That’s the description Captain Arthur Hastings gave of
his friend Hercule Poirot, the famous detective created
by Agatha Christie. Having retired from the Belgian
police, he now lived in London, solving crimes using
his “little grey cells.”
In addition to Hastings, other regular characters
appearing in his stories include his secretary, Miss
Lemon, and Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard.
In World War I, Belgium was invaded by Germany, and
many Belgians fled to England, which explains why a
great police officer would be solving crimes across the
Poirot first appeared in 1920 in Christie’s The
Mysterious Affair at Styles. His final appearance was in
Curtain, published in 1975. He was the only fictional
character to be given an obituary on the front page of
The New York Times. He also was honored with a
Poirot is known for his fastidiousness, his orderliness
and his rationality (those famous "little grey cells").
As well as solving crimes in London and less well-
known parts of England, he's traveled to Egypt (Death
on the Nile), on the Orient Express from Constantinople
to England, and to a tropical island in Evil Under the
By1930, Christie was tiring of the character, who had
appeared in 33 novels, one play and more than 50
short stories. She found him a “detestable, bombastic,
tiresome,ego-centric little creep.” But readers loved
him, so Christie continued to write about him.
The most famous story is Murder on the Orient Express, a
complex crime set on that famous train, which becomes
trapped in a snowstorm in a remote area of Yugoslavia.
It’s December, 1935, and Poirot is in Constantinople,
needing to get back to London immediately. His friend,
Signor Bianchi, a director of the Orient Express line, helps
him secure space on the train.
Several of the passengers seem concerned about his
presence, but one, a Mr. Ratchett, seeks his protection.
Ratchett has been receiving anonymous threats, and he
wants Poirot to be his bodyguard. Poirot declines.
The next morning Ratchett is found dead of multiple stab
wounds. The door to his compartment is locked and
chained, and one of the windows is open. At least three of
the stab wounds are lethal, but others are glancing blows.
Some appear to have been inflicted by a right-handed person
and others, by a left.
Poirot discovers that the victim is not who he pretends to be
and that the crime is connected with the kidnapping and
murder of an American infant, Daisy Armstrong. As he
questions the passengers, he uncovers several who have
connections to the earlier crime.
The Armstrong kidnapping case was based on the actual
kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s son in 1932,
just before Christie wrote the book. Another real-life
inspiration was when the Orient Express was trapped by a
blizzard near Cherkeskoy, Turkey and marooned for six days.
David Suchet as Hercule Poirot (first row
center) with the cast of Murder on the
Title art for PBS mystery and (clockwise from left), David Suchet as
Hercule Poirot on the Orient Express.
He was hardly more than five feet four inches but carried himself with great dignity. His
head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His
moustache was very stiff and military. Even if everything on his face was covered, the tips of
moustache and the pink-tipped nose would be visible. The neatness of his attire was almost
incredible. I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound.
Yet this quaint little man who, I was sorry to see, now limped badly, had been in his time one of
the most celebrated members of the Belgian police.”