Tag Archives: Hercule Poirot
Whodunnit? Who Cares?

I haven’t checked for sure, but I think I have sitting on my PVR the last ever episode of Agatha Christie’s “Hercule Poirot” and – spoiler alert – (as if that’s somehow going to abruptly stop you reading this) in it Christie gently kills off our portly, penguin-like hero. Now the TV station will probably go back to bloody Miss Marple episodes – I’d happily kill that irritating woman with one of her own knitting needles (solve that murder, you annoying old tart).

I’m going to miss Poirot. David Suchet’s portrayal of the character was masterful and included subtle, clever hints that his detective genius and incomparable skills of observation were maybe even born from an OCD or Bi-Polar condition (such as a moment he needed to ensure both his boiled eggs were exactly the same size, before he could start breakfast). For us mere mortals watching on, like all the rest of the show’s cast – and, of course, the reader’s of Christie’s novels – there was never a chance we might beat Poirot to the punch. Meaning, figure out who is the killer before he does.

Mind you, I’m not sure we’re meant to. Did Agatha Christie write her novels in such a way that the reader had any hope of identifying the culprit? I’ll admit, it’s a long time since I’ve read any of her work, preferring the TV versions. P.D. James did… sort of. Far be it for me to criticise a doyen of the crime writing business, but I found her books hard work, however I reckon she chucked in a few genuine clues among all those smelly herrings. PDJ is still with us, by the way, aged 93. Maybe she can knock off Miss Marple for me? It’s not like she’ll get sent to jail at her age. Hell, couldn’t she call it research?

Whodunnit? These days, it’s just not on the menu. Crime fiction is all about torture, guilt, self-mutilation, humiliation, near-death experiences, blood, gore and psychopathic problems – and that’s the police who are chasing the criminals. The innocent victims in these stories are pretty much having a Disney holiday compared to the hell our hero detectives are living as they pursue the bad guys.

The modern crime novel tells of the agonising journey our hero undertakes on his/her way to solving the murder and rarely do we actually care who it is, when we get there. It’s almost incidental. Yes, the result is important – does the damsel in distress strapped to the timber mill band-saw escape in the nick of time? But is it any big deal who is revealed at the controls? Not really. Hopefully they’re wearing proper, protective equipment for operating power tools, that’s all. We don’t want to encourage any irresponsible work-place practises.

I’ve written two crime novels and they’ve done well, particularly in Germany (where my enormous publisher has gone bankrupt… aaaaaargh! But it’ll sort itself out). If there is one recurring criticism of my books it’s that the villain was too easy to pick for hard-core crime fans. Why? Because I felt obligated to give them half a chance by dropping apparently not-so-subtle hints in the story. Nowadays, I wouldn’t bother – no one expects it or probably even wants it. It’s more important that my hero is a hypochondriac cripple with a drinking problem. And a dwarf.

By the way, I’m not complaining. When it’s done well, like any good writing, it’s great. I’ve recently discovered Stewart MacBride and read everything he’s ever done as fast as I could get my hands on it. Check out his DS Logan McCrae series of novels but, if you can, try to read them in order. It’s not a continuing storyline – it’s brilliant, darkly funny character development. Don’t worry crime fans, plenty of people get hung, stabbed and shot, too. Nobody just quietly dies.

Like Hercule Poirot did, bless his stumpy little legs and waxed moustache. Maybe I can start watching repeats? Then I can figure out the killer before him – maybe. He solved more than a few crimes in his time and remembering them all…