|A sketch of Hercule Poirot|
Hercule Poirot is a Belgian detective, a short, sharp man popularised by Agatha Christie in her many novels. I hadn't read a lot of her books before. Only a couple of Miss Marple books and a handful of general ones. They were fairly enjoyable, till the time I read The Murder on the Orient Express, and getting introduced to Hercule Poirot. I began to think of it as the best Agatha Christie book I'd read! Recently I grabbed Peril at End House and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, wishing to savour some more of Poirot's adventures. I'll talk about these two books in the paras below:
Peril at End House: Hercule Poirot is on a holiday with his loyal friend (read sidekick) Hastings when he meets a young girl called Nick who seems to have had three escapes from death in the last three days. Poirot is intrigued, especially when a shot is attempted at Nick right in front of Poirot! Poirot convinces Nick that she is in danger and she asks him for help. Nick lives in End House, a dilapidated old house left to her by her grandfather. The story goes on to introduce Nick's relatives and friends, all of whom are suspected by Poirot. The result is an intriguing whodunnit that makes a reader's suspicions flow from one character to the next.
I enjoyed reading this book and thinking along Hercule Poirot as developments take place. Sometimes I paused to reflect on the quality of writing, which didn't seem all that great. Add to it the expressions of stereotypes on women, and it became a bit of a bother, but the story nevertheless took over. Perhaps because I had The Murder on the Orient Express to compare with, but I did not find Peril at End House as good as expected. The main character, Nick, seemed too unreal in the way she behaved. Still, I'd give it full points for the OMG factor and the unexpected ending. The minus point? You feel like you HAVE to read the book again to figure out how the crime was committed, but you usually don't have the time for it. And you know this fact.
Buy Peril at End House: Amazon / Flipkart
First published: 1932
As for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, I loved reading it much more than Peril at End House. Roger Ackroyd is apparently one of Christie’s masterpieces. Here, Hercule Poirot has "retired" and gone to live in a small town where he hopes to hide his identity (and ends up being thought of as a retired hairdresser, thanks to his fabulous waxy moustache!). Of course, mysteries follow detectives. Soon, there is a suicide and a murder, and Hercule Poirot is called to help.
This story was interesting right from the beginning. The narrator is one of the townspeople, a doctor, who takes the place of Poirot's friend Hastings (as much as a stranger is capable, that is). The narrator, Dr Sheppard, had been to dine with Roger Ackroyd, one of the rich men in town. Ackroyd had been tense and had wanted to share a secret with Dr Sheppard, but he is prevented from doing so. Later that night the doctor receives a phone call that Ackroyd has been murdered, and a most intriguing story follows.
What with Poirot’s methods of working and so many clues and suspects, the readers just can’t get enough of the story. It’s no wonder the book is considered wonderful. It just is. For a change, I’m quite at a loss for words to describe the book. Towards the end, I began to feel apprehensive about the ending, and I dearly wished it to not be what I thought it would be, and it was a disappointment when it turned out to be exactly what I dreaded. Again, that feeling of wanting to re-read the book!
Buy The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: Amazon
First published: 1926
Poirot seemed to resemble Sherlock in the sense of arriving at the solution by thinking. However, Poirot is a proponent of utilising one's "little grey cells" (of the brain) and has the habit of arriving at the solution by taking into consideration every single truth/fact and going by "method". He is great at human psychology, which makes his problem-solving all the more alluring!
The best thing about these books is how they are so hard to put down! I have never had more than a few hours' break while reading a book by Agatha Christie. It's true even when I find some things tiresome or the writing 'basic'. The story just keeps having interesting developments, which obviously is testimony to the fact that the stories are real gold. They may seem simple on the surface, but I just love how the author plays around with it!
I recommend these books to fans of mystery and crime novels. Now I’m going to read some more Agatha Christie.
PS—Poirot is the only fictional character to be honored with a front page obituary on The New York Times. No wonder!
PPS—The print and text quality of the books that I bought needs to be commented upon. It was so disappointing to find that the text had clearly not been proofread or looked at even once before the book was sent off for printing. Gross errors that greatly put me off while reading: sentences ending in a comma instead of a full stop, sentences with either beginning or ending quote marks missing, words spelled wrongly (weeek instead of week! The name Ursula written 'Ursual'). I'm sure the publishers wouldn't have bothered with it considering the brands--Agatha Christie and HarperCollins. Who would bother with typos? And I wasn't even surprised that the book was "For sale in the Indian subcontinent only". Who else accepts such books?