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Literature / Hercule Poirot's Christmas

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Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (published in the US as Murder for Christmas and A Holiday for Murder) is a 1938 novel by Agatha Christie.

Old, rich and tyrannical Simeon Lee invites his entire Big, Screwed-Up Family for Christmas, leading the family members to become suspicious at this sudden display of generosity and friendship. The suspicions prove to be correct: Simeon only intends to taunt his four sons and their wives, telling them they are utter failures and hinting he is soon going to change his will. The only relative to whom he is genuinely nice is his Spanish granddaughter Pilar, whom he has met for the first time.

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On Christmas Eve, sounds of a fight and a dreadful scream are heard from Simeon’s locked room, and the old man is discovered lying dead in a huge pool of blood with no trace of his killer. Now the entire Lee clan, along with Stephen Farr, a son of Simeon's friend who was visiting as well, and three servants fall under suspicion.

The novel was adapted in 1994 as one of Poirot episodes, released on Christmas Day, and loosely adapted in 2006 as the first episode of Les Petits Meurtres d'Agatha Christie.

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The novel contains examples of:

  • Age-Gap Romance:
    • George’s wife Magdalene is young enough to be his daughter. She cheats on him, and he’s not her first older Meal Ticket.
    • Harry and Stephen are both attracted to the much younger Pilar. She ends up with Stephen.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Simeon Lee cheated on his wife left and right, and she was meek towards him and instead complained all the time to her children.
  • Beneath Suspicion: The policeman in charge of the case is the killer.
  • Black Sheep: Harry abandoned all contact with his family years earlier and is considered a failure by pretty much everyone.
  • Christmas Episode: Poirot on a case during Christmastime. Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Creepy Uncle: Downplayed with Harry Lee, who is very attracted to Pilar and sadly remarks that "pity one can’t marry one’s niece". The girl isn’t his niece, as it turns out. She ends up with Stephen, who also believed himself to be her uncle (well, half-uncle).
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  • Dirty Old Man: Simeon Lee makes lecherous remarks towards his daughters-in-law and happily recalls his youthful exploits at every opportunity.
  • Doting Grandparent: Simeon Lee genuinely likes his granddaughter. It helps that they share an adventurous streak and she enjoys his company too. He never finds out she was an impostor.
  • The Dutiful Son: Alfred is the only son of Simeon’s who lives and puts up with his father. Lampshaded all the time by Harry, who compares Alfred’s dislike of him to the original dutiful son’s irritation about the prodigal son getting welcomed.
  • Fair Cop: Superintendent Sugden is very handsome. He takes after his father Simeon Lee.
  • Foreign Fanservice: Pilar’s exotic allure, a breath of air amongst all the British Stuffiness, is commented upon by several male characters. Most of whom are her close relatives, which is just one of the signs of how screwed up this Big, Screwed-Up Family is. She’s revealed to be unrelated to them, but only in the end.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Alfred is Phlegmatic, George is Choleric, Harry is Sanguine and David is Melancholic.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Pilar frequently wonders why the English don't seem to be "gay" at Christmastime.
  • Impersonation-Exclusive Character:
    • Pilar Estravados is revealed to have been killed a while ago. Her Thrill Seeker friend impersonates her in the novel.
    • Stephen Farr died two years previously. The character introduced under that name is actually Stephen Grant, Simeon Lee’s illegitimate son.
  • Locked Room Mystery: Simeon’s room is locked, with a mess and a bloodbath inside, and there is no evidence of how the killer could have left it unnoticed. It is revealed the murder was committed much earlier than everyone thought – the mess and the dying scream were triggered by the killer pulling a string through the window, and the scream was really the sound of a rubber balloon that came from a prank gift shop and was called "The Dying Pig".
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Alfred, George, David, Harry, and the late Jennifer Lee. Plus their half-brothers Stephen Grant and Superintendent Sugden.
  • Momma's Boy: David worshipped his mother and hates his father for driving her to an early grave. Don’t ever suggest to him that maybe she was also at fault in the marital problems.
  • Murder in the Family: Most of the suspects for Simeon Lee’s murder are his relatives and in-laws. The murderer is Simeon’s son Superintendent Sugden.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Turns out that the girl who posed as Pilar isn't, in fact, niece to Harry and Stephen. She and Stephen get married.
  • Old Retainer: Tressilian the butler has faithfully worked for the Lees for ages.
  • Parenting the Husband: David looks for a mother-figure in his wife Hilda, which enrages her, as she feels she is a mother to him rather than a wife.
  • Spicy Latina: An Old World variation with Pilar, an attractive, vivacious, passionate Spanish woman.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Simeon Lee and his sons resemble each other a lot, so that the old butler Tressilian can get confused between them. Simeon’s illegitimate sons also take after their father.
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