May 2020-November 2021: 19 months with Hercule Poirot

In 2017, I listened to all of Sherlock Holmes, and found it a very satisfying experience.
So I seized the opportunity of the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1), to start this new project of listening to all of Hercule Poirot novels and short stories collections, in chronological order of publication.

May 2020-November 2021: 19 months with Hercule Poirot

That was a total of 43 books that took me 19 months.
Mystery is a great genre for audiobooks, so I decided to go that route.
Here are a few notes about my experience.

Poirot and Fraser

ABOUT THE AUDIO PERFORMANCE:

Fortunately, I found them all on Hoopla (free audiobook streaming service through American public libraries). The other great thing is that most of them are narrated there by Hugh Fraser.

In the fantastic BBC series, Fraser plays Captain Hastings. And David Suchet plays Hercule Poirot. Suchet is actually my most favorite actor for Poirot, but as a book narrator, he is actually not that good, especially when it comes to narrating women. He adopts an annoying pitch which is far too high.
Fraser on the other hand is incredible in doing Poirot’s voice, and in modifying his tone to do butlers, women, and many other characters. A delight!

ISSUES ALONG THE WAY:

I wrote above that all the books were on Hoopla. There was actually one exception.
Hercule Poirot #7 is Black Coffee: A Mystery Play in Three Acts. It wasn’t there, and I had a hard time finding it. Each time I would end up with a book by another author who turned Christie’s play into a novel!
But my public library came to the rescue and found THE book from another library.
I’m glad, as it was a very interesting play.

“The story concerns a physicist named Sir Claude Amory who has come up with a formula for an atom bomb (Black Coffee was written in 1934!). In the first act, Sir Claude is poisoned (in his coffee, naturally) and Hercule Poirot is called in to solve the case. He does so after many wonderful twists and turns in true Christie tradition.”

The biggest issue was with short story collections, as there are some British collections and some American collections. There are actually some stories I ended up listening twice. I did take a lot of time tracing the stories and see if I had to listen to a collection or not. At the end of the project, I realized some collections had only stories I had already found in a previous collection or another.
If you need help for that, this chart in wikipedia comes very handy.

SURPRISE ALONG THE WAY:

Some short story collections only feature one or two stories with Hercule Poirot. For instance The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories and most especially The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories.
The other stories in these are not even detective stories, but deal more with the supernatural. They have amazing plots, with a lot of variety, and incredible last lines twists in several of them. I was really impressed. It made me realize that Christie’s genius was even wider than I thought!

SO, WHAT ABOUT HERCULE?

In a biography (graphic nonfiction) I devoured a few years ago, Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie, by Anne MartinettiGuillaume Lebeau, and Alexandre Franc, I read that after a while Agatha Christie was tired of the character of Poirot she invented and of his pride, and decided to get rid of him and write about Miss Marple.

Yes, he does often repeat that Papa Poirot is the best private detective ever, and that he will help you solve a case if you go to him and reveal (confess?) all you know (and may have the temptation to hide), but I actually found him very human in this aspect. And for sure he gets the job done!
And at the end of his life, he is very humble and does recognize that sometimes he doesn’t know!
He hates murder, but sometimes, he doesn’t hand over to the police what he knows, if justice can be found in another way, and if it’s more beneficial to all.

I also found him very lovable in his daily habits, and of course in his way of speaking.
This is something I had actually not totally noticed in the BBC series. Of course he speaks with a Belgian/French accent.
But what’s really amazing is how many times Christie has him use gallicisms, that is, expressions that are totally copied from the French, and that are very incorrect in English, mean something else, or don’t even mean anything.
One example (actually explained in the novel itself) is “All my excuses for having deranged you”. The meaning may not be totally clear in English, but déranger simply means to disturb in French. I can only think that Christie was fluent in French. I’m sure lots of English readers who do not know French miss actually a lot of these. My regret is that I didn’t make a lit as I heard them!
I read somewhere that in using these gallicisms, Agatha Christie was inspired by A.E.W Mason and his French detective Inspector Hanaud (another mystery classic I haven’t read yet!!)

Another fun aspect is all the literary references. There are for instance many references to Shakespeare! And many other classics.
I enjoyed a lot a passage in The Clocks (in Chapter 14) where Agatha Christie makes reference to many authors of crime fiction.
Having listened to all of Sherlock Holmes, it was easier and fun to detect details by which Poirot is often implicitly described as the anti-Holmes. For instance, he can solve a mystery just using his little grey cells in his room, no need to go and and check some cigar ashes, lol!
In The Clocks, there’s also a cool description of how books can take over your place or your world!

MY FAVORITE BOOKS WITH HERCULE POIROT?

I’m sure you are wondering. Out of 46, this is not easy to choose. I gave 5 stars to 29 of them!
But my 4 favorites might be these:

Hercule Poirot top 4

The ABC Murders: because I like the code left by the killers
The Labours of Hercules: hilarious take on Greek mythology
The Witness for the Prosecution: as I mentioned above, some unique and fascinating supernatural stories. Plus awesome final twist in The Witness for the Prosectuion itself
Elephants can Remember: great plot, with an interesting take on mental illness. With Ariadne Oliver.

AND NOW?

A few weeks ago, I asked you about what to read next. I am going to watch and read The Mousetrap. After that, I think I’m actually going to take an Agatha Christie break.
Though as a final recap, I may soon read Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World, by Mark Aldridge.

VERDICT: You have enjoyed the Hercule Poirot BBC series?
Now it’s time to get to know better the Belgian detective through all his novels and stories. Better still, listen to them, as narrated by the fantastic Hugh Fraser.
 

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Eiffel Tower Orange

HAVE YOU READ THESE BOOKS?
What’s your favorite Hercule Poirot story?
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN A COMMENT PLEASE

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36 thoughts on “May 2020-November 2021: 19 months with Hercule Poirot

  1. Fantastic post, Emma. I have read nearly all the Hercule Poirot books and loved them. I was especially interested in your list of favorite books, because three of those books were ones I haven’t read. I have read The ABC Murders. So I will look forward to reading The Labours of Hercules, The Witness for the Prosecution, and Elephants can Remember. I do love Ariadne Oliver. I still haven’t read a lot of the short stories, but I have a book that has all the Hercule Poirot short stories. It is huge.

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      • Yes, I have read all of the Poirot novels except for two or three. When I started, I did not like short stories, and when I have gone back to my copies of the short story books in that series, the print was so tiny I had a hard time reading them. So then I bought the big book of all his stories, but we were also watching the Poirot series with Suchet at the same time, which adapted most of the short stories, so I would remember the stories as I read them. I am still going to go back and read them though. Poirot is such an entertaining character in the stories, and Hastings narrates most (all?) of the stories, which I like.

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        • It’s funny, because I usually don’t like short stories very much, but this genre works perfectly here!
          In the audiobooks available through Hoopla (US public libraries), there were three different narrators, but yes, Hugh Fraser does narrate most.

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  2. I love Poirot and have read many of the novels and stories, though not all. The American/British editions with different titles makes tracking them a bit of a pain. I don’t think I have a favorite, though I love the ones with Ariadne Oliver. The TV version with David Suchet is a favorite — Evil Under the Sun is my favorite episode. Such a clever crime!

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  3. This makes me want to read Christie. As a kid my mom would take me to her favorite dept store and I’d always browse the little book section they had, and they always had Christies. I was so intrigued by all the titles…

    I guess I didn’t realize she had paranormal stories also!

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  4. Congratulations! How amazing that you made it through this project! I agree, that Hugh Fraser is the perfect narrator. I’ve listened to a few others, but no one could match him. Interesting to see your favourites, they are not amongst the most famous Poirot books (perhaps the ABC Murders is…). Not sure I can even select a Poirot favourite, I love so many of them. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd made a huge impression.

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  5. What an achievement! Both Sherlock Holmes and Poirot. I really enjoyed this very interesting post. I am thinking of reading some Agatha Christie too. Maybe not so disciplined as you, but why not. Read by theme, character or something else.Thank you for the inspiration.

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  6. Congratulations! What a huge project! I have actually only read one Christie novel so far – Murder on the Orient Express. But my mom was a huge Christie fan and read many of the books.

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  7. Do you think you will listen to any other GAD authors on audio?
    I agree with you about the versatility of Christie’s writing, which is more present in her short story writing. What did you make of the Parker Pyne collection?

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    • I feel so bad about this, but for the life of me, I have no idea what GAD authors are! But I do listen to a lot of mysteries on audio, particularly French mysteries.
      As for Parker Pyne, I haven’t read them yet, and will probably not, in the near future, as explained at the end of my post.
      I’m aware that he is now in The Regatta Mystery and in Problem at Pollensa Bay, at least in US versions, but when these two books were first published, they featured Poirot instead. So I haven’t met Pyne yet. Even the Death on the Dile I have listened to is with Poirot, not Pyne.
      Quite complicated to keep track od different editions and versions, I know.
      Should I read this collection? Did you like them?

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  10. Very impressed with the amount and diversity of your reading, Emma but also your statistics!! Very professional. 🙂
    I haven’t read any of your top 4 Christie novels & I’ve been wondering which of her books I should read next. Thanks for those.

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