David Suchet always said he was going to do an adaptation of every Agatha Christie mystery involving Hercule Poirot, the little Belgian detective with the little grey cells and the distinctive moustache. He also said he would bow out by playing the great detective in Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case.
Curtain wasn’t the last book Christie wrote, and it wasn’t even her last Poirot mystery. She wrote it during the Second World War, when she feared she might die in an air-raid, and had it stored in a bank vault for the next three decades, during which Poirot appeared in print many more times. It was only in the mid-1970s when, close to death herself, she allowed its publication – thus bringing Poirot’s career to a close.
It certainly has elements of things coming full circle. An ageing Poirot is reunited with his ‘Watson’, Captain Hastings (“I say! Steady on, Poriot!”) at Styles, the country house where they solved their first murder (country houses are as associated with Agatha Christie’s works as they are with those of her contemporary, P.G. Wodehouse; I wonder what a crossover adventure in which Poirot encounters Bertie Wooster would be like?). Their final case has, it must be said, more twists than even the average Christie novel. Although well-known as Poirot’s sidekick, Hastings is conspicuous by his absence in most Poirot stories – Curtain marked his first appearance for many years – for he was used as a narrator and Christie tended to do better when telling a story from the third-person perspective.
Although I haven’t read any of her books for years, I still find Agatha Christie fascinating. The great detective writer with more than an element of mystery in her own life, almost forty years after her death she remains the best-selling novelist of all time, the sales of her books outdone only by Shakespeare and the Bible.
David Suchet was on top form for his final Poirot outing, as everyone had expected he would be (and what will he do now, after being Poirot for 24 years?). Hugh Fraser, best known for playing stiff-upper-lip Englishmen (Hastings aside, he was Wellington in Sharpe), got to do a bit of pathos, and I was surprised to see Philip Glenister going against his Gene Hunt type by playing the aristocratic Sir William (a rather large amount of British actors of the past couple of decades have been in Agatha Christie’s Poirot at some point). All in all, Curtain was a fitting end to a great series, and I highly doubt that there will ever be a Poirot to match David Suchet.