Return of Poirot

An Agatha Christie franchise means money. But Poirot had been given a dignified end by his creator.

Published: September 6, 2013 3:54 am

An Agatha Christie franchise means money. But Poirot had been given a dignified end by his creator.

At the heart of the immortality a writer seeks,if she seeks any at all,is the unresolved question of how. For,it’s one thing to be remembered,and another to be remembered as a writer. The latter assumes the longevity of the writer’s work. Agatha Christie,the “Queen of Crime”,is the bestselling novelist in history,her books having sold more than two billion copies. She has survived generations of readers,and continues to make her literary estate immensely rich. The announcement that crime writer Sophie Hannah will bring back to life Hercule Poirot,the fastidious Belgian detective with the funny Edwardian moustache and the iconic bald head — yes,Poirot was waiting for David Suchet for a new audio-visual avatar,having been disappointed by Peter Ustinov and Albert Finney — raises the immediate question of why Christie’s heirs felt the need to revive the dead writer’s character.

It’s probably a lazy query. There’s money in this,a lot of it. Ian Fleming’s James Bond wasn’t done a bad turn by John Gardner. Sherlock Holmes can’t complain about franchise fiction. A more pertinent question is whether Dame Christie would have approved. To raise that question is to return to how a writer seeks immortality. Her descendants may believe a new book is needed to guarantee a newer generation of readers. But Christie wouldn’t have been peevish about her own popularity.

The uneasiness about this project is caused by the memory of the circumstances under which the last novel in which Poirot appears,Curtain,was written and hidden away in a bank vault by Christie,who feared her death in the London Blitz. It was a dignified end to Poirot,although the book was published only in 1975,and after several post-war Poirot stories. Placing her plot between 1928 and 1932 is Hannah’s way of showing her respect for Poirot’s death at his creator’s hands.

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