Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The greatest detective?

From Michael Dirda's review of a new book about Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot:
In the recent Washington Post poll to choose the greatest fictional detectives of all time, the top four vote-getters, tallied in descending order, were Armand Gamache, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Bosch and Hercule Poirot. Pfui, as Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe would say. ....

No, looked at historically, the only true contenders for world’s finest super-sleuth are Holmes and Poirot (with Wolfe and G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown close behind). Being a member of the Baker Street Irregulars and having written a book about Arthur Conan Doyle, I don’t need to say more about my own loyalties. But what about that other fellow, the protagonist of 33 novels and more than 50 short stories by Dame Agatha Christie? ....

...I impetuously decided to try an experiment: What would it be like to reread, after half a century, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd when I already knew its trick?

This time, Christie’s hints to the killer’s identity stood out almost too obviously, yet I quickly surrendered to the zest and smoothness of the fast-paced storytelling. James Sheppard, the village doctor who assists Poirot and narrates the book, proved far more witty than I remembered, though his deductive skills are no better than Dr. Watson’s: When Sheppard first sees Poirot, he tells his comically nosy sister Caroline, “There’s no doubt at all about what the man’s profession has been. He’s a retired hairdresser. Look at that mustache of his.” ....

...The Murder of Roger Ackroyd remains a triumph. As Poirot stresses when speaking of its solution, “Everything is simple, if you arrange the facts methodically.” That sounds easy enough, but only a great detective, like the fastidious Belgian (or Sherlock Holmes!), can disentangle the essential from the inessential. (more)
"Who is the greatest fictional detective? A new book reminds us why it’s Poirot," Washington Post, April 14, 2021.

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