BOOK REVIEW: "Poirot" by Dr. Mark Aldridge
Agatha Christie's Poirot - The Greatest Detective in the World by Dr. Mark Aldridge.
As a new arrival into the world of Christie related books, this comprehensive study of Agatha Christie’s character Hercule Poirot by Dr. Mark Aldridge is a welcome addition. Fortunately, the author avoided writing a biography of the fictional character. Instead, the book focuses on fresh angles that have not previously been deeply investigated. These include the evolution of the character as Christie matured and honed her style, the character’s interplay in contemporaneous popular culture, and the business dealings behind the scenes that influenced how consumers experienced Poirot and continue to do so.
While all short-stories and novels that include Poirot as a character are discussed, the quality of the material is significantly enhanced through the author’s access to Christie’s archives including her personal correspondence. This allows insights previously unknown by the general public to be shared including some of Christie’s own personal opinions and grievances. Collectively they add a richness that has been lacking in other books that solely provided synopses of stories and novels. Another enhancement is the extensive integration of images, including book covers, related art, newspaper clippings and photographs. Their presence elevates the reader’s experience, adds value and perspective that would be sorely missed in their absence. For the collector, they provide many ideas and inspiration.
In addition to considering the written word, Dr. Aldridge uses his extensive and recognized expertise in the world of film and television to reveal how Christie herself, and later the family enterprise, shaped the evolution of Poirot in visual media. Even Poirot on stage and radio are explored and discussed with engaging detail and insight.
Despite the success of Poirot as an artistic creation, the book masterfully exposes the reality of Poirot as a financial asset. The insights provided on the dealings between Christie and her agents, her challenges with the tax man, the concerns about artistic licensing, and the creation of Agatha Christie Ltd. for long-term financial security are very satisfying. Given that the book explores very little about Poirot’s methods of detection but does include significant insights into the business of Poirot, the book could have easily been titled “Poirot, Ltd.” instead.
While the author’s prior book, Agatha Christie on Screen, has a more academic style, with Poirot The Greatest Detective in The World Dr. Aldridge’s prose flows smoothly and is very reader friendly. This new book is certainly worth reading and will satisfy both casual and ardent fans of Poirot and Christie. Its real value will be in the years ahead as undoubtedly it should be pulled from the shelf and read prior to reading any Poirot novel or watching Poirot on the screen, big or small. Such usage will only continue to enrich the overall experience of Christie’s works.