Thursday, 7 January 2016

Poirot Project: The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly (review)

This post is part of my 2016 Poirot Project. You can read the full story of why I’m doing this in my Introduction post. The previous post was a review of ‘Murder in the Mews’.

Beware: Here be Spoilers

I think this review will be shorter and a little less effusive than the two that have come before, as the third episode in the first series of Agatha Christie’s Poirot is one of the less memorable (apart from two bits, that is). And I can't remember if I’d ever read the original short story before today.

‘The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly’ was first broadcast on 22nd January 1989, and was based on the short story (aka ‘The Kidnapping of Johnny Waverly’) published in The Sketch in 1923. The original story is narrated by Hastings; Poirot has been engaged by Mr and Mrs Waverly, whose young son has been kidnapped. The couple received a series of letters threatening to abduct Johnnie if a ransom of £50,000 was not paid by a specific deadline. They didn’t pay the money, and their young son was taken – despite all their attempts to prevent this. Poirot questions the couple, and then travels to Waverly Court, where an examination of the property and interviews with the staff allow him to unravel the kidnapping plot.

I’m not sure this is the most exciting of the Poirot stories – the detective dismisses kidnapping as ‘easy’, and even Hastings admits that he is ‘frankly bored’ during one of the interviews. Nevertheless, there are some nice clues and a neat ‘hidden in plain sight’ perpetrator. As it is one of the early stories, there is still something of the Watson about Hastings’ narration – he is faithfully recording the deeds of his illustrious associate – but his confession that he is ‘bored’ prepares us for some of the excellent Hastings snark that is to be found in the later novels (e.g. Peril at End House).

The adaptation was dramatized by Clive Exton and directed by Renny Rye. The plot and characters are retained from the source material, but there are some changes that don’t quite work as well as in other Exton adaptations. Firstly, the alteration of the third co-conspirator and the resulting requirement that Tredwell’s niece (played by Carol Frazer) could pass for a young version of Tredwell (Patrick Jordan) doesn’t work as well as the revelation in the original story. Also, inexplicably, the adaptation has Mr Waverly (Geoffrey Bateman) meet with Poirot alone – it would make a lot more sense if (as in the original story) Mrs Waverly was responsible for engaging the detective. Why on earth would Mr Waverly want a famous detective poking his nose in? Finally, as in other episodes, some of the clues have been stripped down and removed entirely. The dust-free priest hole of the short story is replaced with a secret tunnel, and the clue of the dog paw prints is absent. I think this is a bit of a shame, as these were nice little clues (they even make Poirot chuckle).

As with the rest of the series, the regular ‘family’ of characters are inserted into the adaptation, despite not being present in the short story. And I’m absolutely fine with this!

Miss Lemon is added to the story, though she is only present in the early scenes before Poirot goes to Waverly Court. These brief scenes do have two points of note, though. We see the first of several silent exchanges between Moran's Miss Lemon and Fraser's Hastings – it’s just a little bit of eye contact between the two after Poirot has left the room, but it speaks volumes. And we get our first taste of Miss Lemon’s incredible filing system (which, I believe, is mentioned in Christie’s work, but appears more frequently in the early adaptations). I adore Miss Lemon’s filing system – it’s long been my ambition to have an office (or a mind) that is so efficiently organized.

Inspector Japp is also added ito the episode; here, he replaces Inspector McNeil as the Scotland Yard detective who doesn’t have time to take the threatening letters seriously at first, and then fails to prevent the kidnapping when he finally goes to Waverly Court. This isn’t a big change, to be honest, and I don’t have a problem with Japp being used instead of the various detectives who appear in Christie’s fiction. And, let’s be honest, the central group of characters at the heart of the early series are why we fell in love with it in the first place. Much better to have Japp here than the arbitrary ‘McNeil’ that we’ll probably never see again.

But it’s the added Poirot-and-Hastings scenes that are really memorable in this episode. The two travel to Waverly Court in Hastings’ Lagonda, giving us our first taste of the ‘car porn’ that will recur throughout the early series. After spending the night at Waverly Court, Poirot is dismayed to find that the frugal Mrs Waverly serves a less than substantial breakfast (she appears to not even put fish in the kedgeree). Hastings takes him to a pub for a full English (something that Christie’s Poirot disdains in ‘The Market Basing Mystery’, and that the ITV character will later wrinkle his nose at) – and this includes a couple of pints of ale. Fed and watered, the two travel back in Hastings’ car, giving a rousing rendition of ‘One Man Went to Mow’. It’s not in the source material, and it’s not quite in character, but I do love that bit.

And bonus points for another gorgeous steam train (this time pulling into a station), as Poirot declines Hastings’ offer of driving him back to London.

And so ends the third review in my Poirot Project. On to ‘Four and Twenty Blackbirds’

Poirot Project: Murder in the Mews (review)

This post is part of my 2016 Poirot Project. You can read the full story of why I’m doing this in my Introduction post. The previous post was a review of ‘The Adventure of the Clapham Cook’.

Beware: Here be Spoilers

I should probably carry on now with less anecdote and more focus, otherwise I’ll never get to Curtain by Christmas.

Episode 2 of Agatha Christie’s Poirot is ‘Murder in the Mews’, and was first broadcast on 15th January 1989. Again, it was dramatized by Clive Exton and directed by Edward Bennett. It was based on the short story of the same name (first published in 1936 under the title ‘Mystery of the Dressing Case’), which was itself a reworking of ‘The Market Basing Mystery’ (published in 1923).

‘The Market Basing Mystery’ begins with Poirot, Hastings and Japp taking breakfast one summer’s morning at a pub in Market Basing, before being interrupted by a Constable Pollard who urgently needs assistance with a suspicious death. Walter Protheroe has been found shot dead in a locked room, the key to which is missing. Although Protheroe was found with a gun in his hand, various indications at the scene suggest that he did not commit suicide (such as the gun being in his right hand, but the bullet wound being to his left temple). Poirot eventually deduces that, rather than being a murder made to look like a suicide, this is in fact a suicide made to look like a murder. Protheroe’s housekeeper, on discovering her beloved employer has taken his own life, alters the scene to disguise the truth. As she is the only person to know that Protheroe is left-handed, she moves the gun to his right hand to make it look like he was shot by someone else. In the original story, narrated by Hastings, Poirot confronts Miss Clegg, who confesses that Protheroe was being blackmailed and that she wanted to implicate the blackmailers in his death.

The 1936 reworking of the story replicates the means, method and motive, but replaces Walter Protheroe with a young widow named Mrs Allen, and the housekeeper Miss Clegg with the flatmate Miss Plenderleith. Hastings’ narration is removed – indeed, Hastings is removed from the story completely – and the setting is altered to London, with the story opening on Bonfire Night. The revised story is substantially longer, with additional clues thrown in (including an attaché case and a blotting pad), a further suspect added (Mrs Allen’s fiancé), and various interrogations and searches carried out by Poirot and Japp. The later story is a more satisfying read – the early version feels rather rushed – but I love the opening of ‘Market Basing’, in which we discover that, when not on duty, Inspector Japp is an ‘ardent botanist’ who knows the Latin names (‘somewhat strangely pronounced’) of flowers.

The TV adaptation was based on the later version of the story, but altered it to include Hastings. While the setting is still Bonfire Night, the episode’s opening is, in some ways, closer to that of ‘Market Basing’, as we get all three men (rather than just Poirot and Japp) out enjoying themselves on a night off. Nevertheless, the story is otherwise reasonably faithful to the 1936 text – with a comment about fireworks being a good disguise for gunshot (made by Hastings in the adaptation, Japp in the story) proving to be grimly prescient on the discovery of Mrs Allen’s body the following morning.

As with ‘The Adventure of the Clapham Cook’, there are some minor changes to the source material. Miss Lemon is again added to the story, and George (Poirot’s ‘immaculate man-servant’) is removed – this character doesn’t make an appearance until much later in the series, despite his presence in a number of the short stories. Weirdly though, Mrs Allen’s fiancé Laverton West is played by David Yelland, who would eventually return to the series in Taken at the Flood as George. So I guess George is sort of in ‘Murder in the Mews’ after all!

Other changes made are similar to those found in the first episode. Some of the subtler elements of the original story are underlined more clearly – specifically the question of whether the victim was right- or left-handed. Instead of being hinted at, as in the story, this question is repeated several times and is more directly presented as a source of confusion/interest for Poirot. A red herring from the story is also removed: the character of Mrs Pierce (Gabrielle Blunt), the woman who keeps house for the flatmates, is reduced, and the question of her being ‘an old liar’ is omitted. Finally, as in other episodes, events that are briefly narrated in the text are dramatized in the adaptation. Notably, this includes a trip to the golf course for Poirot and Hastings (allowing for further development of the dynamic between them and more of the twinkly humour Suchet brings to the role in these early outings).

Again, this early episode sets up things that will become recurring features of the show. Hastings’ love of cars – and his prized Lagonda – is introduced. And we get our first taste of the dramatic sets (other than Poirot’s apartment, of course) that characterize the show’s aesthetic. 14 Bardsley Gardens Mews (pictured above) is a far cry from 88 Prince Albert Road, Clapham, and the swimming pool used as the location of Laverton West’s second interrogation is very beautiful. The interview with Major Eustace is also moved from his ‘mere pied à terre’ to a nightclub. Presumably this is the ‘Far East Club’ that Eustace mentions in Christie’s story, as the viewer’s languorous introduction to this establishment reveals hostesses dressed in ‘Oriental’ costumes and a striking (though utterly un-PC) performance of ‘Hindustan’ (a song written in 1918 by Oliver Wallace and Harold Weeks) by Moya Ruskin. I don’t know if Ruskin was actually singing or just miming, but she is really stunning here – though the hand gestures that accompany the song are thoroughly inappropriate. The ‘Far East Club’ is our first taste of the colonial aesthetic that surfaces throughout the series. It is undoubtedly glamourized – look at the band! look at that gorgeous singer! – but it is also very subtly criticized, as the man who inhabits the ‘Far East Club’ is a decidedly a wrong ’un.

‘Murder in the Mews’ is another cracking adaptation. Once again, although there are some changes made, Exton’s dialogue manages to keep some of my favourite lines from Christie’s text. These are: Eustace’s comment that he had heard Mr Allen was ‘by way of being a bad hat’, and Japp’s assessment of Laverton West (with Philip Jackson’s marvellous delivery) as ‘bit of a stuffed fish […] And a boiled owl!’ You just don’t hear ‘boiled owl’ enough these days.

Next episode: ‘The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly’

Poirot Project: The Adventure of the Clapham Cook (review)

This is the first proper post of my 2016 Poirot Project. You can read the full story in my Introduction post, but basically I realized in 2014 that I am inordinately attached to David Suchet’s portrayal of Hercule Poirot in the long-running ITV series, and I’m incapable of watching Curtain. I’ve decided to rewatch and reread the entire series this year so that, by Christmas, I’ll be ready to watch the final episode and say goodbye.

So, this post is about the first episode of the first series. I won’t labour the point too much, but these aren’t academic reviews. I’m not a Christie expert or particularly knowledgeable about the production of the ITV series. This is just a personal response to a TV show that I’ve loved since I was ten.

Beware: Here be Spoilers

The first ever episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot was broadcast on the 8th January 1989 – it’s very weird to think that this is the exact date that I learnt who Hercule Poirot was. I knew who Miss Marple was from the BBC adaptations of the 1980s, and I’d already been permanently traumatized by Sleeping Murder (still can’t look over a set of banisters without getting the creeps) and A Pocketful of Rye (the clothes peg! oh God, the clothes peg!) As a side note, I was about to find out who Albert Campion was, as the BBC’s underrated Campion, starring Peter Davison and Brian Glover, would air a few weeks later. (Oh wow, I’ve only just thought, was this a competition between ITV and BBC? Two shows about dapper Golden Age detectives with ridiculously catchy theme tunes and natty Lagonda cars making their appearances on rival channels within weeks of each other? Hmmm…) In fact, I remember watching the first episode of Campion a lot more clearly than watching the first episode of Poirot, because my little brother loved Campion too. I don’t know if this is an embarrassing or endearing story, but me and my little bro were quite enamoured with Campion and used to insist on wearing white shirts and bowties when it was on (and repeatedly singing the theme song). I have no idea where we got the bowties from (I was ten, he was nine), but we clearly felt the show deserved a sense of occasion. All I remember from my first viewing of ‘The Adventure of the Clapham Cook’ was being quite fascinated by the concept of ‘white slavers’ (as I had no idea what on earth this might mean – if only I’d seen into the future and Appointment with Death, hee hee). But I digress…

‘The Adventure of the Clapham Cook’ was based on Agatha Christie’s short story of the same name, which was first published in 1923. The story was part of the ‘original’ series of Poirot stories (though it wasn’t the first to appear), published in The Sketch magazine and written at the request of Sketch editor Bruce Ingram. Hercule Poirot had made his debut three years earlier in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and Ingram approached Christie about the possibility of publishing further Poirot adventures. These stories are often quite short, and Christie would go on to rework several of them into longer stories (more on that in my next post!), and they are narrated by Poirot’s associate Captain Hastings (undoubtedly inspired by Watson’s narration of Sherlock Holmes’s cases).

In Christie’s ‘The Adventure of the Clapham Cook’, we meet a bored Poirot. The intrigues of the newspaper headlines – as read aloud by Hastings – do nothing to excite him, and he decides to focus his meticulous attention on attending to his wardrobe and his moustache. These plans are interrupted by the arrival of a Mrs Todd, who wishes to engage Poirot to find an absconding servant (the ‘Clapham Cook’ of the title). Poirot decides to take the case – on a whim, more than anything – but soon discovers that there is more going on at 88 Prince Albert Road than first suspected. It turns out to be, as he announces in the final sentence, ‘one of [his] more interesting cases’.

The episode was written by the late Clive Exton and directed by Edward Bennett, and it is a reasonably faithful adaptation. Much of the dialogue is retained from the short story, including (and I am very fond of this), Poirot’s conversation with Annie the maid (played by Katy Murphy) about white slavers and stewed peaches. But, for me, the most interesting moment comes not when something is said, but when something is not said. In the short story, when Poirot initially rejects Mrs Todd’s case as being beneath him, she remonstrates with him that, for someone in her position, a missing cook is ‘as much to you as her pearls are to some fine lady’. Poirot pauses at this, and Hastings notes:
‘For a moment or two it appeared to be a toss up between Poirot’s dignity and his sense of humour.’
The adaptation retains this exchange, almost word-for-word. When Mrs Todd (Brigit Forsyth) finishes, Poirot is standing facing her and Hastings (Hugh Fraser). For me, this moment illustrates David Suchet’s approach to playing Poirot beautifully, as he simply captures the words of Christie’s text in his facial expression. We can see, like Hastings, the ‘toss up’ between his dignity and his sense of humour flicker across his face, before he laughs, apologizes and agrees to take the case. It’s a lovely moment.

While the story and much of the dialogue in ‘The Adventure of the Clapham Cook’ stays close to its source material, the adaptation makes some important changes that introduce the overall ‘shape’ that the early series will take. The characters of Miss Lemon (Pauline Moran) and Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson) are added, as they will be to further episodes. (While not present as such, Japp is mentioned in the original short story, as Poirot insists that ‘our friend Inspector Japp’ must never get to hear of their search for a missing domestic.) I will say up front that I have no problem with Japp, Miss Lemon and Hastings being added to stories – I love the dynamic between the characters, and the central group makes for a more coherent TV series. I should note, Moran’s Miss Lemon is quite different to the character that appears in Christie’s books – but I’ll cover that in a future post.

Other changes work in a similar way. Scenes that are (briefly) narrated in the short story – such as the discovery of Davis’s body – are (understandably) dramatized on screen. A scene in which Poirot and Hastings question a railway porter (played by Danny Webb, in the first of his two appearances in the series) about Eliza’s trunk is added, and this includes an additional clue about Simpson’s possible escape plan. In order to avoid the ‘static’ feel of the short story, Poirot and Hastings travel to meet Eliza Dunn (Freda Dowie) in Cumbria rather than the other way round. This allows for a comical insight into Poirot’s feelings about the English countryside, which will recur in other early episodes, and the first of many gorgeous, gorgeous steam trains. Finally, Poirot, Hastings and Japp race to the docks together to apprehend Simpson (in the short story he is caught ‘by the aid of wireless’ while on board a ship to America); this is the first of the classic Poirot ‘chase scenes’, which will become a staple (and faintly silly) feature of the early episodes. All of these changes are completely understandable, though, as they reveal an attempt to translate a short story into a TV drama – and to create a recognizable template for future episodes.

A more significant change, however, is to be found in the clueing of the story – and I have mixed feelings about this. In my opinion, one of Agatha Christie’s greatest strengths as a crime writer lay in her ability to obscure clues and present red herrings, so that she gave readers everything they needed to solve the puzzle without them realizing it. Consider the chatty, fussy opening to The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side or the blatant explanation of Ratchett’s death on the first page of Murder on the Orient Express – Christie was the queen of telling you everything when she appeared to be telling you nothing. And ‘The Adventure of the Clapham Cook’ has shades of this (though less developed than in her later novels) – one of the ‘throwaway’ headlines that Hastings reads to Poirot turns out (of course) to be the key to the mystery.

The adaptation dilutes this somewhat, by drawing the viewer’s attention to key plot elements right away. Instead of opening with a bored Poirot in his apartment, the first tense little scene shows us Simpson (Dermot Crowley) tying up Eliza Dunn’s box (to dramatic music). When reading the headlines to Poirot, Hastings names the bank from which the clerk has absconded (with £90,000 rather than the £50,000 of the short story – that’s inflation for you). When Poirot and Hastings arrive at Prince Albert Road, we see Simpson acting shifty and are quickly told that he works at the Belgravia and Overseas Bank. In a detail added to the original story, Poirot asks Simpson if he ever takes part in ‘musical theatre or amateur dramatics’, before shortly afterwards explaining that he had spotted a dab of Gum Arabic in the suspect’s sideburn. Once you’ve read the short story, these changes are disappointing, as you feel your attention is being drawn to the bank theft and to Simpson too quickly. Poirot describes Simpson as ‘inconspicuous’ in his summing-up in Christie’s story, but he is in no way so in the adaptation. However, I’m pretty sure I didn’t work out the mystery when I first watched the episode, and I know my husband (who watched it for the first time yesterday) was baffled until Poirot’s explanation. So maybe the rejigging of the clues isn’t a giveaway, but rather a necessity of creating appropriate tension and suspense. This is a question I think I’ll be coming back to a lot as I rewatch the series.

Overall, ‘The Adventure of the Clapham Cook’ is a brilliant opening to the series. It introduces us to the main characters, it cements the setting and aesthetic, and it’s a ‘classic’ Poirot puzzle. Highlights for me are Katy Murphy and Brigit Forsyth (who are just perfect as Annie and Mrs Todd), and the subtlety of Suchet’s performance. Minor negative point: the change to the interview with Eliza Dunn results in the omission of one of my favourite lines in the short story (‘Do not forget how to cook.’).

Next up… ‘Murder in the Mews’

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Poirot Project: Introduction

Spoiler alert: some vague Curtain spoilers towards the end

In 2013, ITV’s long-running adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels and short stories came to an end. For nearly 25 years, David Suchet played Christie’s famous Belgian sleuth on screen, performing in versions of (almost) all the original source stories. And I watched (almost) all of these performances. But not all of them… because I still haven’t been able to watch Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case.

The first episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot (‘The Adventure of the Clapham Cook’) aired on the 8th January 1989. I was ten, and I watched it with my mum. As it was shown on a Sunday, my English grandma will have phoned us at some point (either before or after the episode was shown – I can’t remember exactly for the first series, but I know she rang afterwards for some later episodes). My grandma had read a lot of Agatha Christie novels – when the BBC broadcast their adaptations of the Miss Marple novels (1984-1992), I remember being very impressed that she already knew whodunit before the episodes even aired (though she would never ever tell me).

I read my first Agatha Christie novel when I was about 12 – I’m pretty sure it was Dead Man’s Folly, and I’m pretty sure I borrowed it while I was staying with my grandparents. By then, I’d have watched at least the entire first series of the ITV (or, more accurately, LWT) Poirot, probably the second one as well. So, in my young mind, Poirot was David Suchet, and that’s how I pictured him as I read (ditto Miss Marple and Joan Hickson when I read A Murder is Announced a year or so later). I continued to watch new episodes of Poirot with my mum, and to talk to my grandma about the stories – I have a vague memory that once, during a particularly tricky mystery, she rang during the last advert break to see if I’d worked it out. And she wouldn’t tell me if I was right or not either.

My grandma died in 1993, and I inherited her collection of Agatha Christie novels. In 1995, I started working in Oxfam shops and topped up my grandma’s Christie library with paperback editions of many of the remaining titles. At the time, I was working at Oxfam during the day and then shelf-stacking at Wilkinson’s in the evening; I had an hour and a half in between one job finishing and the next starting – not enough time to go home, but more than enough time to read a big chunk of an Agatha Christie novel. There are certain books – The Big Four, Endless Night, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, among others – that never fail to take me back to that period of my life. (To be fair, I also read a lot of Dorothy L. Sayers at this time as well.) I read Curtain for the first time when I was about 16 – I was quite a weird teenager, so the darkness of the story really appealed to me. It still does, to be honest (I’m quite a weird adult).

When I was an undergraduate, I took one module on Crime Fiction, which included writing an essay on the function/presentation of the detective in the work of a Golden Age writer (I chose Agatha Christie, and wrote a lot about Poirot). But other than this, I wouldn’t have thought I was a particularly ‘full-on’ Christie fan. In fact, for a while, I would’ve said I liked Margery Allingham more (and I do really love Albert Campion). After Poirot’s hiatus in the late 90s (when the short story adaptations were finished and the show switched to feature-length adaptations of novels), I carried on watching Suchet as the little Belgian detective. There was a bit of nostalgia by then, though. Christopher Gunning’s iconic theme tune (like Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley’s Miss Marple theme) took me back to my childhood with its opening notes, and there was something comfy and reassuring about that. I remember watching The Murder of Roger Ackroyd with my flatmate – the episode first aired on 2nd January 2000, and we were recovering from having seriously partied like it was 1999 – and the pair of us cheering like idiots when Inspector Japp appeared on screen. Because it was Inspector Japp, and that meant everything was probably going to be okay (in our defence – we were really hungover). I remember watching Sad Cypress on Boxing Day 2003 (while I was going through some horrible personal stuff), and it was like wrapping myself up in a comfort blanket (albeit a rather sombre, murdery one).

But I would never have described myself as a massive Poirot fan. It was just something that was there, in the background, whenever you fancied it. After the advent of catch-up TV, I didn’t always watch new episodes when they were broadcast, and I missed some of the ones based on books I’m not as keen on (The Clocks, Taken at the Flood) completely the first time round. I was aware (from interviews as early as 2007) that it was David Suchet’s ambition to film all of Christie’s Poirot stories – and the completist in me saluted this ambition – but I lost track of how many were left to go. In 2011, it was announced that ITV were to film the last five stories, and that this would include Curtain. Again, I saluted Suchet as a fellow completist and was impressed by his commitment to tackle Curtain (it’s one of my favourite Agatha Christie novels, but a bold step for a beloved ITV drama).

And then came 2014. Because I didn’t consider myself a die-hard fan, I didn’t actually watch the final five episodes when they were broadcast in 2013. Instead, I bought them as downloads and saved them for later as a treat (in retrospect… maybe that’s even more fannish than watching them when they were broadcast?). I watched Elephants Can Remember and Dead Man’s Folly (both based on books I love) with a growing sadness that I was getting towards the end of a programme that I’d been fond of since I was a child. Suddenly, it felt like this might be a bit more momentous than I’d previously thought. And then I put The Big Four on…

… and I burst into tears during the opening scenes and switched it off. I can’t explain what happened – and I know I confused my husband a bit – but the idea that I would soon have to say goodbye to Poirot made me ridiculously emotional. To be clear: it wasn’t the idea of Poirot’s death that upset me – I’ve read Curtain several times and I love it – it was the idea of watching David Suchet’s Poirot die that I couldn’t handle. Sorry for sounding over-the-top, but I actually got a lump in my throat just writing that sentence.

I finally steeled myself to watch The Big Four and The Labours of Hercules, and then I cued up Curtain: Poirot's Last Case ready to play. But I didn't press play. And I still haven’t. This is a programme that has been a cosy, comfortable, reassuring background to my life since I was ten, something that I associate with my grandma and my childhood and my first job and various other ups-and-downs of my life… and I don’t know how to say goodbye. I’ve tried again (twice), and I’ve reread Curtain to prepare myself, but I just haven’t felt ready to watch that episode. I know this all sounds ridiculous, and I’m really not normally this sentimental, but here we are.

But Suchet has been completist, so I feel like I should be too. I feel like Poirot has been more significant to my life than I’d previously thought, so I owe it to the show to watch the final episode. Given that my earlier attempts failed, I’ve decided to try a different approach for 2016.

I asked myself: what would Poirot do? Order and method, that’s what. I will take a methodical approach to this and, by the end of 2016, I will be ready to watch Curtain and say goodbye to what is (apparently) my favourite ever television show.

And so begins the Poirot Project. I am going to reread and then rewatch each episode of Poirot, reviewing each one as I go. I’ll watch them in the order that they were broadcast in, and reread the source story/novel just before watching (and I have a spreadsheet to keep track – Miss Lemon would’ve liked my spreadsheet). Then, having completely done justice to the show, I’ll finally be ready to let go and watch Curtain. My plan is foolproof.

My next post will be a review of the first episode of Series 1, and it would be great if you followed my (slightly overthought) project as it develops. Here are a couple of general points if you do want to keep reading:
  • After today, most of my posts will contain spoilers. I thought about keeping them spoiler-free, but I’d like to talk about the relationship between the books and the adaptations, and that’s really hard to do without mentioning key plot points.
  • For the short stories, I’ll mostly be referring to the HarperCollins 1999 edition of The Complete Short Stories. Occasionally, I might refer to other versions of the story, in which case I’ll say which publication I’ve used. Novels will be whichever edition I happen to have on my shelf.
  • I’m not a Christie expert by any means. If I get any publication dates and details wrong, please correct me!
  • I’m also not an expert in the production details of the ITV show. I don’t know much about the production of each episode or (except in a few cases) the filming locations. Other bloggers have reviewed the series episode-by-episode and have a lot more information about this. This fascinating blog, for instance, has some great background info for each episode. I’m just writing my posts as a personal project, because I want to acknowledge my love of the show and its star.
Bon. Let us begin with 'The Adventure of the Clapham Cook'.