someone outside the family
    • In The Hollow, everyone seem to deliberately go out of their way to bring suspicion to themselves to divert the attention away from the most obvious suspect. She turned out to be the murderer. However, the others tried to protect her out of family obligations.
  • Take That!: In Death in the Clouds, one character (a novelist) says that the Sherlock Holmes stories are overrated and filled with logical fallacies.
  • Theme Naming: Hercule's brother appears briefly in The Big Four and is named "Achille" but is subsequently revealed to be fictional, created as a ploy on Poirot's part.
  • Trademark Favourite Food: It's not particularly emphasised, but Poirot likes his hot chocolate and his omelettes. Also parodied in Death in the Clouds, where a writer of detective fiction mentions that his own detective creation is always eating bananas, both because he did it once and the fans liked it, and also because that's something the author himself does.
  • Trip Trap: In Dumb Witness, the victim is believed to have fallen down a staircase after tripping over a dog's chewtoy. Poirot, however, discovers the remains of a tripwire on the top step, a clue that points to murder.
  • 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 (a.k.a. The Theft of the Royal Ruby)", 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.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Like Columbo, Poirot counts on people underestimating him thanks to his carefully cultivated Funny Foreigner personality, no matter how famed he may be.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The murderers in Death in the Clouds and Mrs. McGinty's Dead both experience rather dramatic ones.
  • The Watson: Deconstructed in certain books. Poirot's more episodic sidekicks start out eager to see justice done, but are usually ill-prepared for just how diabolical or tragic the perpetrators of the crimes they are helping to solve are.
  • Wham Episode:
    • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, whose controversial solution not only made Christie a household name, but which completely changed the course of detective fiction.
    • Curtain was also considered this given the events of the story. It was part of the reason Christie locked the novel up for 30 years before allowing it to be published shortly before her death.
  • 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.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?: Appointment with Death, Hercule Poirot's Christmas, and many others described on their individual pages (some of which turn out to be subversions).
  • Worthy Opponent: Any villain (identity usually unknown at this point in the story) whom Poirot describes approvingly as 'a man of method' after studying his crime, much to Hastings' annoyance.
  • You Just Told Me: In Death in the Clouds:
    Poirot (confronting the killer, Norman Gale): We found your finger prints on the bottle.
    Gale: You lie! I wore... (trails off, realizing what he just said)
    Poirot: Ah, you wore gloves?
  • You Watch Too Much X: in "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding":
    Poirot surveyed her gravely for some minutes.
    'You see too many sensational films, I think, Annie,' he said at last, 'or perhaps it is the television that affects you?'

Alternative Title(s): Poirot


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