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The Role of Famed Detective Hercule Poirot

2nd May 2017
He made his appearance not at all in the manner he himself would have wished! ‘Hercule Poirot first’ he would have said, ‘and then a plot to display his remarkable talents to the best advantage.
Agatha Christie on Hercule Poirot

In 1920, a star in the form of an ‘extraordinary-looking little man…hardly more than five feet four inches’ with a head ‘exactly the shape of an egg’ was introduced to the world in Agatha Christie’s story, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. His name was Hercule Poirot.

Christie’s first book was a success, and so was her newly appointed detective who her publisher recommended that she employed again for her third novel, The Murder on the Links. Hercule Poirot was an immediate hit with the public, her publisher and the editor of popular British magazine, The Sketch, who got in touch with Christie personally requesting her to write a series of short Poirot stories for The Sketch. She was thrilled. In An Autobiography Christie reflects on this moment and a realisation she had at the time: “It had escaped my notice that not only was I now tied to the detective story, I was also tied to two people: Hercule Poirot and his Watson, Captain Hastings.”

Through the course of Christie’s career Poirot starred in 33 novels and over 50 short stories, each bringing to light the ingenuity of her publicly adored detective. Hercule Poirot has stood the test of time, cementing his place in popular culture around the globe. In 1975, his popularity had reached such heights that he was the first fictional character ever to receive both front page news coverage and an obituary in the New York Times.

Like all great protagonists, Poirot has a complexity – a mixture of familiarity and unknowingness that stands the test of time. Just as we can be sure of certain things in a character: Poirot’s great moustache; Sherlock Holmes’ habitual use of a pipe; and how James Bond drinks a martini, there is also a mystery surrounding aspects of their personalities and past.

It is this complex characterisation that not only allows Poirot to be reimagined again and again, but also attracts high quality talent to the job. Following the greats that have gone before, Kenneth Branagh is the next in line to take on the role of Hercule Poirot, and having been portrayed by over 35 actors in the past, we can’t wait to see which parts of Poirot’s rich personality and characterisation Branagh brings to light. Discover more about Kenneth Branagh here.

As Poirot says himself in Murder on the Orient Express “I belong to the world, madame…” As ever he was correct.