Agatha Christie's Poirot remains a real treat whenever I come across a new episode, and The Clocks has been the highlight of my holiday viewing so far (not that the competition has been hot or even warm, admittedly, given that I've never got to grips with Downton Abbey).
The Clocks is a relatively late Christie novel, first published in 1963, and it's not rated very highly by connoisseurs - though I have always liked the story. The discovery of a corpse surrounded by a mysterious array of clocks is a great plot device, and even though Christie's explanation is, some would argue, a cop-out, I find it striking and memorable. Another pleasing aspect of the book is Poirot's discussion of great detective novelists, including a passing reference to John Dickson Carr, whom Christie knew and admired. There is also mention (crucial to the story-line) of a prolific author called Garry Gregson, who I believe was based on John Creasey.
I wondered how the scriptwriter would adapt the novel for television, because the story-line does throw up a lot of challenges - not least the fact that Poirot only takes centre stage quite late in the book. Stewart Harcourt's solution was to adapt very freely indeed, and move the story back in time by a quarter of a century - a risky course. There have been all too many Christie adaptations over the years where radical changes have been made, and the result has been a bit of a mess. But that isn't always the case, by any means, and I'm not one of those purists who believes that a novel must invariably be translated to the small screen in a totally faithful fashion. The screenwriter often needs to have some licence. And in this case, I felt that the end justified the means. The mystery was pleasingly unravelled, and although I had one or two quibbles, I found the two hours passed very agreeably: Harcourt did a good job.
David Suchet, as usual, was splendid as Poirot. It was especially poignant to see the late Anna Massey playing the part of the blind but sharp-witted Millicent Pebmarsh - she was a terrific actor. And the supporting cast was good, with none of the over-the-top acting we've seen in one or two Poirots and Marples.