Such is the size of my teetering pile of ‘to-be-read’ books that rarely nowadays do I approach the end of a book with a feeling of regret. And yet that’s exactly what I did as I neared the end of Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World. It’s a hefty tome anyway – over 480 pages in the hardcover version – and yet I yearned to spend more time within its pages. Published to celebrate the centenary year that Hercule Poirot first made his appearance (in 1920’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles) it details the extraordinary presence of Belgium’s most brilliant detective across the various media platforms – from novels and short stories, plays, radio and television, even computer games and graphic novels and the continuation novels penned by Sophie Hannah.
Professor Mark Aldridge is a Christie expert and has written previously on the subject, but this is an assured book. It takes a chronological approach to Poirot’s appearances, and is jam-packed with fascinating trivia and never-before-published correspondence. Each of the entries is illustrated with wonderful cover art or delightful photographs to add that bit extra. The level of research is outstanding. Aldridge provides for each section a spoiler-free synopsis (something that’s easier said than done) and yet is still enthusiastic and detailed enough to make it engrossing. There are snippets from various reviews of the time so we get to see how each novel was critically received, and it’s interesting to follow Christie’s evolution as a fledgling writer into one of the world’s bestselling authors. Through snippets of letters to her agent, her character and private thoughts – including her tenacity in dealing with her publisher, and her strong views on her own creations – are revealed, which feels like it gives us a real insight into her life. As someone who read the entire Agatha Christie output many years ago, it certainly made me what to revisit her work.
This really is a delight for the Agatha Christie fan. I cannot find anything at all to detract from it. In fact, such is its quality, that a follow-up – featuring Miss Marple and Tommy & Tuppence and the stand-alone novels – is crying out to be written. Here’s hoping that this Poirot book sells in large quantities. If quality is any measure, it certainly deserves to be a best-seller. As this is easily one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in quite a while, whether you’re an Agatha Christie fan or just a casual crime reader, this title comes highly recommended.